What is it with Touristy Towns and Volcanoes? Puerto Varas and Bariloche

From the sleepy island of Chiloe, we made the journey to the lake city of Puerto Varas. This area is known for its beautiful glacier fed lake dominated by a dormant volcano in the background.  Puerto Varas has quite the large number of gringo restaurants, hostels, and tons of tourist agencies ready to set you up on any type of adventure that you could imagine.

There are tons of hikes to do in the area, as is typical in Chile, but we had just come from Patagonia, so we were not looking for any more long or crazy hikes.

We decided to do a short hike to a waterfall that was located about an hour outside of town. This was just the kind of adventure we were looking for. We were able to take local transportation and do the entire trip on our own.  This not only keeps you away from the tourist hoards, but it also saves a lot of money.

This hike was so short that the ranger actually laughed when we asked for a map of the area.  He simply said to follow the trail for 300 meters and “you couldn’t miss it.”  We have been told these fateful words before, and yet somehow ended up confused, but it turned out there really was only one paved trail, and no chance of getting lost.

River and Volcano

The waterfall is not the highest we had ever seen, but it was still beautiful. It is fed by glacier water, so it has a great greenish color. The river really bottlenecks here, so there is a lot of water is making its way through this narrow area.

Petrohue Waterfall

Good shot, Kris

There was a jet boat ride offered at this waterfall, but after seeing it make the quick 10 minute run, we decided to save the money and stay on dry land.

In typical Chilean fashion, a nice bus driver picked us up and let us join his free “tour” of the area as we were trying to make our way back to town. We boarded the bus heading in the wrong direction, on the request of the driver, and got a tour and pit stop in a small town along the lake at the end of the road.

Kris by the lake. Beautiful, but oh, so windy.

This is the lake that feeds the waterfall downstream.  You can rent kayaks and paddle around, or take a boat trip from here, but it was so windy and cold, that we decided that returning to town on the warm bus was a much better option.

This is a very gorgeous stop with an excellent volcano view.

Nice little church- really gives you something to pray for. Osorno volcano in the background.

After our little pit stop, we got back on the bus and the driver took us back to Puerto Varas, without charging us for the extra trip. He was one of the happiest bus drivers we ever met, and he waved and shouted greetings at just about everyone we drove by.

We decided to trade up one super touristy destination for another, but this time in Argentina, the ski town of Bariloche. The drive to Bariloche was very interesting because it passes through an area which has been effected by the recent volcano eruption. There was so much ash in the area that it looked like dirty snow drifts.


All along the drive, road crews were cleaning up and clearing out rivers, and you could still see a few houses with lots of ash on the roof.

Similar to Puerto Varas, Bariloche sits on a lake and enjoys volcano views. It has a strong German influence, it seems that every other store downtown is a delicious chocolate shop. Kristen would have been happy just walking down the street, sampling the wares of each store.

Again, there are a lot of pricy tours that you can take (and each town seems to offer some version of the same activities), but we just opted to visit a look out, stroll around town, stuff ourselves with chocolate, and enjoy some famous Argentinean wine and steak. We also spent a lot of time in our hostel, which was one of the best of our trip.  The weather was not the best, so sleeping in and taking it easy was high on our to do list. Antiguo Solar had almost the perfect trifecta as we call it- a nice bed, good internet, and a kitchen.

We were able to again take the local bus and visit the lookout without a big tour.

Great view from Cerro Campanairo

There are two options for taking in the view:

1) Walking to the top

2) Taking the ski lift

Any guesses what we did?

Chair lift ride, way better than walking.

The views from the top were spectacular and we spent a while taking them in and relaxing in the warm sun.



We also found some of the youngest kittens either of us had ever seen. They too were enjoying the sun and the view.

The black one has the most amazing eyes. Despite Kristen's allergies, she was tempted to put one in her purse to take home.

The weather had not been the best during our time in Bariloche, but this day was perfect. We couldn’t see the mountain peaks, but the clouds added something to the view.

One more view.

Kris taking a break from all our strenuous activities.

We heard about the city having Saint Bernards roaming the plaza with barrels on their collars, so it was off to find them. These guys were cute, but if you wanted a good picture you had to pony up some pesos.

Now we have often succumb to taking pictures with cute and cuddly animals (like in Peru), but something about this just felt wrong. We opted to take the free picture from far away with telephoto lens. You had to time it just right when the owner was not looking and the dog was paying attention.

It was hard to resist running over and giving this guy a hug.

Both of these towns were good stops, even if they were a little overrun with tourists.  We enjoyed excellent parrilla (Argentinean BBQ), wine, chocolate, and great views.  We might have wimped out on the hikes, but it felt good taking it easy for a few days.

Joe and Kristen

On a side note, recently, our blog statistics report added a new section where you can see how many views you are getting in each country. Joe loves to check this each evening and report on what countries are checking it out. For the last few days, Ukraine has been leading in the amount of views per day, per country, and is second in overall standing only to our home country, America.

We would like to send a little “shout out” to our readers in the Ukraine, courtesy of Google Translate.  Дякую, сподіваюся, вам сподобається в блозі.  Hopefully we didn’t just say something bad.

About shoefry

Taking off for a year to see what the world has to offer.
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5 Responses to What is it with Touristy Towns and Volcanoes? Puerto Varas and Bariloche

  1. Dad and Mom Fry says:

    The snow capped Volcano looks very similar to Mt. St. Helen before she blew her top off. Love the kittens. I am sure Bob and Willi would love a little sister.

  2. Tee says:

    Awesome and vivid colors on mountain/ volcano and in the water. Sheesh. And I vote that you pet the cats Kris. I’m sure you won’t be allergic this time… look how cute it is! It’s looking at you and it wants you to pet it. Have a heart!

    And good call on taking the lift up. I still laugh about the “we could have taken a bus up here”.

  3. Pingback: Pucón and Pichilemu: Last stops in Chile! | shoefry

  4. Pingback: Chile: Final Thoughts. | shoefry

  5. Travis Bailey says:

    A volcano just erupted again in Chile and once again covering Bariloche with ash. It happened in April 2015. From your experience in going there after the last eruption in 2011, was the amount of ash everyone a really big impediment to the beauty of the area. Did it take away from your visit to Bariloche?

    We are going there in January 2016 and are afraid that all of the ash will make everything so grey and less interesting that it would taint our image of Patagonia. It will only be 9 mos since the eruption when we go so we now are wondering if we still go or change our plans to somewhere else.

    Any advice?


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