Osorno and around

Situated at the confluence of the Ríos Rahue and Damas, 921 km south of Santiago, Osorno was founded in 1553 before being abandoned in 1604 and refounded by Ambrosio O'Higgins and Juan MacKenna O'Reilly in 1796. It later became one of the centres of German immigration; their descendants are still of great importance in the area. Although Osorno is an important transport hub and a reasonable base for visiting the southern lakes, it is a drab uninspiring city, and is likely to be a place that you will pass through.

Getting there

Osorno is a key crossroads for bus routes in southern Chile. Passengers heading overland to Bariloche, Neuquén, Coyhaique or Punta Arenas will pass through here before making for the Puyehue Pass into Argentina; buses tend to leave from Puerto Montt, and travellers from Santiago may well change buses here. There are also hourly local services to Puerto Montt, as well as frequent services north to Temuco and Valdivia.

Getting around

Most of the places visitors are likely to visit are within easy walking distance. Taxis or
colectivos
may be useful for longer trips.

Osorno

On the large
Plaza de Armas
stands the modern, concrete and glass cathedral, with many arches and a tower that is itself an open, latticed arch with a cross superimposed. West of the centre on a bend overlooking the river is the
Fuerte María Luisa
, built in 1793 and restored in 1977; only the river front walls and end turrets are still standing. East of the main plaza along Calle MacKenna are a number of late 19th-century wooden mansions built by German immigrants, now preserved as national monuments. Two blocks south of the Plaza is the
Museo Histórico Municipal
, which has displays on natural history, Mapuche culture, the refounding of the city and German colonization. Three blocks southwest of the plaza, in the former train station is the
Museo Interactivo de Osorno (MIO)
, www.municipalidadosorno.cl, an interactive science museum designed for both children and adults.

North and west of Osorno

Río Bueno
, 30 km north, is celebrated for its scenery and fishing. The Spanish colonial fort, dating from 1777, is situated high above the river and offers fine views. Just over 20 km further west on the Río Bueno is
Trumao
, a river port with a river launch service to La Barra on the coast. There are beaches at
Maicolpue
, 60 km west of Osorno, and
Pucatrihue
, which are worth a visit in the summer. Further north is the
Monumento Natural Alerce Costero
, a park covering 2307 ha in the coastal mountain range and protecting an area of alerce forest (though a fire in 1975 destroyed some of the forest). Access is by a poor ripio road which runs northwest for 52 km from La Unión. There is a CONAF
guardería
and
refugio
at the entrance, from which a 3-km trail leads to a 3500-year-old alerce tree.

East of Osorno

From Osorno Route 215 runs east to the Argentine border at the Puyehue Pass via the south shore of Lago Puyehue, Anticura and the Parque Nacional Puyehue .
Auto Museo Moncopulli
, www.moncopulli.cl, 25 km east of Osorno is the best motor museum in Chile. Exhibits include a Studebaker collection from 1852 to 1966. There is also a 1950s-style cafeteria.

Lago Puyehue and the Parque Nacional

Surrounded by relatively flat countryside, 47 km east of Osorno,
Lago Puyehue
extends over 15,700 ha. The southern shore is much more developed than the northern shore, which is accessible only by unpaved road from
Entre Lagos
at the western end.

Stretching east from Lago Puyehue to the Argentine border,
Parque Nacional Puyehue
covers 107,000 ha, much of it in the valley of the Río Golgol. On the eastern side are several lakes, including Lago Constancia and Lago Gris. There are two volcanic peaks:
Volcán Puyehue
(2240 m) in the north (access via a private track US$10) and
Volcán Casablanca
(also called Antillanca, 1900 m). Leaflets on walks and attractions are available from the park administration at Aguas Calientes and from the ranger station at Anticura.

At
Aguas Calientes
, 4 km south of the Termas de Puyehue in a thickly forested valley, is an open-air pool (dirty) with very hot thermal water beside the
Río Chanleufú.

From Aguas Calientes the road continues 18 km southeast past three small lakes and through forests to
Antillanca
on the slopes of Volcán Casablanca. In winter a one-way traffic system operates on the last 8 km: ascending traffic from 0800 to 1200 and 1400 to 1730; descending traffic from 1200 to 1400 and after 1730. This is a particularly beautiful section, especially at sunrise, with views over Lago Puyehue to the north and Lagos Rupanco and Llanquihue to the south, as well as the snow-clad peaks of Calbuco, Osorno, Puntiagudo, Puyehue and Tronador forming a semicircle. The tree-line on Casablanca is one of the few in the world made up of deciduous trees (
nothofagus
or southern beech). From Antillanca it is possible to climb Casablanca for even better views of the surrounding volcanoes and lakes; there's no path and the hike takes about seven hours there and back; information from
Club Andino
in Osorno. On the south side of the volcano there are caves (accessible by road, allow five hours from
Hotel Antillanca
).

The paved Route 215 continues from the Termas de Puyehue to
Anticura
, northeast of Aguas Calientes. In this section of the park are three waterfalls, including the spectacular 40-m wide
Salto del Indio
. Legend has it that an Indian, enslaved by the Spanish, was able to escape by hiding behind the falls. Situated just off the road, the falls are on a marked path through dense forest which includes a 800-year-old Coigüe tree known as 'El Abuelo'.

Lago Rupanco

Lying south of Lago Puyehue and considerably larger, this lake covers 23,000 ha and is far less accessible and less developed for tourism than most of the other larger lakes. Access from the northern shore is via two unpaved roads that branch off Route 215.
El Paraíso
(aka Marina Rupanco), at the western tip of the lake, can be reached by an unpaved road south from Entre Lagos. A 40-km dirt road runs along the southern shore, via
Laguna Bonita
, a small lake surrounded by forest, and
Piedras Negras
to
Bahía Escocia
at the eastern end. From the south, access is from two turnings off the road between Osorno and Las Cascadas.

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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