Puerto Varas, Chile

Photo: Hosteria Outsider / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Chile is considered one of the best adventure-travel destinations in the world. Since the mid-1990s, tourists have been flocking to Patagonia, the country’s southernmost tip, to see the extensive national parks, the massive ice fields and glaciers, the steep fjords, the untouched islands, and the temperate rainforests. It’s awe-inspiring. But it’s not the only gorgeous part of Chile.

The northern part of Patagonia, usually called the Lake District, is Los Lagos. Its scenery is only slightly less dramatic than the area below it. Llanquihue is one of its four provinces. It’s home to ancient forests, fertile farmland, snowcapped volcanoes, and hot springs. It’s also known for its sapphire lakes and charming lakeside villages.

Lake Llanquihue is the second-largest lake in Chile. The 330-square-mile lake was created by successive piedmont glaciers (valley glaciers that spread over flat plains). Osorno Volcano towers over the southeast shore of the lake. It’s a stratovolcano that’s still considered active. A string of towns, which were originally settled by German immigrants, line the lake’s west shore. They’re filled with traditional German architecture. One of those towns is Puerto Varas.

Photo: Hotel AWA

Puerto Varas is nestled on Lake Llanquihue’s southwest corner. “La ciudad de las rosas” (the City of Roses) was founded by Germans in 1853. They picked a tranquil spot with an uninterrupted view of Osorno across the water. They built the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). The Neo-Romanesque church is now the icon of the town and a National Monument. Restaurants serve traditional German food and beer. Bus-and-boat trips that cross the Andes—en route to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina—start here. Art museums and galleries were added later. While the most-recent additions, eco-tourism companies, use Puerto Varas as a home base for outdoor sports.

Since you plan on using Puerto Varas as your own base to explore Los Lagos, you need a hotel that will make you feel at home at the end of each day. Hotel AWA is the ideal spot. The lakeside hotel lies almost 30 minutes outside of Puerto Varas. So it’s a very quiet spot. The land is an extension of the owner’s home. So the architect created beautiful gardens and an organic farm. The five-story building is a modern structure made of glass and stone. So it’s quite striking as you approach it. The decor features open spaces, natural materials, and locally made pieces. So expect volcanic rock walls, wooden floors, warm fireplaces, Chilean artwork, Mapuche crafts, and lots of books.

After being handed a welcome drink upon your arrival, you head to your room to check out the view. Since there are only 16 rooms at the hotel, each one is guaranteed both a lake and volcano view. You didn’t expect it to be so epic, though. One wall is made entirely of windows. The king-size bed faces it, of course. There’s a fireplace in the room, as well. The bathroom features a heated floor, a large power shower, and a freestanding whirlpool tub. Plus thoughtful amenities include bath salts, Bluetooth speakers, stainless steel water bottles, and sun hats. Nothing has been overlooked. It’s a good thing you’re no longer overlooking this part of Chile.


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