Pucón is a land of color. Blue rivers trace fractured lava flows, forming pools and lakes in ever-widening clefts. Trout and salmon project silvers, reds and speckled yellows into crystalline waters. Fireworks erupt from Volcan Villarrica, spitting orange rockets kilometers into the night sky. In Pucón proper, naturally dyed textiles squeeze color from local plants as cow-horn trumpets and hand drums pulse in the marketplace. All this, even before putting paddle to water, boot to trail or bike tire to wooded path. This region, a longtime center of four-season adventure, creates a setting where even the most civilized outing takes on a sense of expeditionary vigor.
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Few all-inclusive resorts can compare to the culinary, hospitality and guiding expertise of this property. Conceived over three decades and executed to the highest international standards, Vira Vira warrants consideration if Pucón scores high on your list of dream destinations. On-premise dairy and cheese making, organic gardens and exemplary chef experimentation yield reasons to stick around the property. But with vast exploration available in the hands of able guides, Chile's Lake District beckons to relaxed and revved-up guests alike.More info »
This spring fed river prompted reverent reflection from Active Junky's most experienced anglers. With gravel bars flowing down to over 30ft, the biggest caution is against wading beyond your limits. Instead, put local guides to the test to find trout and salmon that barely fit within the camera's field of view.
Fed in part by rivers originating in Huerquehue National Park, the Liucura sheds the visitor traffic present in the nearby Transcura River in favor of poetic bends, glittering riffles and quiet embankments. Anchored or floating, even non-anglers find respite with every paddle stroke.
On the shores of Lago Villarrica, Pucon pushes well past 20,000 inhabitants to guarantee plenty of lodging, dining, shopping and guiding options; start with Travel Aid to evaluate hiking options before you leave home. Nearly 500 miles south of Santiago, there’s no sense of remoteness attached to the health-centered restaurants, ice cream parlors and steak houses in the center city.
Trawen, Lounge Brasil and El Camino make the cut as plenty of “gateau” dessert spots line the main street. While invaded by bathers during peak summer months, the city’s beach creates extraordinary vistas while holding a cold cerveza or high-octane espresso. Three national parks fill the horizon while Villarrica (the town) adds more options.
Seeing snow-capped volcanoes nearly 100 miles away is deceiving. Here, the distances – and variations in ecosystems – are mind-bending. With Volcan Villarrica to our backs, the team pushed east to less-traveled vistas; solid map and compass skills were required to make our way toward Laguna Azula.
Few sights compare to the night sky in the southern hemisphere. Interrupted only by the fast-moving silhouette of a giant jackrabbit, the team forgot the miles behind to gaze in silent awe. Soothed to sleep by a nearby brook, the next day's journey through monkey puzzle trees became a dream we'd live tomorrow.
Guides from Hotel Vira Vira know the Lake District’s varied terrain for miles in every direction. Their pick for a day outing in the shadows of the Cordillera Las Carpas combined well-packed flowing trails with river crossings and rocky redoubts. Flying across rolling terrain and locking down suspensions to climb, Active Junky’s team unwrapped a mound of mountain-bike accessed gifts.
Expansive views across the border to Argentina combined with numerous bird sightings in old growth forests. Remote lakes and heart-pumping traverses gave riders plenty of chances to crank hard. From aspiring to accomplished bikers, the surrounding trails merit exploration beyond a single day.
This is no Sound of Music scenario. An active volcano, our team toasted the still-spewing Villarrica from the safety of Hotel Vira Vira with signature pisco sours. Normally a magnet for hikers and skiers, Villarrica is an integral part of the Lake District’s ancient landscape.
Toothy boots in summer give way to crampons and ice axes in winter. With plenty of chances to get off-course, this challenge warrants hiring a dependable local guide. Panoramic views are the reward, knowing Chilean hospitality and generous meals rest not far away from the 9,341ft summit; allow some time to acclimate once stepping off the plane in Temuco or Pucon.
Connecting with the storied Mapuche culture More than a million Chileans identify as Mapuche, an indigenous group that extends beyond the country’s borders into Argentina. Chile’s 1993 Indigenous Peoples Act made it easier for members to remain connected to historic lands; a significant development as “Che” means people and “Mapu” means “of the land.”
Amazing textiles weave the past and present together. Metal work celebrates artisanal skills. Musical traditions feature drumming and trumpeting on handmade instruments. Cuisine stirs in gathered herbs and cultivated vegetables for robust dishes. While street fairs promote Mapuche crafts, connections with local tourism authorities pave the way to more intimate glimpses of the people themselves.
Horseback riding proves an ideal match for the Lake District. At one equestrian center, Active Junky connected with a competent operator sporting an Olympic and national team resume forged in Europe. Consummate Chilean horseman Rodolfo Coombs and talented former reining competitor Penelope Coombs encourage visitors to ride with all of their senses in the bird and nature rich environment they share.
Lessons quickly boost proficiency for aspiring riders while travelers intent on exploration push across wide-ranging trails. In the training center and stable immersed in the Cani mountain range, safety and adventure ride together; every animal is treated with gratitude and care to make this enterprise humane and sustainable.