Tourists don't traditionally come to the city for the buildings or museums; rather it is a great attraction because of its location which is surrounded by some of nature's greatest accomplishments. Close to Puerto Montt, this city is a stop that you should make while you're in the South of Chile. We personally prefer Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt if you need to rest your head a night, although make sure you make arrangements to arrive to Puerto Montt on time if you are catching a ferry further South.
When to Come
Unfortunately the town is becoming more popular with the posh crowds that normally spend their summers at the beaches in Pucón. Thus prices increase during this season. However, it is still best to come here when the weather is warm for all of your outdoor adventures.
Where to Stay
If you are trying to travel cheaply, we recommend that you stay in one of the homes in the areas that let out rooms rather than a bed and breakfast, as the B&B's can be rather expensive.
Casa Margouy alongside the Plaza de Armas is a great place to stay and meet other travelers. This hostel used to be called 'Colores del Sur' but it no longer has the Norwegian owners. We have heard it is still a very good place to stay.
Colones del Sur (which as you noticed has a similar name) burnt down a few years ago so if you are looking for it (thanks to a guide book), it no longer exists.
Things to Do in Puerto Varas
The one thing to do when the sun goes down in Puerto Varas is to head over to the Casino de Puerto Varas. The building itself is over the top and filled with slot machines and posh gambling tables. Even if the roulette doesn't work out for you, you can always hang out downstairs at the bar and watch all the people go by. The casino is at the corner of Del Salvador and Avda. Costanera with a great view of the lake and the volcanoes.
Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon
If you find yourself with a little extra time in town after a tour, stop on by the church built entirely of Chilean oak. It was modeled after a church from the Black Forest in Germany. It is only a short hike up a hill, take calle San Francisco until it intersects with Verbo Divino.
This is an incredibly unique experience and amazing way to take in the nature that surround you. Through a series of ziplines tourists can glide through the trees with ease. There is one zipline that is unbelieving stunning. As you go through the air you will cross a canyon, with a waterfall pouring off beautiful cliffs on your left while on your right is the glistening Lago Llanquihue. If you go during the evening you can see the sunset over the lake. The tour guides are all qualified and very helpful. There is an information safety lesson before you actually begin the Canopying. To get there, you can take tour buses or can drive around the lake to near the base of Volcan Osorno. The road up there can get muddy after a heavy rain so be careful. The canopy trip costs around CLP$25,000 and lasts for 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the group. More details can be found at www.canopychile.cl.
Kayaking and Rafting
Río Petrohué has beautiful crystal blue water which can turn into class three and four rapids, great for adventurers of all levels. The rafting companies usually provide all of your gear, including a wetsuit and transportation to the river is normally provided from Puerto Varas. It is a half day trip starting in the morning with approximately 2 hours on the river. The thrill of the rapids is broken up with floating time where you can take in the beautiful volcanoes and scenery surrounding you.
We highly recommend tours with Andina del Sur. They take groups across the Lago de Todos los Santos as well as across the border to Argentina, alternating between boats and buses. It is an incredible way to relax and take in the scenery. Each lake is a different colour because of the different minerals that are found in them. The tours are generally all inclusive and the guides are excellent.
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