Lake District and Chiloé
The Chilean Lake District will leave you enchanted with its stunning, diverse scenery, charming local residents and sheer contrast to Southern Patagonia. With a mix of glacial lakes, temperate rain forests, natural hot springs, snow-capped volcanoes, and rivers rich in fish and bird life, this stop is sure to please all types of travelers. This region is both the gateway to Patagonia and a thrilling adventure haven.
Activities are abundant here, with hiking, volcano trekking, rafting, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking and mountain biking all on the excursion’s menu. This area is also one of the most culturally interesting parts of Chile, with indigenous Mapuche community presence, traditional fishing villages, and German architecture and cuisines from settlers in the 1850s. To make the most of the idyllic outdoor setting and activities, we recommend visiting from October to March.
A short ferry ride from Puerto Montt carries you across the Chacao channel to Isla Grande de Chiloé, where you immediately see that the island and its culture is shaped by land and sea. Colorful stilted houses, or Chiloe’s famous “Palafitos” dot the shorelines as a symbol of the island’s architectural identity, Chilote farmers use cattle-drawn carts to transport their produce, and fishermen sell their fresh catch in the local markets. Valdivian forests of myrtle, oak, bamboo, hazelnut and cinnamon trees skirt winding rivers, lakes, and lagoons. Head to the southern part of the island to Castro where history and culture converge. Stroll the main square where you’ll see the iconic church of San Francisco. Introduced by the Jesuit missionaries, these shingled wood churches (16 of the 60-70 structures have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites) represent the fusion of Huilliche and Chono cultures and religious traditions with Spanish Catholicism.
Explore the island on a day trip from Puerto Varas, or base yourself there for a handful of nights to fully traverse the Pullao Wetlands or trek parts of the Chiloe National Park. Chiloe has several islands and islets home to Magellanic and Humboldt penguins, which can be seen in their natural habitat between October-March. However long you are here, be sure to try a bowl of curanto, a stew of meat, potatoes (there are 300 varieties grown on the island!) and shellfish cooked in the ground with hot stones.