Chilean Lake District

Llanquihue Lake: between dazzling towns and mighty Osorno Volcano

The towns of Puerto Varas, Puerto Octay, and Frutillar together form one of Chile's most visited areas.

Monday, July 27, 2009 Category: Lake
Catedral Osorno Catedral Osorno (Photo:TurismoChile)

The road that encompasses the second biggest lake in Chile stretches for 185 km.  The area of the lake is close to 90,000 hectares.  The lake was first discovered by western explorers by Pedro de Valdivia in 1552, and remained relatively untouched by colonialists and civilization until the end of the 19th c.  However, these days, the area has a distinct European flavor to accompany magnificent views of the Osorno Volcano.

The city of Puerto Varas is located only 20 minutes north of Puerto Montt, where Llanquihue Lake emerges from beneath the Osorno Volcano.  It is known as the city of roses due to the streets being filled with these flowers.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of the town is its historical buildings, 10 of which have been designated national monuments.  The town has also been recognized for its cultural richness, and includes a casino and shopping area.  It is highly recommended that visitors take the time to visit Niklitschek beach, located 7 kilometers away and surrounded by nature. 

The Petrohué Falls are formed by water rushing from the Todos Los Santos Lake over rocky formations in the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park.  The falls, which are protected and maintained by the government, can be visited after hiking along a short path.  They are located 76 km east of Puerto Varas.

The Mapuche name for the Osorno Volcano, Hueñauca, means dangerous heights.  The prominent volcano is 2,652 meters high and has a perfect cone top.  The weather in the area can vary significantly within the course of an hour, shifting from blue skies to rain and back again.  It is a moderately difficult mountain to climb, requiring 6 to 7 hours to make the full ascent. Hiking the mountain is only recommended during the summer.  In the winter, the volcano opens for skiing along 12 different trails.  The base of the volcano is located less than 70 km from Puerto Varas.

The city of Puerto Octay is located on the northern shore of the Llanquihue River.  The quiet town has a history dating back to 1852.  19th c. German colonial houses line its streets.  Points of interest include the El Colono Museum, which focuses on presenting visitors with a comprehensive display of how immigrants first developed the community.  Other attractions include the Cultural House and Galpon Museum.  Several beaches with views of the volcano and the mountains are located near the town, notably Centennial Peninsula.  The town is also known for its traditional dishes and stews. 

The city of Frutillar is easily one of the most beautiful in southern Chile.  It is located 26 km from Puerto Varas, and has beautiful old German houses that both complement the lake and highlight effective local preservation.  Every summer, it hosts the Music Week Festival, an event that showcases classic music at the Lake Theatre.  Other popular sites include the German Museum, the Phillipi promenade, and the Winkler National Forest.  The city is also an ideal place to sample a traditional German supper.

Llanquihue is a city that showcases such attractions as the Sausage Road, outstanding local beer, and historical houses.  Like other cities in the area, it was incorporated in 1852 by German settlers.