Fancy climbing one of Chile’s most active volcanos? Sure, why not! Although I didn’t realise that awaiting the ascent of Vulcán Villarrica would take some time, due to weather conditions…
After the four days at sea through the amazingly stunning southern Patagonian Fjords on a ferry, decided to head north on a bus, from Puerto Montt to Pucón.
The main reason for travelling to Pucón is to climb the active volcano.
On arriving to the JAC terminal in Pucón, expect to be approached by hostel and accommodation hawkers shoving brochures in your hands (or face) and scrambling to win your business. They are harmless enough, just can be a tad annoying.
Although a smallish town by Chile’s standards, Pucón offers many adventure tours for a visitor. Guide books even go as far as to state Pucón as an “adventure-sport-lover’s paradise“, so this gives you a good idea on what this town is all about.
Apart from the volcano climb, you can indulge in Bungee jumping, a trip to the hot springs, cultural tours, canopy tours, rafting, and many more fun activities. So, as you can imagine, Pucón is popular with both foreign and Chilean tourists, all year round. Just remember, January and February are the busiest months but also the more expensive.
Established in 1883 as a fort, it wasn’t until 1934 and the establishment of the Gran Hotel Pucón, which saw this area become popular for tourism.
Stumbled upon a couple of second-hand cloth shops in Pucón selling very good snow gear and winter clothing. Perhaps travellers have shedded their unwanted gear after treks or climbs, and before heading to warmer climes.
You must have ideal and safe weather before the tour companies allow you to climb the volcano and understandably so, as it can be dangerous. To give you an idea, the weather cannot be too wet, too windy, or the area cannot receive too much of a snowfall before the climb.
So, we must wait…and wait we will.
Whilst waiting several days in Pucón for the correct weather to climb the volcano, we decide on a day trek in the gorgeous pre-Andean Parque Nacional Huerquehue, which spans 12,500 hectares.
Getting to the Parque Nacional Huerquehue
Take the 08:30 hrs local bus from near the JAC terminal in Pucón, for the one-hour’s ride, which costs CH$1,900 to the park’s entrance.
The last bus back to Pucón is at 17:00 hrs and costs CH$1,500 – not sure why there is a price difference, but this is Chile. If you decided on only a day at the park, you need to be mindful of the last bus when on your trek.
Parque Nacional Huerquehue
The park entrance fee is CH$4,000 for a tourist or CH$2,500 if you are Chilean.
The Ranger provides you with a map and quick instructions in Spanish on the trekking routes and times that the routes ‘should’ take. The park offers many walks of one day, several days or more, at varying fitness levels.
As it is raining and quite cold today, the trek to the 3 lakes (Los Patos, Verde, and Toro) is challenging, with the height of 1,320 metres to the top. The climb is quite steep as you scramble over tree roots and lots of mud, whilst being shrouded in a forest along the way – quite beautiful. This trek is about a 16-kilometre round trip.
It would help immensely if the scarce signs on the trek (or the map) displayed the distance left to the next lookout or sight. When trekking in this park, it feels as if you walk for hours but never get anywhere, until finally, you stumble out of the forest to the next lookout.
Trekking through the park is wonderful as you walk hidden amongst a canopy of lush green rainforest, containing huge bamboo shrubs, ferns, and aged trees. The scenery is just gorgeous…even in the pouring rain.
Take your lunch, water, thermos, warm clothes, and everything you think you need for this trek. There isn’t a shop anywhere, not even at the park entrance and it is a long day’s hike.
Even though you are walking and climbing loads, layer up as it is cold along the way.
Although similar, the lakes are very picturesque.
If you don’t stay overnight (or for longer) in one of the park’s rustic Refugios, you don’t have much time to trek all the way back to the entrance, to be in time for the last bus to Pucón.
Remember that when you stay in the Refugios, you need all of your own camping gear and food as it is a wooden hut, which is only a basic shelter against the elements.
Where to stay in Pucón
Arrived at Ruka Pucón Hostal (CH$18,000 double), which is about a 15-minute walk from the town centre, although in a quiet and leafy area.
Monica (Ruka’s owner) is extremely friendly, helpful, and just like a second mother – very lovely.
As we are the only ones in the hostel, which is a normal house with several bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, bathroom, and wi-fi, this suits us quite well as there is loads of privacy. Sometimes it’s great to have some space when you’re travelling. This is a great place to relax and wind down.
Quick dog update
Again in Pucón, we had a pack of dogs follow us for some time with two dogs paying ‘special’ attention to me.
I’m still finding this quite strange and again, the local dogs do not follow the locals in Chile or Argentina, just tourists it seems.
After about a one-week’s stay in this town, I have to say I do like the vibe of Pucón. Although it is touristy, I’m a little sad to be leaving. Guess it always helps that the accommodation is handy and comfortable.