Hiking & Trekking In Chile


Hiking In The Chilean Lake District

Chile's most spectacular hikes and treks

Marcela Torres
By Marcela Torres

Known for its conical volcanoes and its shimmering lakes, this region of central Chile offers accessible and easy-going hiking with spectacular views, quiet villages and a laid back pace of life.

The region was the former home to the Mapuche people, who managed to fight off both the Incas and Spanish colonialists for 350 years before finally falling to the Chilean Army in the 1880s. Over the following century, Swiss, Austrian and German settlers transformed the area, influencing the architecture and cuisine of towns like Puerto Varas.

Self-guided trails are abundant in the Lake District. Most people spend three to five days as a good introduction to the region. Most visitors spend their time in Pucon or Villarica. These two towns are the epicentre of the region, mecca of adventure tourism, and the entrance to the south of Chile. From here you can travel to some of the best trails in the region.

Further south, the more touristy Puerto Varas is the jumping off point for more outdoor adventures, such as horse-back riding and rock climbing.

Chile_Puertovaras SBJ

Chile's Lake District has popular and well-trodden trails

Where to hike in Chile's Lake District

Huerquehue National Park

This is a true hiker’s paradise. Located just 35km from Pucon, this national park is famed for its ancient araucaria trees. The oldest tree is 1,800 years old and their seeds are a staple food in the diet of indigenous mapuche tribes. Within the park, there are two main trails for visitors to enjoy.

Park entrance fee is 5,000CLP during the high season (November-March) and 3,000CLP during the low season (April-October). Buses leave from Pucon at 08:30 and the last one returns at 19:00. Make sure you bring enough drinking water with you. The only place where you can refill with drinkable water is at the entrance of the park.

The easier of the two trails is the Los Lagos Circuit, which explores the parks crystal clear lakes and lagoons. This route is perfect for beginner to intermediate hikers and the total time to explore the circuit’s five deep-blue lagoons is between 4-5 hours. If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, the San Sebastian trail might be better suited. This trail takes you through a magical araucaria forest until you reach Cerro San Sebastian for a 360-view of the entire region, including nine volcanoes. The total hiking time is 5-6 hours with 1200m of uphill climbing. The last hour is probably the most difficult part of the trail, involving some scrambling to reach the top. Follow the orange painted rocks that will lead you to the summit — and enjoy the views.

El Cañi Sanctuary

The Cañi Sanctuary has 500 hectares of mountain rainforest, 12 volcanic-born lakes, and a wide variety of birdlife to make any nature lover’s heart flutter. Located just 28km east of Pucon along the route to el Huife thermal baths, you can take the bus or drive yourself. Park entrance is 4,000CLP and the guard will hand you a route to follow along with a list of flora and fauna that you can find on the trail.

The entire route consists of 8.5km of intermediate hiking, starting with a steep incline through a fantastic forest of native trees until you reach Laguna Negra viewpoint. After that, you’ll be faced with a 45 minute uphill climb and a magnificent view of the region where you’ll be able to spot four volcanoes; Llaima, Villarica, Quetrupillan, and Lanin. You must take a guide with you except during the summer when the trail is more obvious.

The region is popular with adventure seekers. Pucon and Villarica have great information centres to help you book side trips. Apart from hiking, the region has great thermal baths, kayaking, rafting, and nature watching.

About the author

Hiking In The Chilean Lake District

Marcela Torres

Born in Santiago, Chile, Marcela is a journalist and local expert on outdoor travel. She’s earned a master's degree in tourism with an emphasis on ecotourism, operated a tour company, and co-authored a Spanish-language guidebook about Chile’s national parks. Her travel career has taken her all over South America, and she has also lived in Australia, Costa Rica, and the United States. Follow her coverage of tourism in Chile at tourism-people-nature.blogspot.cl

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