Since we’re stuck in Puerto Montt, we’re trying to make the best of it. Several travelers we’ve met have mentioned that Chile’s lake region is beautiful, and we were promised that tours are very cheap here.
We purchased a full day tour through San Sebastien, a tour company with an office located in the bus terminal. It had been recommended to us by our hotel. The total of the tour was about $16 a person, plus an added fee of $2.50 to enter Saltos de Petrohue, part of a national park. Lunch wasn’t included, but we thought that was okay because we’re good at finding cheap meals for ourselves.
It rained most of the day, and we spent a lot of time just hoping the rain would clear up so we could get good photos. Normally, in Puerto Varas, the first stop we made, you can see Volcan Osorno rising across the lake Llanquihue, but with the rain, fog, and clouds, we saw nothing but grays.
It was completely in Spanish, and I severely overestimated my ability to understand Chilean Spanish. I have since decided that everyone in the area has a very thick accent. Imagine the New Jersey shore being on the edge of civilization with the views of Alaska, and that’s Puerto Montt. We looked at the lake, which I think is very beautiful in the sun, and then moved on.
The van rounded the lake and paused at a small river, where we had the opportunity to ride in a boat around the river and into a small lagoon. We thought, why not?, and climbed aboard in the rain. I really have no idea where we were then. I kept looking for maps and signs, but didn’t see anything.
While the rain pulled out the greens and made beautiful colors for photos, it was hard to actually take photos in the rain and a moving boat. So you’ve got a photo of us instead.
Next we went to Volcan Osorno. As we traveled, the rain began to drizzle less and the lower layer of clouds began to lift. Jordan and I kept praying we could get a good photo out of this–or at least see the volcano with our own eyes.
We couldn’t see the top, but I thought it was still very beautiful. Usually there are cable cars up the volcano, but because it rained they didn’t work. We were fine with that–bad weather is usually a very easy way to save money without feeling like a cheapskate! The national park also has Lagune de Verde, which sounded really beautiful but we didn’t stop there. I think in the rain it may not look quite as nice.
The view opposite the volcano is also worth the drive. Despite the fog, colors were strong and it was breathtaking. Literally, I gasped when I saw it. The clouds and the mountains folded in together so closely I couldn’t tell if the mountains held up the clouds or the fog swathed the mountains.
We stopped for lunch then, at an out-of-the-way restaurant in the middle of nowhere. They had excellent meat and buffets, but was very expensive for backpackers’ budgets. More on that later.
Vicente Perez Rosales National Park is close by and gorgeous. This is when the rain finally stopped and the sun even popped out for about twenty minutes. Because of the volcanos, most of the dirt and the sand are black, which made for striking images along the Lake, called Lago de Todos los Santos. This area is also called Petrohue. The views were some of the most beautiful we had seen so far in South America, and I think the lake is even more attractive in the summer (December-January). Google some photos and see what I mean!
We got on another boat that took us around the lake a bit, so we could get good views of the volcano and other mountains surrounding the lake.
The trees were so bright and all different shades of green that these photos really don’t do it justice. The trees climbed the mountains in different hues, shapes, and sizes.
Our last stop was the Saltos de Petrohue, a part of the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. You have to pay to get in here, but it’s worth it. There are a couple of short trails that overlook the Petrohue river and the saltos, or waterfalls. We walked along the bridges and boardwalks for about thirty minutes, then began to return to Puerto Montt.
On the way back we could finally see some of the countryside that we passed earlier that morning, and it really was lovely. The views in this part of the world are amazing and we’re glad we have a chance to see the beginning of Patagonia and the Andes.
Really, these photos don’t do any justice to this area. The weather made the light very tricky and we were running out of battery on the nice camera by the time the weather cleared up. I suppose I will have to rely on my memory more than the photos we took!
However, in conclusion, while the views were great our experience wasn’t.
All in all, we were pretty displeased with the tour, particularly the stop for lunch. Our guide was pretty good, and even tried to make sure we knew what was going on during lunch and entering parks. We just felt like the salesperson lied to us. In the end, we would not recommend San Sebastien tours. Or, if you do, just go in with eyes wide open with the extra costs.
In total, tour (per person)
- 10.000 pesos for tour
- 3.000 pesos for boat ride somewhere near Llanquihue
- 11.500 pesos for lunch
- 3.000 pesos for boat ride at Lago de Todos Santos
- 1.500 pesos entrance fee to Saltos de Petrohue