We obviously hadn’t had our fill of Chilean towns with volcanoes, so we made out way to Pucón, which is home to Villarrica, an active volcano. This mountain had its last major eruption in the early 70’s, but smoke still vents from the crater, and sometimes at night, you can see the red glow of lava from the town.
The town has signs all over the place on how to evacuate in case of an eruption, and seeing how Chile had a large earthquake two days before arriving in Pucón, we paid a little extra attention to these signs.
Pucón has tons of things to keep the tourist busy. We sampled just a few of these activities: hiking up the volcano, soaking in natural thermal baths, and hanging out at the “beach.”
The “beach” was covered in black volcanic sand and the water was a chilly mountain lake. We were there a little off-season, so not many people were out enjoying the sand and water. The weather was cold, but because the sand was black, it was nice and warm.
Seeing how we have visited hot springs in every country so far, we could not pass up swimming at one of the many different complexes near Pucón. We headed to Termas los Pozones to enjoy their natural pools nestled in a canyon next to a river. After paying a small entrance fee, we had to walk about 15 minutes downhill to reach the pools. The walk down was nice, but after hours of soaking and relaxing, the walk back up was a bit daunting.
There are seven different pools along the river and they are all at different temperatures. We started at the bottom, which was the hottest, and worked our way up to the cooler pools. It was great to enjoy the water and take in the nice views.
Before arriving in Pucón, we decided we would try to hike to the top of Villarrica volcano, in hopes of seeing some lava bubbling in the crater. First, you have to join a tour and wait for the weather to cooperate before making your ascent. In typical Kristen fashion, she got out of the hike by twisting her ankle doing something very technical and dangerous: getting off the bus. She was fine, but we decided that it wouldn’t be the greatest idea to have her hiking for five hours up scree.
Joe was able to join a group and left very early one morning to make the climb, leaving Kristen warm and sleeping at the hostel. While riding in the bus, he could see the reddish glow of the lava in the distance. He was very excited about the possibility of seeing lava and reaching the summit of this volcano.
This area also doubles as a ski resort during the winter, so we were lucky to use a chairlift to make part of the “climb”. After the chairlift, it was up to our legs to carry us up the rest of the way.
The views were amazing on the climb up, and on clear days, like we had, you can see six different volcanos in the distance.
We also passed an old burned out chair lift station which was destroyed during the last eruption.
As we continued hiking, the wind continued to increase. A couple of times, our guide said it was getting windy and we might have to turn back, but we could keep going for the time being. The hike got a little more technical as we left the rock and entered the snow fields, so we donned our crampons, and kept on moving.
Before heading into the snow, the guides gave us a brief demonstration on how to stop ourselves if we were to fall. Recently, two climbers died hiking here, so we all paid extra close attention to this part.
We hiked in the snow for about two hours before reaching the rock outcropping which would be the start of our final ascent.
Our guide told us, “only 200 meters up and 30 more minutes to the top,” and we were excited.
Now, as said before, the wind was getting stronger and would sometimes gust up to 50 MPH. There was one more dangerous ridge to cross, and the guides decided it was not safe enough to continue. We were all bummed, of course, but we felt good about their decision because we were already having a hard enough time just trying to stand in the wind.
Joe was starting to wish he would have stayed in the warm bed like Kristen.
We were also not too upset, because this would be the start of the fun descent. All the way up we noticed what looked like slides carved into the snow. We would now get to use these slides and zip down all that we had just climbed up.
It still was a little dangerous because the wind was so strong at the top, that it was sending rocks skipping down the mountain. The guides were standing lookout as we slid down the mountain.
It took all of about ten minutes to go down what had taken two hours to climb. We all enjoyed sliding down, as it brought back some good childhood memories. While it was disappointing not being able to reach the top, it turned out that they had not seen lava for a while, so luckily we didn’t miss out on that.
Putting the volcanoes behind us, we headed to the beach community of Pichilemu to relax and enjoy the Chilean coast one last time. Pichilemu was a great pit stop to recharge our batteries, mainly because of our great hostel.
Located about a 20 minute walk up from the beach, Buena Vista Cabañas had a great view of the ocean and sunsets through the pine trees.
This little hostel has about three cabins for rent, each with their own kitchen, bathroom and deck, and all for the same price as a regular hostel. The only negative thing would be the walk up the hill from town, but if you did all your shopping before heading up, there is almost no reason to leave.
The weather was not the best during our stay. We had a great sunset our first night and decided to leave the cameras and just enjoy it. Turns out that would be our only sunset. Ooops.
One day, we decided to brave the cloudy skies and walk down the beach to a famous surf spot, Punta de Lobos. We walked for an hour and a half before getting to the surf spot.
Kristen dared him to go a little further.
We finally reached Lobos, and the surf was all but up. There were a few guys out picking up some small waves, but nothing like the pictures we saw of how big this place can get with a great swell.
Joe decided that if it wasn’t triple overhead, there would be no point in paddling out in the chilly water, so he stayed nice and warm on the beach.
Pichilemu was a great stop where we could have easily stayed for weeks. Having our own little cabin nestled in the hills made this a great place to relax and not do much of anything.
This was also our last stop in Chile before leaving the country for the last time. It was a great place to end our time in this amazing country. Chile: we will miss you!
Some great shots on the mountain…so near yet so far!
Maybe next time we can make it to the top.
Wow. Impressive climbing. I say you shoulda just pushed your way past the guide and sprinted to the top, screaming “America! Yeah!” as you ran. That would have been great.
It’s so weird to see a beach look so chilly. I’ll try not to complain next time it drops below 60 here.
I’m really disappointed that Joe didn’t offer to carry Kris up the mountain like he did when Kris was afraid to get her feet wet crossing the creek. Man up, Joe.
What an awesome looking hike. Sorry you didn’t make it to the top, but it sounds like it was really radical and a good decision to stop where you did.
Loved the shots of Punta de Lobos. Nice left for a goofy foot, Joe, and fairly smooth when you were there. No chance of borrowing a board and wetsuit?
At least I didn’t get hungry reading this post. Great stories, once again.
I would have carried Kris up the mountain, but I know she would have asked for a lift across the lava, and that is where I draw the line.
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