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 main land. 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 snow-topped peak of Osorno volcano.

As we only had 2 days in this area our initial plan was to visit Petrohue Waterfalls, to explore the cities around the lake and to do the hiking in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park.

The next morning after a good rest we put on our hiking boots, packed our backpacks and hit the road. One thing I heard before about Patagonia proved to be true – the weather here is definitely 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 wild flowers, Andean mountain range in distance and dark blue Todos los Santos lake. You could hear the sounds of rushing water silenced by the strong winds. However, as it was peak of the season the place was overcrowded and finding parking was a challenge.

The Petrohue waterfalls are formed by water rushing from the lake Todos Los Santos over the rocky formations. The site is protected by government and you need to pay symbolic entrance fee. When we finally arrived, we found a line of 100 people waiting, so we decided to come back tomorrow early as we didn’t want to waste such a beautiful and 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 wild flowers. There are no words to describe how beautiful Lake District is and I think I never saw more beautiful nature in my life.

Our next stop was Frutillar Bajo, scenic and beautiful little town overlooking 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 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 famous Teatro del Lago (Musical Theater) and small picturesque dock. Frutillar is famous as a City of Music and offers concerts all year around and Teatro del Lago is the largest acoustic theater ever built in South America. After the stroll we sat in a little coffee shop where we enjoyed German “Strudel” and coffee. This little town is maybe one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen; it looked 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 had a plan to get up at 6 am next day and go back to Petrohue, the rain and wind woke us up in the middle of the night and affected our plans. As we slept really 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 in Alerce Andino National Park which was half an hour away. As it’s 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. The closer we were getting to the park, the rain was getting stronger and stronger, but we kept driving towards our destination. Once we reached the entrance to the park we saw more 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 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 experience.

The rain was getting stronger and stronger, 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 small waterfall and finally El Gran Abuelo.

On the way back our clothes were soaked in the water and we were starving, but we kept our good mood and we were laughing and joking. We were also surprised as we met so many people and nobody seemed bothered with the rain. However, as soon as we reached the car I changed wet clothes and it was time to look for the food. That evening we spent again at the beach chasing sunsets and enjoying the fresh air and cold beer. The next day I was supposed to fly back to Santiago and to Dubai and the vacations were over.

Hasta luego Chile, nos vemos el proximo ano.

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