Pucón

On the southeastern comer of the lake, 26 km east of Villarrica, Pucón is one of the most popular destinations in the Lake District, famous above all as a centre for visiting the 2840 m Villarrica Volcano, which dominates the view to the south. Built across the neck of a peninsula, the town has two black-sand beaches, which are popular for swimming and water sports. Whitewater rafting is also offered on the nearby rivers and excursions can be made into the Parque Nacional Huerquehue or the Cañi Nature Reserve as well as a number of thermal springs, all of which lie east of the town.

Getting there

Pucón is served by four daily buses from Puerto Montt and Valdivia and several daily (many overnight) from Santiago. There are regular services from Temuco and Villarrica. The airport, 2 km east of Pucón on the Caburga road, has several flights a week to/from Santiago in summer.

Getting around

Pucón is small enough to walk around. Taxis for out-of-town trips.

Sights and activities

The Pucón of today is very different from the town of 30 years ago, when it was a small, pleasant, quiet village with some seasonal Chilean tourism, but no foreign backpackers. It is now a thriving tourist centre, full of Chileans in summer and gringos in the autumn. Within easy reach of town are an active climbable volcano where you can also ski in winter, rivers for whitewater rafting and fly-fishing, canopy tours in native forests, quadbike excursions, lakes and waterfalls, two national parks and a private nature sanctuary as well as a dozen thermal springs. This makes Pucón an excellent base for visiting the northern lake district.

Every other house in the town centre seems to offer accommodation, while the main drag is awash with tour operators. Neon signs are forbidden and road signs and telephone kiosks are made of wood, but the streets are full of bars, restaurants, boutiques and
artesanía
. The commercial centre lies between
Avenida O'Higgins
, the main thoroughfare, and the
Gran Hotel Pucón
. Private land (ask for permission at the entrance) leads west from the centre of town to
La Península
, where there are fine views of the lake and volcano, as well as a golf course. There is also a pleasant walk, along the
Costanera Otto Gudenschwager
, starting at the northern end of Calle Ansorena and following the lakeside north.

Boat trips
, on the lake leave from the landing stage at La Poza at the western end of O'Higgins. Walk a couple of kilometres north along the beach from here to the mouth of the Río Trancura for views of volcanoes. Or take a
boat
 to the mouth of the river from near the
Gran Hotel
.

To cross the Río Pucón, head east out of Pucón along the main road, then turn north on an unmade road leading to a new bridge. There are pleasant walks from here along the north shore of the lake to the Mapuche settlement of
Quelhue
and the beach at
Río Plata
, or northeast towards
Caburga
(the round trip makes a perfect day's outing by mountain bike). You can also strike up into the hills through farms and agricultural land, with views of three volcanoes and the lake (if possible, ask permission to cross first).

From the road to the Villarrica Volcano, a
ripio
road branches off for 5 km to some privately managed
Cuevas Volcánicas
(volcanic caves'), www.cuevas volcanicas.cl, surrounded by a small attractive park with tunnels and a museum, as well as paths through the forest. Entry to the site is expensive, but it's recommended as a bad-weather option. Snowmobile tours are also offered.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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