Pucon is an adorable little hippie town in the lakes district of central Chile. The lakes district, an area stretching 340 km from Temuco in the North to Puerto Montt in the South, is a massive delight for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Though there are many different areas and activities to explore, I stayed in Pucon, the base for hiking the famous Villarrica volcano or exploring the nearby national parks and waterfalls.
One thing I notice every time I go to Chile is the absolutely gorgeous flowers that seem to be growing wild at every turn.
Incredible varieties of colors and species, growing along the highway and in the city parks. Besides the flowers were blackberry bushes loaded full of ripening berries, a highly tempting reason to come back in a few weeks.
Houses and city plazas are overrun with flowering shrubs, trees, and sculptures. If you do nothing else, Pucon is worth the visit for the vegetation alone!
How to get there: A short 55 minute flight from Santiago lands you in Temuco airport, where you can get a shared transfer to Pucon for 10 000 chilean peso.
Hotel: Hotel Cumbras del Sur is just a block and a half away from the main drag, where you can find shops, bars, and restaurants galore. The hotel and rooms are tastefully decorated in natural tones, and there is a big living room with comfy chairs and books to read. Outside is a seasonal pool and an extensive breakfast buffet is included – with scrambled eggs (a rarity in South America) and oddly enough, at least four types of cake.
Souvenirs: I love exploring local foods, drinks, and traditions, and here in Pucon there is a lot of local going on! Several artisan markets are scattered around the city, offering gorgeous hand-knit wool products, wood carvings, and the cosiest socks you’ve ever seen.
On the consumable side, you can’t leave without trying the dairy products – animals live free and happy in the surroundings and it shows. Delicious aged cheeses, and the BEST butter I’ve ever had – creamy, yellow sunshine on a knife. The grocery store stocks all varieties of chilean craft beers, worth trying just for the cool bottles 🙂
Activities: There are tons of tour companies along the main drag, where you can book a trek up to the summit of the Villarrica volcano, a tour of the Huerquehue national park, canyoning, fishing, or river and lake kayaking. Due to limited time and nasty weather I missed the volcano, but will be back one day to climb it!
The Local Cuisine: Pucon is littered with restaurants, and here a few of my favorites.
For a drink with an amazing view, head to Gran Hotel Pucon (just for a drink, the hotel and food are otherwise in need of a face lift). A lobby decked out in white spills onto a terrace which overlooks the lake. The terrace could not be more idyllic, with tiled floors, comfy chairs, purple climbing vines, and most importantly, a view of the sparkling lake.
Cassis: stop by for an afternoon tea and pick-me-up, in the form of chocolates, cookies, or huge slices of cake.
Cafe de la P: Another great option for sweets and strong coffee.
Trawen: flavorful food with a focus on local ingredients, healthy recipes, and organic produce.
L’Ecole – a restaurant attached to a hostel, not a place normally considered a destination for good food. But at L’ecole, a cozy restaurant with smiling staff, delicious and comforting vegetarian foods are served, with an amazing price tag. I had a lovely veggie stew, with a beet, bean, and citrus salad, homemade bread, and a glass of red wine. . . for $9 USD. Unheard of.
Viva Peru: For a little Peruvian flair, such as ceviche or lomo saltado.
Park City: Another place with top marks for friendly service, and surprisingly, one of the best Manhattans I’ve ever had.
Once you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, head out for a kayak on the lake or into the surrounding national parks for fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Any nature-lover or active traveller will relish in the options available around Pucon. Not to be missed!