Puerto Varas is a little slice of gourmet food, European influence and fantastic scenery tucked away in the Lakes & Volcano District of Chile. In the most Northern section of Patagonia it is a good place to start a Patagonian itinerary. Located along Lake Llanquihué, Chile’s second largest lake, with the snow-capped Osorno Volcano, Mt. Calbuco and Mt. Tronador all visible, Puerto Varas has a reputation as one of Chile’s most picturesque towns.
Puerto Varas is 12 miles (20 km) from Puerto Montt, the main commercial center (and where you will arrive if you fly), however it seems worlds away. If you are visiting the area, staying in Puerto Varas is recommended, the charm, fantastic restaurants, lakeside location and easy access to outdoor activities are hard to beat. You can easily take a bus to Puerto Montt (many people commute there for work daily) to have a look.
What to Do
The town has a lot of German heritage. Many Germans immigrated here in the early 1900’s. There is a walking tour (you can pick up the brochure around town) of 8 large wooden houses built by the German settlers between 1910-1920 or so. These have been declared National Monuments.
Puerto Varas was an important town in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as the center of the timber industry. It shipped its timber across the lakes to Puerto Montt where it was loaded on to ocean bound ships. Today it is a suburb of Puerto Montt and a center for tourism.
A stroll along the lakefront any time of the day is pleasant. There are also a number of swimming beaches along Lake Llanquihué, which the locals frequent in the summer.
Eating is also highly recommended. Some of the best food we had in Chile (which like its neighbor Argentina relies heavily on meat in their diet) was in Puerto Varas. There is some variety here which is welcome. Seafood is freely available, the coffee is good, and there is a definite European influence in the jams, pastries and tarts.
Find some place that looks good, has lots of people and give it a try.
Our only specific eating recommendation in this area is actually in Puerto Montt, and it is a steak place. We highly recommend El Fogon de Pepe.The grill is going in the middle of the restaurant, the service is friendly, the wine is good and reasonably priced and the food was fantastic. It is great value for money. The decor is eclectic and you will enjoy the ambiance as much as the meal. It is popular with the locals so if you decide to go, go early (opens at 19:30 for dinner) or make a booking. It is also open for lunch.
The Great Outdoors
This is the biggest reason to visit. In the summer, kayaking, white water rafting, canyoning, climbing, fishing, and hiking opportunities abound. In the winter you can ski.
- Petrohué River and Waterfalls
- Lago Todos Los Santos
- Vicenté Pérez Rosales National Park
- Volcano Osorno
Getting There, Around and Away
We did not rent a car, relying on public transport and if I had it to do again I would get the car. It is far more time efficient and will allow you to access some of the outdoor activities the bus does not reach. We also chose to stay out of town, which was quiet and the scenery was lovely, but with no car we spent a lot of time on the little shuttle bus heading into town to eat. So next time I think I would just stay in town. It is a compact town and you can walk to everything.
Just outside of Puerto Varas, Lago Todos Los Santos is the starting point for the Andes Lake crossing to Bariloche. Puerto Montt is the starting point for the Navimag Ferry to Puerto Natales, the entry point for Torres del Paine National Park. The Navimag ferry is very popular, only leaves on Fridays and books out early during the summer peak. So if you are interested in using this route, book early. Unfortunately our trip was cancelled (we were given enough notice to book a flight and our money was fully refunded) but we did miss out on the ferry. Another reason to return!
Both Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas provide easy access to Chiloe, Chile’s largest Island and a very unique place deserving of its own post.
This post was also shared on Weekend Travel Inspiration a great source for travel writing from around the world.
It is easy to combine a trip to Puerto Varas with a trip to Chiloe, Chile’s largest island.