Puerto Varas

Overview

Introduction

Puerto Montt has the airport, but nearby Puerto Varas, Chile, has the charm of its German colonial-style houses and better access to Andean national parks and the classic bus-boat-bus shuttle to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. It's best December to mid-March, when the weather is warmer and rain is less likely, but it can drizzle (or pour) at any time of year.

Puerto Varas is also home to some of Chile's finest restaurants, and in summer it's common to come by Germanic goodies known collectively as kuchen: pastries with fresh raspberries, strawberries, apples and other regional fruits.

In summer, most travelers make the crossing to Bariloche on a through ticket in a single day, but in winter it's necessary to overnight at Peulla, at the east end of Lago Todos los Santos, in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. From Puerto Varas, it's about 40 mi/65 km along Lago Llanquihue, passing Petrohue Falls (with Osorno Volcano in the background) to Todos los Santos, where you board a boat for the three-hour trip to Peulla. From Peulla, it's about 20 mi/32 km by bus to the Argentine border post of Puerto Frias, then a 20-minute boat ride to Puerto Alegre. Catch a bus there for Puerto Blest, where a larger boat on Lago Nahuel Huapi takes three hours to the Llao-Llao Peninsula. It's about a 20-minute bus ride from there to San Carlos de Bariloche.

Other sights in the vicinity include the Lago Llanquihue village of Frutillar (21 mi/33 km north), which hosts a summer music festival, and the hot-springs resort of Termas de Puyehue, about two hours northeast by a roundabout route on the main highway to Argentina, but a shorter, more scenic route is under construction.

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