Chile’s portion of the Lake District extends from Temuco in the north to Puerto Montt in the south. With dense forests, snow-capped volcanoes and clear lakes, it is inarguably one of the country’s most beautiful areas. The centuries-old alerce forests that dominate the landscape were once home to the Mapuche, who defended their land 350 years strong before their eventual fall to the Chilean Army in the 1880s. The area today sees some of the finest dairy farmland in Chile, thanks to the German, Austrian and Swiss settlers who made the region their home in the time since. The German influence is particularly evident in the architecture and dishes found in Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Varas and Frutillar. However, native culture also thrives. You will find the majority of the region’s half-a-million inhabitants who claim Mapuche ancestry residing in the indigenous reservations throughout the Lake District.
The main cities of Temuco, Osorno, Valdivia and Puerto Montt are where the majority of the region’s inhabitants reside, though functioning predominantly as mere transportation hubs. It’s the resort towns, and adventure sports capitals, of Pucón and the sleepier Puerto Varas—where the awe-inspiring twin volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, guard entrance to the lakes—that draw the region’s most visitors, both towns great bases from which to explore the region and enjoy the endless array of activities you will find in the Lake District: hiking, kayaking, canyoning, whitewater rafting, cycling, horseback riding, birdwatching, volcano climbing and skiing, world-class fly fishing, mountaineering, and soaking in the many thermal springs. The Lake District also boasts an impressive 6 national parks including the world famous Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales—Chile’s first, and most visited, national park, whose vast wilderness hosts endless hiking opportunities with some of the region’s most spectacular scenery as the backdrop; in addition to numerous other natural reserves and protected areas.
For those wishing to experience the Argentine side of the region, both Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas are excellent access points to Bariloche, via a combination of road and boat.