Dates Explored: February 5 – 7, 2016
Last we left off, we were on Easter Island. On February 4th we basically flew back to the Hilton by the Santiago Airport and crashed (as in fell into bed) for our flight the next day from Santiago to Puerto Montt, from where we would rent a car and drive to Puerto Varas. Some Travel Tips!
- Remember when I said the Holiday Inn by the airport was more expensive than the Hilton Garden Inn? I guess because it’s really close and you don’t have to get a shuttle. For the Hilton by the airport you need a shuttle, and, man, did we waste a lot of time getting organized. There seemed to be no easy way, with the language barrier, for us to find which was the free shuttle that would take us to the Hilton Garden Inn. We were told a number of things and eventually we found our way. I guess I should have taken note of how to find the shuttle for other travelers reading this, but it’s out of my brain now, sorry. Maybe google “how to find shuttle for Hilton Garden Inn at Santiago Airport.” It’s one of those things that once you know (if you remember), it seems sorta easy, but at the time it seems crazy disorganized.
- If you decide to rent a car at the Puerto Montt airport (recommended, and booking in advance also recommended), do not, I repeat, do NOT ask the rental car folks for their wi-fi password so you can email the supposedly non-existent front desk at your destination hotel. You might get the information you need (“Yes, of course we have a front desk, you nimrod, we don’t care what the hotel sites say about emailing or calling ahead to find out how to get in”), but you might also find yourself suddenly locked out of your email. This happened to poor Moi, who just wanted to send one simple email. My server decided it looked super suspect that I had been in Chile for two weeks, was in Easter Island two days earlier and had now–gasp!–found my way to Southern Chile. So, you know, best thing is to lock Cindy out and force her to spend an hour chatting with tech support once at the hotel instead of having a Pisco Sour.
Yes, use the rental car wi-fi at your own risk. In retrospect, a quick in-and-out check of my email might have appeared suspect, so I can’t totally blame my server.
Here’s another Travel Tip! Let your server know you are traveling and where. Just like you might do with your credit card company. Why didn’t I think of that?
By all means, rent a car at the Puerto Montt airport and head straight to Puerto Varas, which is maybe half an hour away at most via Route 5 and ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. If I ever have the chance to visit Chile again, I think I would spend more time in the Lagos region (lakes). We had two nights in Puerto Varas before heading to Chiloe Island, and we could have easily used a few more days to drive north and view more stunning country.
Once in Puerto Varas, we stayed at the Radisson, which was right on the lake, which is stunning. Yes, if you’re Canadian you have seen stunning lakes before, especially if you live in B.C., but it’s always a thrill to find equally stunning lakes elsewhere. I admit, we are spoiled at home for our lakes in B.C.
The Radisson is a great spot. Comfy rooms, walking distance to eating and supermarkets and to the festival grounds half a block away (yes, we had somehow located another festival). Our traveling partners went to bed “early” while DH and I went and hung around with locals and listened to some fantastic bands and music.
The next morning we hopped into our rental car. I was the Secretary or Leader for the day, which meant I was in charge of the purse-strings and making final decisions (such as, yes, boys, we are going to drive around the entire lake). We headed to Petrohue Falls (which really reminded us of B.C.) and then made for our major destination of the day, a view of Lake Llanquihue (sorta say it like Lake Yankeeway) from Volcano Osorno. Volcano Calbuco blew in 2015, but Osorno is still a ski mountain, and you can ride up the chairlifts, walk around, and maybe take a zip line coming down. All recommended!
Lake Llanquihue from partway up the mountain drive to Volcano Osorno. We stopped to help some South American women with their overheating vehicle (the boys poured most of our drinking water into their radiator for them). Lake Llanquihue is big and round, the second largest lake in Chile, about 330 square miles. It takes 5 or so hours to drive around the entire lake, and we didn’t realize the road would not be paved the whole way around. There was a lot of gravel terrain, but it was an adventure.
Looking back at the lake partway up one of two chairlifts to the top. You can see the little ski village. We had lunch there.
After two chairlift rides, we found ourselves at 1670 meters/5478 feet at the Estacion Glacier. Remember, we were there during their summer, and that’s why there is no snow. If you want to see snow on the volcano, visit the Volcan Osorno Ski Resort website or google Volcan Osorno winter and click Images.
I confess, I might have taken this photo before the one above. I might have taken it from the chairlift. Or I might have taken it from the top. Alas, alack, amiss, the memory is amuck. But I wanted to show the ash we were hiking in and a bit of the toe of the glacier (covered in snow in winter) leading to the peak.
I mean, wow, isn’t this stunning? No filters were used in these photos at all. That’s just how beautiful it was. We were lucky that the clouds allowed us a wee break so I could snap this view. We also had a view of Volcano Calbuco, which blew in 2015, but the peak was always covered in cloud…or maybe just blown off. At any rate, we heard stories about the eruption from an engaging fellow who kept us entertained back at the second chairlift while we were waiting for our chance to ride the zipline.
Yes, you can zipline down Osorno! You don’t have to book in advance, just walk up to the little window where you buy the tickets to ride the chairlift. You have to tell them at that point if you want to book a zipline trip and they will sell you the appropriate tickets. First, you take two chairlifts up to view the glacier (you don’t have to take the second one if you only want to zipline; in that case, just take one chairlift), and you can do this sort of thing even if you’re afraid of heights. Just make sure the other person in your chairlift ISN’T afraid of heights. I had begun conquering my fear in Peru six years earlier, and luckily I had ziplined twice before, once at Whistler (terrifying) and once in the Okanagan Valley of B.C. (still terrifying but not as much). The Osorno zipline was my third attempt, but it’s set up differently and our group of four were the only English speakers. So the friendly Chilean guy we met, Francisco I believe was his name, interpreted for us while safety instructions were being delivered. There might have been something lost in the translation, because I was not quite clear on what to do if big winds blew up and stopped me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LONGEST ZIPLINE. You know that idiot who winds up stopping and can’t get going again? Yup, that was me.
Part of the issue was language. The zipline is the type where you wear a thick leather glove and hold the line and use the glove as your overhead brake. I hadn’t ridden that type of zip before and like I say, I lost something in the translation. So not only did the wind stop me cold on the longest of the four ziplines, but I then had no clue what to do to get going again. I gazed in wonder at Lago Llanquihue and tried to will my heart to stop beating in my throat. I was getting quite freaked out.
Here is what it looks like if you’re doing it correctly:
That’s, um, not me. That’s SILly.
I had stopped quite a ways back…. Ahem. So my husband and the Chilean zipline guy are yelling directions, and I’m like “What? What? Frack, my heart! Frick, the height! Nice lake! I am going to die! I AM the idiot hanging on the zipline who does not know what to do!!!”
My husband and the zippy guy decided to hop off the landing platform and come to help me. My husband was giving me instructions to pull myself hand-over-hand, which, frankly, was what Francisco had mentioned but I had forgotten (in my fear). But then the Chilean guy said, “Just let go!” (Ah, so he did know some English; maybe he hand-gestured, my lungs were in my ears at that point).
“Just let go!” does not mean you will fall onto the ashy ground, it means you will grasp your hanging thingies with both hands instead of one hand on the brake and the second on the thingy. Thusly, thisly, thashly, you will zip to the platform.
After a lunch at the ski lodge, we headed back down the mountain and began our circumvention of the lake. We saw a lot of this:
The gravel road was a surprise and we weren’t quite sure if we were heading in the right direction, but eventually we realized we were, and we also got to see a lot of Chileans enjoying summer in what was, to us, a freezing cold lake. We came upon a lot of campsites with cars and families cavorting and picnicking. We also came across this nice hawk, who posed for me with the volcano in the background:
Volcano Osorno with hawk who REFUSED to look at me. Hmph!
One of the things we read to do was head to a small town called Fruitilar, but if Fruitilar is your destination, head LEFT out of Puerto Varas. Believe me when I say you will get there a lot faster. Head RIGHT if you want to visit Petrohue Falls and Osorno. Coming into Fruitilar the way we did isn’t as, picturesque, shall we say, as driving from Puerto Varas to Fruitilar.
Any way you want to slice it, the Lagos Region is a site to behold. I am so grateful to folks on Trip Advisor for sharing their experiences. We flew to Puerto Montt as a way to get to Chiloe Island via ferry, but someone on TA told me Puerto Varas was not to be missed, and they were right. I would have loved a few more days in the area.
Two restaurants we chose in Puerto Varas were outstanding. The first night we wanted Italian and found a place that might have been Restaurant Tratria Di Carusso. Pity I didn’t write down the name. There was only one other table besides us while we were eating. I had minestrone soup that came in a cauldron that could have fed four and then beef gnocchi that was amazing. If the chef is a round older fellow sporting a feathered pen and wearing his chef hat, you’ve found the place. Amazeballs.
The second night we wanted steak but didn’t have a reservation, and it was festival time, remember, so it was super crowded (as in Chileans were filling the streets crowded). We were extremely lucky to get a table for four at La Marca. The folks in front of us had six in their party and could not be seated. We had to sit right in front of the grill, which was a bit hot (the back of my neck was to the grill), but it was great to see how they cooked, the coals, etc. And the food was divine!
I didn’t expect the food to be as wonderful as we found in Puerto Varas. I would have loved more time just to sample the gastronomic delights!