Exploring Lake Llanquihue in South of Chile – Hiking in Alerce Andino National Park

After returning from the mystical and beautiful Chiloe island, we continued to explore the area of the second largest lake in Chile – Lake Llanquihue on the mainland. At the shores of this lake, you will find small and beautiful cities of Puerto Varas, Frutillar Bajo, Puerto Octay, and Puerto Clocker and above them a snow-topped peak of Osorno volcano.

We only planned 2 days in this area, so our initial plan was to visit Petrohue Waterfalls, hike in Pérez Rosales National Park, and explore the cities around the lake.

The next morning after a good rest we put on our hiking boots, packed our backpacks, and hit the road. One thing I heard about Patagonia proved to be true – the weather here is totally unpredictable and 3 seasons can change daily. In one moment you are driving in a fog and rain and in the next moment the sun is shining and the horizon is clear.

2h later and we were in National Park driving towards the Waterfalls. The beauty and colors of this park are surreal, green forests and fields with wildflowers, an Andean mountain range in the distance, and dark blue Todos Los Santos Lake in front of us. We could hear the sounds of rushing water silenced by the strong winds. However, as it was the peak of the season the place was overcrowded, and finding parking was a challenge.

The Petrohue waterfalls are trendy touristic spots, and they are formed by water rushing from the lake Todos Los Santos over the rocky formations. The site is protected by the government, and you need to pay a symbolic entrance fee. When we finally arrived we found a line of 100 people waiting so we decided to come back the next day earlier as we didn’t want to waste a beautiful sunny day. Instead, we decided to drive around the lake Llanquihue and explore the surrounding area. I was again left speechless and breathless admiring the wilderness, the Osorno volcano, and the endless fields full of yellow dandelions and wildflowers. There are no words to describe how beautiful is the Lake District and I think I never saw a more beautiful nature in my life.

Our next stop was Frutillar Bajo, a scenic and beautiful little town overlooking the Osorno volcano. Most of the houses here are built-in German architecture style and frankly, I think I took a photo of every single one of them. We parked in front of the German Colonial Museum which was the first on our list. As soon as we entered the museum it felt like we are back in the 19th century when the first German immigrants started populating this area.

After the Museum, we took a stroll down the coastline and visited the famous Teatro Del Lago (Musical Theater), and a small picturesque dock. Frutillar is famous as a City of Music and offers concerts all year round, and Teatro del Lago is the largest acoustic theatre ever built in South America. After the stroll, we sat in a little shop where we enjoyed German “Strudel” and coffee. This little town is maybe one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen, it looks like a fairy tale town.

Around 8:30 in the evening we went down to the beach to watch the sunset and take some photos. As the tide is low, the beach is stretching for miles, and I wasn’t able to distinguish skies from the ocean. After the sunset, the skies turned purple yellow, and I wanted to stay there forever.

The Purple Skies

Although we planned to get up at 6 am the next day and drive back to Petrohue Waterfalls the rain and wind woke us up in the middle of the night and disturbed our plans. As we slept bad, the next morning we ended up getting up after 10 am. It was already too late to go to Petrohue, so we decided to go hiking close by Alerce Andino National Park which was half an hour away. As its name implies, the park preserves groves of the oldest South American alerce andino tree, El Gran Abuelo. As soon as we left our little cabin it started raining again. As we were approaching the park, the rain was pouring stronger and stronger, but we didn’t want to turn back. Once we reached the entrance to the park, we saw more parked cars and a group of older tourists with raincoats and hiking sticks. I was determined to hike, thinking if they can do it for sure we can do it as well, so we went inside the thick forest following the path towards the El Gran Abuelo tree.

The Trail to Alerce Andino

As we walked through the forest, I remembered the song Misty Mountain Cold from Hobbit “Far over the misty mountains cold,
to dungeons deep and caverns old”
and I felt so happy and grateful for this amazing vacation.

The rain was pouring like crazy, but we decided to finish what we started, so we kept going deeper and deeper into the park. We walked through the mud, rocks, wooden stairs, and next to the puma’s cave until we reached a small waterfall (but the biggest I have ever seen) and finally El Gran Abuelo – the oldest South American tree.

On the way back our clothes were soaked in the water, and we were starving, but nothing could disturb our good mood, and we laughed and joked. We were also surprised as we met so many people and nobody seemed bothered by the rain. However, as soon as we reached the car, I removed wet clothes as I realized how cold I am and it was time to look for the food. That evening we went to the beach again to chase the sunset and enjoy the fresh air and cold beer. The next day I was supposed to fly back to Santiago, and further to Dubai and the vacations have come to an end.

Hasta luego Chile, nos vemos el proximo ano.

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