Frutillar is a sleepy town on the shores of Lake Llanquihue with jaw-dropping panoramic views of snow-capped Volcán Osorno. The effect of German colonization is visible in Frutillar’s gingerbread houses and restaurants advertising strudel and Kuchen. You could be fooled into thinking you were in Switzerland or a small German village and not Chile in South America.
After arriving Sunday evening, I didn’t see the volcano, but this morning when I opened the window shades, THERE IT WAS in its entire splendor! Today I spent most of the day walking around the lake – second largest in Chile – looking at the beautiful volcano. I considered visiting Pucon (about 500 miles south of Santiago), but with new activity from Villarrica Volcano decided against it. Osorno is also considered an “active” volcano but last erupted in 1869.
Unfortunately, I missed Frutillar’s annual music festival. For 50 years it’s been held during January and February and hosts Chilean singers and musicians as well as international performers. During the festival they play a variety of music, including classical, chamber, and jazz.
The natural reserve is near the German Colonial Museum along Avenue Philippi. Both the museum and reserve are worth visiting. Teatro del Lago (Theater of the Lake) was built in 2005 to house concerts, performances, and art exhibitions. It’s on the shoreline right next to Lake Llanquihue and is now a Frutillar icon.
Some tourists climb Volcán Osorno but it requires an official guide and permission from Chile’s National Forest Corporation (CONAF). You can drive up the mountain to a chair lift used during winter for skiing and in the summer to take tourists near the peak of the volcano.
Many visitors also travel to Ensenada, a small village by the lake at the bottom of the volcano. Other attractions include the Petrohue River famous for fly fishing and Lago de Todos Los Santos. Todos Los Santos, in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, is known for its sky blue water.
I talked to a local guide and tomorrow will join a group for a short horseback ride near the volcano. It will be a good opportunity to get a different perspective on the scenery. It’s been some time since I’ve been riding (the donkey ride in Colca Canyon doesn’t count), so hoping I can stay on the horse!
I’m going through a period of feeling travel weary, so it’s good to spend a few easy days here. The next challenge is getting to Torres del Paine, and I’m learning that can be a difficult task. Winter begins in June, so April and May are “autumn” months when the weather can go either way. It’s chilly at night in Frutillar with warm, pleasant days.
It’s no longer considered “high season” in Patagonia but even in summer getting to the isolated area isn’t easy. I met with an adventure travel agent today who has been just about everywhere in South America. He gave me some pointers for Torres del Paine and recommended “W” Circuit. It sounds fascinating and is my goal!
Getting to Torres del Paine
Also e-mailed with a Chilean Travel Agency and have narrowed down the options for getting to Torres del Paine. No matter how you get there, the entry point is through a small town to the south called Puerto Natales. I’m still mulling over the options (see below) for getting there. Flying is the fastest way but not the most exciting or interesting.
- Andes Lake Crossing from Puerto Varas, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina – 13 hours navigating 4 lakes
- Regular Bus from Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas to Bariloche, Argentina – >31 hours and then bus from Bariloche to El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier at Los Glaciares National Park. From Calafate to Puerto Natales and then to Torres del Paine.
- Chilean Ferry from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas – 4 days, 3 nights and then from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine
- Fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas