Pucon is the go-to place for adventurous activities in the Chile Lake District region. Fancy climbing or skiing on an active volcano?
Whether you’re visiting in winter for snow sports or summer for adventure tourism, Pucon is a year round destination fuelled by adventure tourism.
Climbing, trekking, rafting, horse riding, mountain biking and kayaking are all available here. Also once you’re done with the adrenaline fuelled activities there are hot springs in stunning forest canyons to bathe in and even a beach to sunbathe on!
When you arrive in Pucon, the views from the high street are dominated by the towering Volcan Villarrica with its perfectly formed cone. And that’s not a normal cloud on the summit that you might see on a clear day; these are erupting clouds of volcanic gases from the crater!
Climbing Volcan Villarrica Volcano
The climb up Volcan Villarrica is a full-day expedition.
You will need a guide (it’s a requirement by the National Park), and there are only 15 official tour operators now (since the 2015 Eruption) in Pucon. Here you will have a wide choice of operators each offering a different package. It’s obligatory to climb with crampons, ice axe and helmet; and these items can be easily rented from most operators.
Safety should be an important consideration in your planning. I chose one of the more expensive tours mainly because of their focus on safety and small group sizes. Claudio Retamal, who was my guide leader, has over 20 years experience.
In fact the days before my climb he was on the mountain as part of the search and rescue for some lost tourists during challenging weather conditions, so that is the level of expertise and experience you want from your guide!
During the 2015 eruption, the government closed all activities on the volcano for 10 months. We already limited our groups to 12 persons but after the eruption climbing permits have been limited to 15 agencies only, who can only take a maximum of 12 per group size.
Claudio Retamal, UIAGM Certified Mountain Guide
Read my full article about climbing Volcan Villarrica.
Horseback Riding to a Secret Waterfall
A half day horse ride can be easily arranged from a tour operator in Pucon. I was expecting at least an English guide but it turns out it was a local farmer who didn’t speak any English!
I’m not too keen on horseriding, I found it very uncomfortable and would have preferred walking it instead. That said, the route into the local hills is beautiful. Lush green forests and fields are passed on the way to a hidden waterfall which is a 20 minute walk down into a canyon.
Hot Springs and Thermal Baths
Termas Los Pozones is described as the most popular to visit from Pucon. A gushing river meanders through the canyon next to these hot springs which have a variety of pools at differing temperatures.
It is fairly easy to reach using local buses and it’s a steep walk down from the main road to reach the springs. Termas Los Pozones (CH5,000 per adult).
Lake Villarrica Beach
Pucon is located on Lago Villarrica (Villarrica Lake) which has a uniquely stunning black sand beach with volcanoes and mountains looming in the background. If you’re visiting in the summer you will find the beach full of sunbathers lying across the black sands at the main beach in Pucon, Playa Grande.
Stay in a Unique Dome Bungalow on the shores of Lake Villarrica
On the road to west of Pucon (towards the town of Villarrica) you will find the hotel Magma Lodge on the shores of Villarrica Beach. You can stay in one of their unique dome bungalows, which have a split level living room and bedroom. There are also relaxing hot tubs around the wooded grounds.
The bedrooms at Magma Lodge are on the upper level with large bay windows offering stunning views across the Lake. You will also find a unique portal window in the very top of the dome roof with views of the tree canopy or stargazing at night.
I stayed here for one night before moving to Pucon, which makes it easier to access restaurants and tour operators, although you are only a taxi ride from the centre of Pucon.
On your journey through the Chile Lake District you will fail to notice the vast farms and fields of cattle; this is Bife de Chorizo (steak) country! So a meal at a Parrilla (Steakhouse) in Pucon is a culinary treat not to be missed.
I dined at La Maga , which is a wooden and stone walled ski lodge on the main Pucon strip. Hands down this was the best steak I’ve had in South America, paired with a bottle of Chilean Carmenere (red wine). Their fries are the perfect carbohydrate binge before your Villarrica Volcano climb!
Recommendations from a local:
Things to do in Pucon by local Suzi Wortman:
- Climb Volcan Villarrica & sled back down
- Hot Springs
- Horse back riding with beautiful views of the volcanoes
- Mountain bike riding
- Trekking in the National park
Map of Pucon Area
A one hour drive away is Temuco which is where you can fly to all year round from Chile’s capital city Santiago (only a one hour flight), and in the summer its actually possible to fly to Pucon’s own airport just outside town.