Chile National Park and Lago Llanquihue

As I wrote at the end of my last blog, our first day on board was at sea.

Sign at park entranceAt the entrance to the park

We have been asked what is there to do when you are at sea. Firstly, it depends on which ship you are on. We have now been on 3 different lines, Royal Caribbean, Holland-America and Princess. For this cruise we were on the Coral Princess and, actually, it offered fewer activities than either of the other two. No outside lecturers, computer lessons or movies during the day but we did go to a wonderful talk by the Excursions Manager. She told us about our first port of call, Puerto Montt, and the lake, national park and volcano we could visit there. She really knew about these and spoke with great enthusiasm unlike one we had on one of the other cruises who would say something like, ‘there is nothing to there; just the beach’. Never believe a comment like this because there is always something to see or why would the ship stop there?

During a sea day it is always great to read a book, swim in the pool, walk around the deck for real exercise and discover new places on the vessel. With regard to walking, there was a sign on this ship saying “2.8 times around the deck equals a mile.” Within a few days we had walked a mile a few times and it felt good. The best walkers were the elderly Japanese ladies who walked at a mighty pace probably completing a few miles each day!

We had to be up early the following day to have breakfast and be ready to be taken to the coach at 07:30. The weather was cloudy but we were warned that it would be significantly cooler inland so we had our warm jackets with us. We were fortunate to have an excellent guide but he believed in sticking to time to the minute.

As we approached Puerto Montt a very large cross appeared high on a hill and it was only once we were on the harbour wall that we could see that it was on an island in the bay. The ship had to anchor outside the harbour and we were taken to the town on a Tender Boat.

Cross on top of hillCross on top of a hill which was an island in the harbour

City bldgs and our shipPuerto Montt and our ship at anchor 

Highway from the harbourThe freeway from the harbour

We drove through Puerto Montt to get to the freeway which would take us, via the town of Puerto Varas, to Lago Llanquihue for a short stop before continuing on to the Parque Nacionale Vincent Peréz. You might have noticed that in Spanish things are written in reverse; National Park becomes Parque Nacionale.

Map of the lakeMap of the lake where we would make our 1st stop

Before I continue, a few words on this area and its towns. These were settled in the 1850s by Germans who were sponsored by the Chilean Government of the time to come and colonise the area. As with the Byrne Settlers in South Africa, they came believing that they could farm and thrive in this new place only to find that it was completely undeveloped and not ideal for farming. One of the requirements for sponsorship was that they must be married with children. As usual, like all new settlers, they decided that they would make a living in the place to where they had come. The remnants of German architecture and culture are visible everywhere, including in the one private school.

German design buildingA German designed wooden home 

Lago Llanquihue was a truly beautiful place to stop. It was formed thousands of years ago following the eruption of a volcano and the subsequent melting of a glacier. It is the 2nd largest lake in Chile at 40kms wide and 35kms long covering an area of 860km2. It is very popular for boating and fishing and at weekends and on holidays it gets quite crowded as it is a lovely beach as well. On the far side we could see another volcano, that of Orsondo, which had a perfect ring of cloud about ¼ of the way from the top. An incredible sight.

boats on the lake

Boats on the lake

Cloud rings Volcano OrsondoVolcano Orsono with ring of cloud

Vicky Trevor at the lakeVicky & Trevor at the lake

After 15mins exactly we moved on to go to the National Park which was about a half hour drive from the lake. We arrived at the entrance and told we had 45mins to spend there. On the way to the waterfalls we stopped to take note of a Coihue Tree (Koywe from the local Mapuche language) indigenous to this area of Chile and Southern Argentina. It is grown for its wood which makes excellent furniture. If you go to the link you will learn that it is actually known by various names and is a form of Beech.

Coihue treeCoihue Tree

We continued along the well laid out path without any stumbling blocks and crossed a bridge over the Petrohue River. This is a major river of Chile and is very popular for fishing and rafting. When we reached the viewing platform for the falls there were a few steps to be climbed or ramps which unfortunately were very narrow and steep. If one has trouble walking it is suggested that you don’t try to climb up on your own. The possibility of getting a wheelchair on to the platform struck me as unlikely or, at least, difficult.

Falling into the canyonTop of the waterfalls

Flowing thru narrow canyon2nd part of the falls flowing through a narrow canyon

Lush vegetation in the mistLush vegetation covered in mist from the falls

The waterfalls were stunning, definitely worth the effort of getting there, with crystal clear turquoise water flowing through a very narrow gorge which widened at the bottom but was still fast flowing. Rapids were visible further downstream so the idea of river rafting would appeal to some people. When the time was up we walked back wishing that we could have looked a long while more.

Crystal clear waterCrystal clear water going downstream

Reflections of rocksReflections of the rocks

As we returned we passed another path called Lovers’ Lane. Trevor went off to explore that and take more photos while I visited the gift shop near the entrance. When we had just a couple of minutes left, I returned to the bus and he got there a few minutes later.

Info on Carilemu TrailPart of the Lovers' Trail

Lovers seatAt the end of the trail is the Lovers' Seat

Our next stop was to be the Orsono Volcano and we were treated to a beautiful drive to the top of the hill ending at the base of the volcano. The road was very narrow, steep and winding so, with there being a number of coaches that day, it had to be timed in such a way that they would not need to pass each other going in the other direction. At the base there was a coffee shop, gift shop and a shop where one could purchase climbing gear. There was also a ski lift which one could ride, for $20 each, to halfway up the volcano. At that price and limited time we chose not to do so but rather walk around the beautiful place and absorb the views.

Buildings at the baseShops at the base of the volcano

Cloud snow on the mountainCloud and snow on the volcano

River flowing down the hillA river fows through the valley

Well walked pathClimbing to the viewpoint

Amazingly, there was a young Condor sitting on a rock and Trevor was able to get a photo of it moments before a dog disturbed it. After a lovely hot cup of coffee we headed back down the hill to the main road and back to Puerta Varas where we were booked for lunch at the Cumbres Hotel. We had a delicious 3-course meal but the gentleman seated opposite us didn’t like any of it so didn’t eat. He seemed to be extremely fussy and his wife got quite frustrated. Never did learn what he did like except for the wine!

A CondorThe Condor

We then spent 45mins wandering around the town which had a number of buildings showing the German heritage. Puerto Varas is also known as The City of Roses and there were dozens in bloom when we were there. It was a very pretty place to wander around being right on the lake but a sad thing was to see the stray dogs lying around. This was a common sight in South American towns and in Panama as well. They are apparently well fed by the local people and not in any way aggressive but it must get really cold for them here in the South.

Roses and Agapanthus

Roses and Agapanthus

Band playing in the park

Band playing in the square

Stray dogsSome of the stray dogs

We were all ready and on time to board the coach to return to Puerto Montt and on board by 17:00. A truly wonderful excursion.


About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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