Extending from the Río Biobío south to the city of Puerto Montt, the Lake District is one of the country’s most popular destinations. The main cities are Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno and Puerto Montt, but the most attractive scenery lies further east where a string of lakes stretches down the western side of the Andes. Much of this region has been turned into national parks and the mixture of forests, lakes and snow-capped volcanoes is unforgettable.
The region between the cities of Temuco and Puerto Montt is one of the most picturesque lake regions in the world. There are 12 great lakes, and dozens of smaller ones, as well as imposing waterfalls and snow-capped volcanoes.
Wooded Lago Villarrica, 21 km long and about 7 km wide, is one of the most beautiful lakes in the region, with the active and snow-capped Villarrica Volcano (2840 m) to the southeast. On the southeastern comer of the lake, Pucón is one of the most popular destinations in the Lake District, famous above all as a centre for visiting the 2840 m Villarrica Volcano, which dominates the view to the south. Built across the neck of a peninsula, it has two black sand beaches, which are popular for swimming and water sports. Whitewater rafting is also offered on the nearby rivers and excursions can be made into the Parque Nacional Huerquehue or the Cañi Nature Reserve as well as a number of thermal springs, all of which lie east of the town.
The cities of Temuco and Puerto Montt are also popular: Temuco for excursions into the Mapuche communities towards the coast and Puerto Montt as a base for longer voyages south to Puerto Natales, Puerto Chacabuco and the San Rafael glacier, as well as east across the lakes and mountains to the Argentine resort of Bariloche.
Between Temuco and the Pacific coast, meanwhile, is the indigenous heartland of Chile, home to the largest Mapuche communities. Here you will find rucas (traditional thatched houses) and communities still fiercely proud of their traditions, hinting at the sort of country that the first conquistadors might have found.