Chile’s portion of the Lake District (Northern Patagonia) extends from Temuco in the north to Puerto Montt in the south.
With dense forests, snow-capped volcanoes, and clear lakes, it is inarguably one of the country’s most beautiful areas. The centuries-old alerce forests that dominate the landscape were once home to the Mapuche, who defended their land for 350 years before their eventual fall to the Chilean army in the 1880s.
Northern Patagonia: The German Influence
The area today sees some of the finest dairy farmland in Chile, thanks to the German, Austrian, and Swiss settlers who made the region their home.
The German influence is particularly evident in the architecture and dishes found in Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Varas, and Frutillar. However, native culture also thrives. You will find most of the region’s half-million inhabitants who claim Mapuche ancestry living in the indigenous reservations throughout the Lake District.
The main cities of Temuco, Osorno, Valdivia, and Puerto Montt are where the majority of the region’s inhabitants live, though most cities function predominantly as transportation hubs.
It’s the resort towns and adventure sports capitals of Pucón and the sleepier Puerto Varas—where the awe-inspiring twin volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, guard entrance to the lakes—that draw most of the region’s visitors. Both towns are great bases from which to explore the region and enjoy the endless array of activities you will find in the Lake District: hiking, kayaking, canyoning, whitewater rafting, cycling, horseback riding, birdwatching, volcano climbing and skiing, world-class fly-fishing, mountaineering, and soaking in the many thermal springs.
Northern Patagonia: Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales
The Lake District also boasts an impressive six national parks including the world-famous Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales—Chile’s first and most-visited national park, whose vast wilderness hosts endless hiking opportunities with some of the region’s most spectacular scenery as the backdrop, in addition to numerous other natural reserves and protected areas.
For those wishing to experience the Argentine side of the region, both Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas are excellent access points to Bariloche, via a combination of road and boat.