The German South of Chile

Last modified 16.03.2022 | Published 08.02.19881980's, Chile, South America, Travelogue

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We are taking a closer look at the towns, lakes and islands in the German south of Chile, in Puerto Varas, Puerto Montt and Chiloé.

This article is part of a travelogue from of a five month journey in 1987-1988 to several countries in South AmericaBrazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile.


Tuesday 02.02.1988, Puerto Varas

We did a long jump today. We first went back to Villarica, then a Jac-bus (500 pesos = 2 dollars, 3 hrs) to Valdivia. The town seems nice and we will return. But now we found a bus to Puerto Varas on Lago Llanquihue north of Puerto Montt (750 pesos, 3 hrs). This lake is according to our South American Handbook among the prettiest in the country.

After looking around finding only expensive accommodation we settled with this one, albeit quite expensive as well:

  • Private house in Calle Purisima 681. 1500 (6 USD) per person with breakfast (unusually good). Very pleasant, dueña with German ancestry, and clean. Good. Map.

Puerto Varas is small and we have obviously entered a very German-dominated region. There is Aleman here and German sounding names there. There is also a German type of church. Yellow.

The lake was not that nice, but the surroundings were quite alright, even to a Norwegian. The snow capped volcano of Osorno was very unlike Norway. It dominates the view on the other side of the lake.


Wednesday 03.02.1988, Puerto Varas

There is truly a lot of beautiful scenery here. We experienced that when we went to Lago Todos Los Santos. But first we changed hotels, because the first one was good but expensive.

  • Residencial La Unión at Calle San Francisco 669. 2000 for a double room with breakfast. They had a good restaurant and was a good place to sleep. Map.

We took a bus to Petrohué (350 p) or more precisely the rapids five kilometres below the lake. There was a fine landscape on the way and quite a good stream running through the rapids despite low waters. We walked up to Petrohué by the lake. No cars would stop when we tried to hitch-hike. There were enormous flies, and they were very intimidating.

The lake was pretty, with the Osorno volcano next to it.

The tourist information office had informed there would be a bus back, but it never came. There were boats coming in from neighbouring Argentina to waiting buses, but there were no regular departures. A bus had a couple of spare seats but would charge us 500 pesos (2 USD). Luckily we were offered a ride by a nice Argentinian couple with a child and granny.


Thursday 04.02.1988, Puerto Montt

We took one of the Vermontt buses running every fifteen minutes to Puerto Montt (110 pesos, 30 minutes). We checked in at the first hotel we found.

  • Hotel Central. Calle Benavente y Montt. 2000 (8 USD) with shower but toilet in the corridor. Clean, pleasant and nice. Towels. The breakfast was good and cost us 250 more.

We had a look around town and the characteric fishbone houses: Wooden shingles covering the walls. We met a fellow Norwegian (we had bumped into Jostein in Petrohue as well) and spent the evening with him at the very little Club Aleman.

The museum on the plaza was interesting.


Letter to my family

SA 1987-88 Envelope-08 Puerto Montt

Puerto Montt, 4th of February 1988

I’m now sitting in bed in our approximately sixtieth hotel room in South America looking at the map in my almanac. There are fantastic distances behind us these four and a half months. Only since the last time I wrote, from Santiago, we have moved another 1500 km. But one thing is certain; we hardly get any further south, only to the island of Chiloé south of the city we are in. As it is only 2.5 weeks till we fly home this is probably the last letter you get.

We stayed almost a week in Santiago, a very pleasant city with large, fine parks, modern and nice shopping streets, and great buildings. From the capital we went south and inland. Much inland is however not possible to get, as Chile is so narrow.

We came to a large area of inland lakes and forested mountain slopes. It was beautiful and in many ways similar to Norway. What made it particularly pretty here was the beautiful weather and the snow-capped, cone shaped volcanoes towering majestically here and there.


We were offered, and accepted, to rent an entire house for a few days. There we had a good time in the kitchen and spread out in the living room. It was lovely with something different than a hotel room. We went to the beach and bathed both in the lake and in the sun. Pure holiday feeling. We had an almost private little place on the beach in great surroundings.

One brilliantly beautiful day we did something totally unique and experienced something we probably never will see the likes of: We climbed up on a volcano and looked down into the crater on lava simmering, boiling and exploding! Fantastic!

We had met two Danes who strongly recommended us to take this trip, so we contacted a local guide and left early one morning by car to the foot of the volcano. It was impressive to watch where we stood and looked up on the summit 2000 metres above our heads.

The latest eruption was in 1984 and the one before that was in 1979 so it is a fairly active volcano. Down the slopes there were wide “rivers” where the lava had floated and destroyed the vegetation. New shoots were already starting to grow.

The ascent took six hours. The first hours went over a dry and rocky landscape, dried lava all of it. Then we came up to where the snow started. There we fixed crampons on our borrowed mountaineering boots and with the help of ski poles and an ice axe we continued up towards the edge of the crater.


It went quite well to walk up the steep mountain slope. We walked all the time in a zigzag pattern to save energy and we sat down and ate not far from the top. There was a lovely view over the lake down below and to where we had been climbing. The sun was burning into our skin as the snow reflected the beams – and we were pretty high up (2800 m). At the end of the day we had a nice tan.

The last stretch to the top was very steep and from time to time stones came tumbling down towards us; triggered by other climbers further up. In the end we were there.

The crater itself was quite big, about a 1000 square metres. From the sides came bursting clouds of sulphur – almost as if the volcano was “breathing”. At times it was difficult for us to breathe and the smell was seriously itching in our noses.

But that torment was almost forgotten when we carefully made our way to the edge of the crater and looked into the hole. There we clearly saw two red hot “eyes” which at intervals gushed out lava 4-5 metres up in the air. We stood maybe 30 metres above that.

There were fantastic forces simmering down there. Imagine we were standing there looking at an opening with a channel directly into the midst of the planet. The roar from the splashing lava and the hissing clouds of sulphur was truly a mighty experience.


The descent took 2 hours and was great fun. We took our crampons off and slide slalom on our boots and on a borrowed down jacket. It was alright to stand below the mountain and look up towards the sulphur cloud and say: – We were there!

Here in southern Chile the influence of the German immigrants is big. German names abound and the architecture is German. The houses are made of wood, with all the forests around that is perhaps natural. Later we are going to visit a few fishing villages in the region before whece turn back north again and end our South America journey swimming and sun-bathing on the Pacific coast.


Friday 05.02.1988, Puerto Montt

We slept long into the day and then took a local bus to Angelmó a couple of kilometres to the west. The place was supposed to be a nice little fisher village with befitting good food. The village was nothing to brag about in our opinion, but the food was fine and special – a lot of shellfish.

There were a number of artesania stalls along the road.


Saturday 06.02.1988, Puerto Montt – Castro, Chiloé

Today we went back on the road again, this time to the southernmost point on our South American journey. After exchanging some more money we took a bus to the island of Chiloé and the capital of Castro for 700 pesos (2.8 USD). The crossing over to the island was on a plain ferry across strong currents in the middle of the sound.

Coming here we the road was passing by rolling farmland with quite a number of trees and forests (many fires). Pretty.

In Castro there were a number of places offering cheap accommodation. One place the landlady became furious when we told her we wanted to check out other places first. She was probably suffering from an inferiority complex over the possibility that presumably rich tourists would not want to stay in her house. We checked in next door.

  • Pension Estrella at O’Higgins 657. 1000 pesos (4 dollars) for a twin bed room. Clean (but not the toilet) and alright with a very accurate and somewhat snappy landlady.

The lady at the tourist information office was little forthcoming.

We had a look at a nice and simple cathedral all wooden inside and with orange metal plates on the outside.

The port was almost non-existing with a partly closed artesania market next to it. It was peculiar to see the buildings built on poles on the seafront.

I had a lovely fried salmon for dinner (850 pesos, 3.4 dollars) and we went early to bed.


Sunday 07.02.1988, Castro – Dalcahue

We got up early to take a bus to Dalcahue (180 pesos, 30 mins) where there was a market. The seats were hard to come by. The market had some very nice knitted stuff. A jumper in bright colours was tempting, but Angelmo has a bigger variety.

We are going back to Puerto Montt tomorrow. This island is beautiful but there are not so many tempting things to see. We were however tempted to try out a peña this evening with local music and dancing performed by local and imported resources. It was good and there was a good attendance.


Monday 08.02.1988, Castro – Puerto Montt

The way “home” passed without much ado, apart from us seeing seals on the ferry crossing, for the first time.

In Puerto Montt we did little apart from buying bus tickets to Valdivia (600).

  • Residencial Nave on a side street to Varas, near the bus terminal. 2400 including breakfast. Clean.


Further reading

The next chapter: Back to central Chile for the last two weeks before the long way home from South America.

Read the introduction to this journey

View a full screen map of the journey