THE LAKE DISTRICT: Snow-capped Volcanoes, Ancient Forests and Scenic Villages
The region between parallels 39º and 42º S give the world one of the most picturesque lake regions anywhere. Twelve great lakes of varying sizes host imposing waterfalls, snow-capped volcanoes, and lush mountain greenery. Starting in the North at the city of Temuco, we suggest leaving immediately for Parque Nacional Conguillio near the Argentine border. Alpine lakes, deep canyons and extensive groves of Araucaria pines (Monkey-puzzle trees) are found within Nothofagus "false" beech trees. The canyon around the Truful-Truful River is spectacular, in contrast to the stark lava fields around the Laguna Verde. A short drive to the South takes us to Parque Nacional Villarica, which hosts three snow-capped volcanoes and lush forests. A good paved road leading to the Argentine border gives us excellent access. A third park worth visiting for its scenic beauty alone is Parque Nacional Huerquehue. A trail wanders through 4.2 miles of impressive forest and mountains to Lago Verde.
The road from Villarica to Osorno and then east to Parque Nacional Puyehue crosses forests, mountains and lakes. The park is one of the nicest in South America. Ancient Andean Valdivian forest covers the mountains, and an excellent trail system allows access. For those not up to hiking, the International Highway provides access. We get into the range of the impressive Magellenic Woodpecker, Torrent Duck and Chilean Pintail here, and all three can be seen. At least four species of large tapaculos are found in this park, along with a number of other great birds. We'll also look for the endemic and very local Slender-billed Parakeet. Pudu, the world's smallest deer, are also found here, but are quite elusive.
It seems that much of the Lake District is made of parks and reserves, while much of the unprotected land is well preserved. Swiss and German architecture are found in the delightful towns of Frutillar, Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt. It is also in this region that one can take a fascinating trip across the turquoise lakes past snow-capped volcanoes into Bariloche, Argentina.
Puerto Montt, a port city reminiscent of the Pacific northwest, is the region's capital. The city and nearby fishing port of Angelmó have become a popular tourist center, with many seafood restaurants and an interesting handicraft market. This is also the "end of the road" in the sense that you can fly south to Punta Arenas from here, but even dirt roads do not go more than a few hundred miles further south.