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If a country hangs the label of the best adventure destination in the world for six years in a row, it will mean something.

And in the case of Chile, the winner according to the World Travel Awards (the Oscars of international tourism), that something translates into a

thousand experiences to release adrenaline

at a forced march.

From horseback or bicycle routes between national parks of more than prolific nature to a day of sport fishing in superlative lakes that even have waves (note: do not forget the surfboard).

From

kayaking on rivers with turquoise waters

to trekking on volcanoes -the country has 3,200!- with names as resounding as Calbuco, Tronador, Chaitén or Osorno.

The latter is not only one of the most photogenic, but also the visual icon of the southern region of Los Lagos, an hour and a half flight from Santiago to its capital,

Puerto Montt

(245,000

souls

), as well as the gateway to the wild Chilean Patagonia.

Panoramic view of Lake Llanquihue.

The snowy summit of Osorno can be seen (if the day is clear) from a large part of Lake Llanquihue, "a place to dive into the water", according to the Mapudungun language, which is spoken by the

Mapuches

who still inhabit these lands.

So there is no other choice but to launch to discover it.

Yes, there are

bathing areas

where you can do it literally, but your thing is to walk along its route -with 860 square kilometers, it is the largest in Chile except for the one in Carrera, shared with Argentina- following its shore between

forests, valleys, waterfalls, fjords

and charming towns (a lot) like Puerto Varas.

THE LONGEVITY OF THE ANDEAN LARCH

And not only tourist, but, after the pandemic, its

45,000 inhabitants

have been joined by another 10,000 in search of a day to day life that is less overwhelming than that of the big cities.

"People want to live in a quiet, pleasant and beautiful place like this

in the middle of nature

", says Isabel Vergara, a local guide for the Birds Chile company and who already took that step 20 years ago from her native Santiago.

Bay of Puerto Varas.

On the shores of

Lake Llanquihue,

this city was colonized by the Germans in the mid-19th century.

Hence, their houses, their restaurants, their churches or their streets look aesthetic or

name of German origin.

It is enough to take a walk around the Plaza de Armas to confirm this imprint in the enormous number of places where you can taste

goulash

or the famous

bratwurst

sausages focused on the cuisine of the European country.

A good place to stay close to the city is the Awa design hotel, about 20 minutes away, perfect as a base of operations for exploring the area.

The views of Lake Llanquihue or the

Osorno volcano

permeate both the 16 rooms and the lounge with a fireplace or the gastronomic restaurant.

They organize all kinds of activities in this Northern Patagonia, such as a visit to the nearby

Saltos de Petrohué,

a succession of impressive emerald-colored waterfalls that zigzag over a base of lava from the surrounding volcanoes, creating natural pools.

They are located within the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, the oldest (founded in 1926) and visited in Chile.

Awa design hotel restaurant.

Just as essential is the

Andean Alerce

, a 40,000-hectare temperate rain forest, a

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

and natural habitat of the homonymous tree, one of the longest-lived on the planet (3,600 years old), only present in these parts. so it is in danger of extinction.

Its height is also a record: it can exceed 50 meters.

It is not the only

botanical jewel of the place.

There are also many ulmos (producers of premium

quality organic honey

) and canelos,

sacred to the indigenous people.

.

"The sailors used it when they contracted scurvy and the Mapuches still do it today for a lot of ailments and ceremonies," says ranger Sergio Velásquez in front of one of these venerable

elders.

'Trekking' in the Alerce Andino National Park.

The next stop leads to

La Arena cove

, where in addition to trying the best cheese, shrimp or chicken empanadas in the region (point this place: Donde la Pola), a ferry leaves for the quiet town of Puelche.

During the journey, which takes less than half an hour, you enter

the Reloncaví estuary, a prodigy of nature

topped off by magnificent fjords and crystal clear waters that hide mussels (here called mussels) as well as trout or salmon.

GIANT SALMON FISHING

Hence, fishing is one of the main economic activities in the region, including sports.

The best place for this is the Puelo River, belonging to the

Cochamó district

, where specimens of up to 25 kilos can be found.

This is confirmed by Sergio Morales, founder of

Tagua Tagua Tour

, a tourist company that takes its name from the lake where the aforementioned river flows, where sports such as kayaking or paddle-surfing are also practiced.

Fishing day at Lake Tagua Tagua.

Today we were lucky and one of the tourists has caught a 13-kilo female salmon after just 10 minutes of crossing.

"It doesn't usually happen that fast, eh?" Warns the guide as he heads the boat towards one of the

infinite wild islands

that truffle the lake.

There, among horses, goats, cherry and apple trees, he is waiting for his father, Don Moisés, with lunch ready: the typical

Patagonian roast roast

.

Or lamb split in two cooked over embers for about two hours.

Accompaniment, Chilean wine.

After the adventure, it is time to rest at

Andes Lodge

, a bucolic rural complex made of native wood located on the slopes of the Yates volcano that began as a family vacation retreat and where chickens and sheep roam freely.

The sauna and

outdoor Jacuzzi

create authentic fans, but also its gastronomy, with

top

dishes such as salmon with honey and beef tartare.

The guide Sergio Morales with a freshly caught salmon.

Its managers propose all kinds of activities in the surroundings:

beekeeping, kayaking,

horseback

riding... And even a visit to one of the most beautiful natural hot springs in the country, those of the Sun, located two steps from the

lodge

and very close to Puelo, a pleasant village in

the Cochamó Valley.

There, among rivers, forests, wetlands and mountains, there are 10 outdoor pools whose temperature rises between 36 and 45º.

After taking a soak, Cochamó offers another experience: touring the La Junta sector on horseback, a beautiful itinerary between lagoons, viewpoints, waterfalls,

suspension bridges

not suitable for all audiences and even petroglyphs.

There is also a

camping and picnic

area around the Piedras River.

THE MYTH OF THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL

The journey continues with an immersion in the

ancestral culture of Hornopirén

, a beautiful town of indigenous origin (its meaning in Mapudungún is "snow oven") and volcanic origin, which can be seen in the decoration of its

Plaza de Armas

with petrified lava.

Nor are larch wood elements lacking.

You should not miss a visit to the handicrafts fair, the food market - a good time to buy honey,

homemade currant jam

or very hot green pepper - or the outdoor food stalls of La Reina del Sur, Claudita or Las Aunt Ruth's delights.

There, between cumbias and sauces resounding in the background, they serve specialties such as

southern hake,

crab ceviche or seafood and

potato curanto.

, a dish cooked on hot stones in underground holes that are covered with leaves of native plants such as pangue or tepe.

One of the wooden buildings of the Andes Lodge.

To the east of Hornopirén emerges the national park of the same name, with the option of once again

trekking

between lakes, mountains, volcanoes and glaciers.

There are more:

pumas, foxes, minks, pudús,

condors... The town is also considered the northern entrance to a Patagonian landmark, the

Carretera Austral,

one of the most daring (and beautiful) on the planet due to its impossible orography.

We give faith.

It covers a total of 1,240 kilometers of wild photogenicity between the towns of Puerto Montt and Villa O'Higgins.

After that, there would only be the ice fields.

Jaime Gallardo, in his Museum of Sailboats Chilotas.

At kilometer 49 is the

house-workshop of Jaime Gallardo,

one of the last manufacturers of craft boats in Los Lagos.

And practically all of Chile.

He has been doing it here, in

Mañihueico, his hometown,

since he was 15 years old (now he is 65), when he began to replicate the work of his grandfather and his father after endless hours watching them tirelessly .

"I don't know architecture or geometry; I have everything in my mind and I've never had mishaps with any ship," he recalls with his two dogs, Toby and Laica, while showing the reproduction of one of his

aquatic

offspring at the

Museo de Veleras Chilotas

.

He himself has built it with black and white photos of old boats, hulls, hatches, saws, knots and a lot of effort.

Gallardo is also in charge of collecting the wood in the nearby forests and bringing it here on his

team of oxen

to start the construction.

Then they start the addition and subtraction in his head.

No plans, no rules.

The task until the launch can last a year.

It is time to return to the myth, to the

Carretera Austral

, to put an end to this unique route through the Chilean borders.

PRACTICAL GUIDE

HOW TO GET.

Iberia flies from Madrid to Santiago de Chile and from there to Puerto Montt.

WHERE TO SLEEP.

Hotel AWA

(hotelawa.cl).

Design boutique hotel with an 'eco' seal on the shores of Lake Llanquihue and 20 minutes from Puerto Varas.

Suites, lounge with fireplace, spa, solarium and indoor pool with views of the Osorno volcano.

Andes Lodge.

(andeslodge.cl).

Quiet rural wooden complex with restaurant and sauna near the town of Puelo, in Cochamó.

Perfect to disconnect between chickens and sheep in an idyllic landscape.

WHERE TO EAT.

The restaurants at the Awa and Andes Lodge hotels offer excellent local cuisine with creative touches.

It also has a varied culinary offer in Puerto Varas and Cochamó.

MORE INFORMATION.

On the

Chilean Tourism

website (http://chile.travel) and www.rutadelosparques.org

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