Sustainable tourism project hits home in Chile’s Lakes District

Hotels commit to alternative energy and ecologically friendly construction on the shores of Llanquihue Lake.


Puerto Varas is known for its location on the sparkling Llanquihue Lake, its fine dining and lodging options, and its wealth of adventure tourism at one’s fingertips. In keeping with the Lakes District’s prized natural environment, tourism operators in Puerto Varas are looking to add another feather to their cap: sustainability.

“Going green” in Puerto Varas has meant a US$130 million investment into hotel infrastructure, bringing the Lakes District onto the forefront of ecologically-minded tourism in Chile.

Geothermal energy, for example, is currently used at some hotels to heat water. The investment avoids using 25 million tons of coal a year and saves the company two thirds of their heating costs, according to the general manager at hotel Cabaña del Lago, Mauricio Meyer. Geothermal heating takes hot water from as deep down as 98 feet (30 meters) below the surface and then heats it to as high as 109ºF (43ºC) for use in showers and baths.

At nearby hotel Cumbres Patagónicas, meanwhile, the hotel is using electrical energy to heat their guests’ water. Hotel manager Santiago Baylis said the change has reduced energy use by half, and inspired the business to embark on neutralizing carbon emissions as well.

Recycled materials, thermal heating and alternative fuels are also at work at the hotel Puerto Chico, which was entirely constructed of wood recycled from old buildings and heats water with pellets instead of firewood.

And it would seem that the growing trend in Puerto Varas towards environmental sustainability makes good business sense, as well.

According to the most recent survey by the national tourism service, Sernatur, 26 percent of foreign visitors that visit Chile take sustainable tourism practices into account when considering where they stay.