When thinking about Chile, many of us think of the dry Atacama Desert in northern Chile, or of the snowy Patagonia mountains of southern Chile. But there is something more between those lands – another distinct region of Chile known as the Chile Lake District. One of our most popular ways to travel through the Lake District is our Chile, Andes, and Buenos Aires tour.
The Chile Lake District is located in south-central Chile, starting in Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas on the coast. Continuing inland towards the Andes Mountains, a Chile Lake District tour winds past gentle mountains, rivers, high alpine lakes, waterfalls, volcanoes, virgin forests, fjords, and islets surrounded by lakes with an infinitive palette of green and deep blue. Most Chile Lake District tours include a combination of cruise ships and buses to whisk you from the Chilean coast to the Argentine border in the Andes.
With its major airport in Puerto Montt, the Chile Lake District can be reached by a short flight from Santiago (just 1 hour, 25 minutes). Take a lake cruise through Lago Llanquihue and then Lake Todos Los Santos on the way towards Argentina’s Lago Nahuel Huapi. Many lake cruises will stop in Puella or a similar town along the way, so that you can spend the night admidst the unforgettable Chile Lake District scenery.
The history behind the Lake District’s colonization is a mixture of indigenous folklore and tales of European emigrants from Germany, Switzerland, and Great Britain. In Puerto Varas, German pioneers planted a variety of roses for which the town was named. In Chiloe Island, the locals love to tell stories and myths of their ancestors, mysterious visitors, trolls, and other legends.
In some ways, the charm is the biggest attraction of the Chile Lake District and its towns. Colorful wooden houses, steeples of hundreds of churches, harbors with boats waiting for fishermen to spread nets in the water, the smell of seafood, and unique handicrafts are what the Chile Lake District is all about. Not to mention a diversity of flora and fauna, delicious food, and hospitable people.
The city of Puerto Varas is situated on the shores of the Llanquihue Lake, with its intense blue waters and snow-capped peak of Osorno Volcano in the background. Many of the buildings show evidence of heavy German influence. The Sacred Heart of Jesus church has a red roof that completes the scene. German chocolate, marmalade and pastries are found throughout the town. Beautiful gardens and roses that decorate wooden houses make Puerto Varas even more special.
We recommend staying in the 4 star Puerto Varas hotel called the Cabañas del Lago, which sits on the lakeside of the Lago Llanquihue. The lodge has panoramic views of the lake and the Osorno Volcano in the background. You can walk to town, or have dinner on the wide lakeside patio. Built in traditional German decor, the hotel has 130 guest rooms and suites, all of which have lakeside views, a mini-bar, cable TV, and more amenities.
But “The City of Roses” is only a gateway to see other attractions of the Chile Lake District. Just 64 km (40 miles) away from the center you will see one of the most spectacular highlights of Lake Region: the Petrohue Waterfalls and Volcano Osorno. Near the Petrohue Waterfalls, you can go river rafting, or relax in the nearby Puyehue with one of the biggest hot springs resorts in Southern Chile.
After taking a deep breath of fresh mountain air, you are ready to visit the most remote land of Lake District: Chiloe Island, the second largest Chilean island after Tierra del Fuego. Separated from the mainland by the Chacao Channel, it can be accessed from Puerto Montt by half an hour ferry ride. Due to its isolation, Chiloe is famous for distinctive tradition, history, cuisine, architecture. The inhabitants of the island have their own rhythm of life, dictated by a unique system of beliefs. Chiloe Island is also well-known for it’s palafitos, wooden houses built on stilts over the water. Find many of them in Castro, the capital of Chiloe Province.
In the heart of the Lake District is a small town called Peulla on the shores of the Lago Todo los Santos. Stay at the Hotel Natura Patagonia, a beautiful lodge with 45 guest rooms and surrounded by almost nothing besides forest, mountains, and water. Superior rooms have mini-bars, jacuzzi tubs, fireplaces, and TVs. The hotel also has a restaurant, conference rooms, a games room, fitness center, and business center with internet access.
The Chile Lake District boasts unspoiled natural beauty, quiet lakeside towns, and friendly locals. A Chile Lake District tour is also an excellent option for those wanting to travel from Santiago to Buenos Aires. View our popular Chile, Andes, and Buenos Aires tour.