Puerto Varas is a city on the southwestern shore of Lake Llanquihue in the Los Lagos (Lakes) Region. The city is famous for its German traditions, and its natural environment. It enjoys a scenic location close to mountains, lakes, forests and national parks.
The city had about 38,000 inhabitants in 2012.
Puerto Varas is 20 km (12 mi) from the city of Puerto Montt on the shore of Llanquihue Lake, the second largest lake in Chile. The conical Osorno Volcano and the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Calbuco and Mt. Tronador are clearly visible from the lakefront. Puerto Varas is the southernmost of a string of towns on the western shore of Llanquihue Lake that includes Frutillar, Llanquihue and Puerto Octay.
The history of Puerto Varas is based closely on its German founders, like Frutillar Bajo. Its history began with the arrival of the first German colonizers to the shores of Lake Llanquihue at the end of 1852. In 1853, a gradual settlement of the area began with immigrants coming mainly from Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland. Most of the population is descended from these colonizers and other people of European origin.
When strolling through downtown some signs and uses of symbols can be related to such origins.
Puerto Varas is connected to the rest of the country by Route 5, also known as Panamericana. The trip from the capital, Santiago de Chile, takes about 12 hours, during which time about 1030 km are traveled. During the tour there are ten toll plazas.
There is very frequent minibus service from Puerto Montt, and regular bus service from other cities. Tur-bus, Cruz del Sur, and Pullman offer overnight service from Santiago for a very reasonable price. Semi-cama seats lean back halfway, salon cama even more. Snack and breakfast included for a small fee.
The nearest airport is El Tepual (PMC IATA) in Puerto Montt, about 30 km from Puerto Varas, which has regular flights to Santiago, Punta Arenas, Balmaceda and other airports sereved by LAN Airlines, Sky Airline and Aerolíneas del Sur.
There is a railway station in Puerto Varas, although no passenger trains run south of Temuco. There is no passenger train service to Los Rios or Los Lagos regions.
You can take the Lake Crossing from Bariloche, Argentina. This is generally done via a tour agency.
- Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (Sagrado Corazón de Jesus) (on a hill). Looks very nice. Was built by the German colonizers, it's the third Catholic church that Puerto Varas has had.
- Cultural institutions in Puerto Varas include the Antonio Felmer Museum, the Molino Machmar Art Centre, the Nativo Bosque Gallery and the Pablo Fierro Museum.
There are many options of day trips and adventures available from Puerto Varas. The Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, including the Petrohué falls and Lake Todos los Santos, is about 70 km from Puerto Varas. Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes are nearby. Mt. Osorno has a road to the base of a chairlift which is open all year round, for skiing in winter and sightseeing in summer. There are also good nearby destinations for trekking, flyfishing, rafting, kayaking and other adventures nearby.
- Casino (on Del Salvador, across the street from the Plaza, near the waterfront).
- Puerto Varas is the starting point for bus-and-boat crossings of the Andes, through spectacular forested mountains reflected in shimmering lakes, to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. The trip is best made west to east with an overnight at a hotel in the midst of the wilderness.
Puerto Varas is known for traditional German dishes, especially Kuchen, which is celebrated on the annual Kuchen Day on the first Saturday of February. Craft beers, pastries, cakes, chocolate and marmalades can also be found in the town’s shops, restaurants and cafes.
- Danes. A nice restaurant.
- Chamaca Inn (on Del Salvador a few blocks from the plaza). Good place for typical Lakes District foods.
- Barista, Walker Martínez 211. Good sandwiches and pastries.
A good start to find a place to sleep is the Sernatur Office.
- Ellen Haus. Has Internet. Good breakfast included.
- Haus Erika (10 minutes walking out of the center). More expensive but better. It offers more comfort for its price.
- Hospedaje Carla Minte. Great bed and breakfast. Friendly and helpful staff. Good price/quality two minutes from center.
- Hospedaje Don Raul. Great when you are alone and in the house, but the rooms outside are a bit less.
- Hostal Opapa Juan, Arturo Prat 107, ☏ . Comfortable bed with private bathroom, and delicious breakfast.
- Casa Azul, Manzanal 66 (about 5 blocks from the main plaza), ☏ . All rooms have shared bathrooms. Very nice hostel with communal kitchen, free WiFi, hot showers. $22,000 pesos double, 15,000 pesos single, 80,000 pesos dorm.
- 1 Bordemundo (Cabañas Bordemundo), Camino Ensenada 3 km (exit Puerto Varas in the direction of Ensenada; after passing Jumbo supermarket, go 1 km further on the left hand side of the road look out for sign), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:30. Bed & breakfast cabins with beach access on Lake Llanquihue, overlooking Volcano Osorno. Cabins 35,000 pesos low season 60,000 pesos high season.
In 2018, there was a lady with a burnt face in town, usually wearing dark glasses and a hoodie. Do give her some pesos: she is having quite a hard time.
Close to this city are the waterfalls of Petrohue, take the bus to Ensenada, some of them continue via Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales until to Lago todo los Santos from where you could take a boat. Or walk back for about 6km to visit the waterfalls. (in January there are annoying but harmless insects in that parque)
Another place to visit is the small city Frutillar; it has a museum of the first colonists in that area. (the city has to parts the part close to the lake is for most visitors
Puerto Varas is a great base for volcano climbing: there are numerous volcanoes in the vicinity including Osorno & Calbuco, a guide to climbing them can be found here