Our Patagonian Sister Puerto Varas, Chile

January 8th, 2010 Posted in entertainment, travel

Written by Shanie

The sapphire water of Lago Llanquihue glistens in the light of the Southern Hemisphere sun. An obvious twin to Mount Fuji, the perfect cone shape of Volcano Osorno seems to rise from the depths of the azureous water. The two are in perfect contrast to each other, lending an awe-inspiring view to the small village of Puerto Varas. From the city’s boardwalk that borders the water’s edge, it is obvious that this is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

century boat

Puerto Varas is situated a mere twenty kilometers from the region’s capitol Puerto Montt. But this town offers a more intriguing and inviting atmosphere than its larger neighbor. A small, cozy settlement nestled on the south western shores of Lake Llanquihue, its nickname is City of Roses. The sobriquet is fitting, as it is considered to be one of the prettiest cities in the Chilean Lakes Region. Situated along the lake shore and climbing up an adjacent hillside, the town offers views of Volcanoes Osorno and Calbuco as well as the third largest lake in South America.

Osorno

The town was initially founded in 1854 by Vicente Pérez Rosales. He developed the small port town to assist Puerto Montt as a booming commercial area. Upon realizing the special qualities, beauty, and size of Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas was made an official port city December 30th, 1927. Puerto Varas tourism sprang into action around 1934 with the building of its first major hotel. Soon after the construction of the hotel the road to the town of Ensenada, 45 kilometers away, was built. The dirt road, which is now paved, follows the shores of the lake, eventually leading to Volcano Osorno and Paque Nacional Vicent Pérez Rosales (the near-by national park).

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The German settlers of the early 1900’s were definitely on to something and the town has grown to a year-round population of 28,000 inhabitants. This number doubles in size during the tourist high season, December through March. The main source of income for locals, other than tourism, is milk production, cattle, sausages, and other agricultural products.

Puerto Varas is an outdoor lover’s playground. Set at sixteen feet above sea level, it offers tons of different excursions, including sea and lake kayaking, fly fishing, volcano tours, river rafting, horseback riding, and hiking. There is also intermediate/beginner skiing offered during the winter months on the slopes of Volcano Osorno. Hiking beyond the chairlifts, into the glacial fields is also allowed with a guide and is an amazing view of the surrounding five volcanoes.

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For those not so interested in the outdoors, there are tours of the beautified, 19th century homes of the German settlers, the antique churches of the same time period, as well as museums explaining the history of the area. While a portion of the residences are private, some of the antique homes are open to the public. Casa Kuschel, decorated in Bavarian-style architecture has a nice gift shop and is a beautiful replica of days-gone-by. The city’s famous church, Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, built between 1915 and 1918, is constructed in a neo-romantic style after the Marienkirche of the Black Forest in Germany.

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Due to being a major tourist draw, the village is filled with all varieties and qualities of hotels and restaurants. There are multiple four and five star accommodations, hostels, and famous houses of the colonial period that have been transformed into hospedajes (hostel-like accommodations).

One that is set within a renovated mansion is The Guest House. The blue building hosts ten beautifully decorated rooms, all with their own bathroom. The owners, originally from the United States, have put all of the finishing touches to the rooms, creating a warm, homey atmosphere. Included with the room is a German style breakfast and, for an additional charge, private dinner parties if requested in advance.

Guest House 2008

Another option for sleeping accommodations is the modern, clean Solace. Opened in May of 2008, this plush, well-designed hotel is bigger than the normal size boutique hotel but has the cozy atmosphere and personal touches of a smaller inn. The rooms are of ample size and are well situated to show off the incredible views of the surroundings.

solace

For a smaller and cheaper option, the Casa Mawenco is a cute, comfortable hostel located on a pedestrian street minutes from downtown.

Mawenco house

It is perfect for youthful travelers, whether in age or just young-at-heart. The location is perfect for walking to the huge casino in town, the weekend nightlife or restaurants. The owner, Belen, speaks English is very knowledgeable about the surrounding activities and festivals. Puerto Varas gets packed in the high season so it is important to book a hostel or hotel in advance.

The dining options of Puerto Varas are numerous, diverse, and an eclectic mix, offering everything from sushi to Mexican food, not to mention the regular Chilean fare. The Puerto Varas agricultural industry and the town’s close proximity to the ocean provide a tasty array of fresh produce and some of the best cuisine of the region.

One of the most extravagant restaurants in town is Club de Yates.

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Built in a romantic setting directly over the water, the tables look out towards Volcano Osorno and lake with nothing obstructing the view. The menu is a gigantic selection of fish, seafood, chicken, beef and pasta. The wine list is just as extensive. The entire restaurant is smoke free. Be sure to make a reservation during high season.

For something a little less fancy and with a touch of North America, try Pim’s. Located in the center of town, this is a great joint for Mexican food. The huge restaurant is decorated in United States and Canadian knick-knacks; the large fireplace gives off a warm and inviting atmosphere. The food comes in large quantities so come with a good appetite.

Puerto Varas is a must-do for those traveling in this area of Chile. Even during the winter months, it is good place to relax, enjoy the scenery and learn about Chilean culture and people. If visiting during the off season keep in mind that most restaurants are not open on Sundays and some hotels shut down completely.

  1. 5 Responses to “Our Patagonian Sister Puerto Varas, Chile”

  2. By Alex B on Feb 15, 2010

    Nice and interesting article, though in recommended eating, I feel club de yates is not a place that captures the heart of the beautiful town of Puerto Varas at all. It sits like an architectural folly meant for a much bigger coast line than the quaint bay…

    excellent choices abound, check out trip advisor

    but great restaurants in puerto varas include
    ibis puerto varas
    la rada
    la marca
    balandra

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  4. By Alex Sayegh on Dec 24, 2011

    Please send information regarding living their.

  5. By Makeda Kewanwytewa on Mar 4, 2012

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