We took an overnight bus from Valpo to Puerto Varas. It was a 14 hour ride, but luckily there were no stops through the night. It was much more comfortable than a plane and will be good preparation for an upcoming 24 hour ride further south.
Puerto Varas was quiet when we arrived. It's a smaller German founded town on a lake with quite a few name brand outdoor shops- Patagonia, Columbia, Orvis- and a lot of excursion shops. It reminded us of a ski town. We stopped to plan a rafting trip for the next day, but they had availability that afternoon and the sky was clear so we jumped on the earlier trip.
We walked a half mile uphill to an Airbnb we booked. Our host's son showed us to our small room upstairs. We dropped our things and went downtown to explore before meeting for our rafting trip. We walked to the waterfront and saw Volcano Orsono towering over the town from across the lake. It was beautiful and impressive in size. The waterfront had many shops, restaurants, a beach, and plazas with tons of street vendors. It was just starting to get busy when we got down there- Chileans like to sleep in!
We meet the rafting company and took a bus about 40 minutes along the lake to the rafting base camp. We loaded up our gear and a group of around 12 headed another 15 minutes up to the river Petrohue, which sits very close to the foot of Volcano Orsorno. The water of the river was amazing, a clear blue, and we could drink it right from our raft. The rapids were a lot of fun. From a previous experience I learned not to sit in the front unless you want a wave to crash over you constantly, so we happily let a father and son from Santiago sit there and guard us from the most severe rapids! During the trip we were able to see four Volcanos. We stopped halfway to climb one shore for about an 18 foot cliff jump. Taylor had to do some soul searching before eventually jumping too. After the trip they gave us some beer and empanadas to relax and drove us back to town.
At this point Puerto Varas was slammed with Tourists. It took us an hour to go the final couple of miles into town. The beaches were crowded and the restaurant patios full- at 9pm everyone finally started leaving the beaches to have dinner!! These tourists were mostly from Chile or nearby countries enjoying their summer vacation in a lakeside town.
We grabbed some pizza and headed back to our Airbnb, where we met our host Sandra. She was excited to meet us and offered us wine and sushi while she asked our plans and showed us some brochures. She was learning English so the conversation was a little slow, but it helped us practice some Spanish.
The next morning we didn't have plans, so we decided to take a quick bus to Fruitillar, about 40 minutes north. The bus cost less than $2 each way. This town also had a nice lakefront and view, but it was cloudy so we couldn't quite see the Volcano. The entire lakes area was immigrated by Germans so many of the buildings have that style. More so in Fruitillar because it was a little more quaint. We walked the beach and grabbed some snacks at a food truck park before taking the bus back to Puerto Varas.
We walked through some festivals, took photos of Puerto Varas, and then grabbed a drink at a restaurant overlooking the lake and Volcano. We tried our first Pisco Sour which was very good but also a bit strong. We decided to call it an early night so we could pack and catch our bus the next morning...
Back at our house, we were organizing photos when Sandra arrived home after a long week of work. She started pouring a honeydew melon and wine smoothie. Her priorities on a Friday night were clearly different than ours, and it was hard to turn down her hospitality. One minute we were talking with her and her family, and the next we were walking along the beach. They stopped at a shop to buy some beer, which we drank while her son and a friend kayaked in the pitch black lake. We moved further along and found a secluded area where two more in our group decided to go swimming in the cold lake at 11 pm. It was an entertaining night! Finally we pulled ourselves back home. It was a great experience staying with Sandra and her family. We learned a little more about their life than we would have staying at a hotel. She was extremely nice, made us an amazing breakfast each morning, and wished us well as we departed for our next city.
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.