Live your life by a compass, not a clock.

Stephen Covey


Holiday while traveling

Yes, I decided to “go on holiday” in Pucón and Valdivia. What does that mean? Everyone travels differently, I like to explore countries and regions. This includes a lot of hopping around, not staying at the same place for many days. After jumping from place to place along the Carretera Austral and driving around on Chiloé and the Lakes region, I really needed some more days at the same place. Spending a week at a great location, with good atmosphere, including some time to do nothing and relax.

Initially, I thought about staying somewhere for some additional days for a while. Nevertheless, I always found enough interesting stuff to do and as such never really included relaxing days without any “exploration content”. In Bariloche, I originally considered renting a car and also to go hiking. However, the daily rate for cars was too high. Moreover, I personally struggled with the bad conditions of walkways in Bariloche. I slipped out and hurt my ankle, so I couldn’t do (proper) hiking, that would have been too risky. My ankle finally forced me to take some relaxed days, exactly those days which I kept pushing forward as “at the next location, I could”.


Stopover in Osorno

Since there was not much to do in Bariloche without a car and except of hiking in the mountains around, I intended to get back to Chile as quickly as possible. In order to get to Pucón, I had to go to Osorno first, spend one night there and take another bus to Pucón the next day. Osorno does not really offer anything special for tourists. It’s one of the main centers for people working in the agriculture industry within the Lakes region. In my impression, you may still recognize some German and Swiss influence.

My highlight was the hostel I stayed in: Hostel Chaman. Very clean, super comfortable beds, many clean bathrooms, super friendly owner/host, and, the first time on that trip: non-stick (frying) pan. The hostel was only one block away from the bus terminal, so I had a relaxed morning without rushing around to make it to the terminal on time. As (apparently) everywhere across Chile, many shops, cafés, bakeries etc. don’t open before 10. So the streets were indeed quite dead and empty on my morning walk at 9am.

At midday, I took the JAC bus to Pucón and from Pucón I also took JAC towards Valdivia a couple of days later. I have already tried out multiple bus companies and have been very satisfied with JAC, therefore it’s worth mentioning them. The route to Pucón crossed the agricultural center of Chile with its many fields and animals similar to (southern) Germany. Nevertheless, you won’t find the same plants and as such don’t have the same veggies and fruit available in supermarkets.



Within Pucón, I stayed in the Chili Kiwi Hostel at the lakefront of lake Villarica. There are different hostels in town, though, I really recommend this one. Great place to chill, great atmosphere, clean, offering information and reservation of many tours or “do-it-yourself” activities. Pucón itself is very touristy, plenty of hotels, hostals and shops just for tourists. Indeed, it’s more pricey than other destinations. It could be considered as the “Chilean Bariloche”, but with a much more relaxed atmosphere, good restaurants, and friendly people. I preferred Pucón over Bariloche and extended my initially planned time for a couple of days.

There are two different beaches within Pucón, one for beach holiday and swimming, the other one offering access to the harbor and all boats (not for swimming). My hostel was located right at the beach with the harbor, facing the west, so perfect for sunset views. Moreover, there were tourist boat tours (even with Vikings boats for all the Chilean families with little kids who were there). I spent almost all evenings sitting at the shore of the lake, watching the sunset and the little glimpse of lava of volcano Villarica.


Thermal baths

Termas Geometricas

The area around Volcano Villarica and as such around Pucón is known for their thermal baths. The most famous ones (and – at that time – the biggest ones) are the Termas Geometricas. I went there with a tour, it’s very difficult to get there if you don’t have your own car, it’s definitely no traditional hitchhiking route. One had to drive all the way back to the town Villarica, then all the way to Pucura at Lago Calafquén, continuing on a dirt track through the forest for some distance.

The Termas Geometricas contain 18 pools of different temperature, I saw signs from 35 °C to 42 °C. At the very end, there is a big waterfall with freezing cold water. At the entrance, they offered a key to a locker for an ID-card as deposit. I usually carry my German ID card with me for such things and keep the passport locked. Since if I lose my ID card, I am still able to continue my travels. Moreover, whenever people request your passport, they are happy about seeing a photo of it on your phone (within Chile). Termas Geometricas also have a restaurant set up, knowing that all the hot baths will make you hungry and/or thirsty.


Other Thermal baths

There are some other thermal baths around the area of Termas Geometricas. Even though other baths are often cheaper, I recommend visiting the Termas Geometricas if you consider driving all the way to this area (2hrs from Pucón). There are some thermal baths much closer to Pucón, cheaper but a lot smaller, which you can access via hitchhiking or one of the plenty of minibuses.


Surrounding Pucón

Volcano Villarica

Pucón is located next to the active volcano Villarica, during dawn and without clouds, one could see a glimpse of lava at the top. However, due to the light pollution in Pucón, it was only “a shade of” lava. Many people come to Pucón in order to climb the volcano. Its activity was within the “yellow category” during my visit, so it was not allowed to climb all the way up, only part of it. This is why I didn’t intend to climb. My ankle still needed a break, I wouldn’t get all the way to the top, and I’ve visited the very active and spectacular El Fuego in Guatemala by the climb of Acatenango.


Caburgua at Lake Caburgua

One day, I took a minibus from Pucón to Caburgua at Lake Caburgua. This little village has two beaches. One of them had black sand, as expected for beaches close to volcanos. However, the second beach had quite bright white sand, so I remembered Caburgua as the “black-white-beaching” place. The temperature was not too high, still, one could feel the sun burning down. Keep in mind that there is one of the big ozone holes above Patagonia. So don’t leave your house without sunscreen applied. Except from the beaches and some restaurants, hostals and camp spots, there is not much going on in Caburgua.



There are many waterfalls in the area around Pucón. If you check any maps, all the places containing “saltos” within their name are waterfalls. The cascada el claro might be the most spectacular one of all of them (according to the pics and stories from other travelers). I didn’t visit any waterfalls since I took a break from uneven terrain.

There are other hikes possible within the region, not only the volcano Villarica. There are even multi-day options you can do if you bring your own camping gear. Some hikes are quite tough, so I recommend asking the locals about the level of difficulty. Especially, since you should make it within the time window of the first and last minibus if you’re not close to a main road for hitchhiking.

There are too many hiking options, so I won’t write up all their names. Even though I liked Pucón, it’s a rather expensive place, so I wouldn’t have stayed for like 6 weeks to do all the hikes. This is what many travelers I met have done. There are so many great places to check out, so I would not stay at one rather expensive place for too long. Instead, visiting more different places and landscapes.

Natural risks

Moreover, shortly after I have left northern Patagonia, wildfires started and even reached an area close to Pucón. Due to the fires, many hikes were not allowed to enter in order to lower the risk for potential new fires and to prevent any emergencies due to approaching fires. In this context, I like to highlight: no matter where you go, you need to consider the seasons and weather. It has been an unbelievably dry summer. That’s why I had almost no rain or clouds within a usually quite wet and windy region.



Initially, I didn’t plan to visit Valdivia. I didn’t even remember reading about this city (which I surely did). Two travelers I met in Puerto Varas mentioned Valdivia once, and so I looked it up. Indeed, I considered Valdivia to be worth a visit of a couple of days after my time in Pucón. Since Pucón would be my northernmost stop within Patagonia, I went a little southwest, to the pacific coast, before making my way up towards Santiago again. The region north of Patagonia, between Temuco and Curicó, doesn’t offer any highlights that cannot be missed. Rather, many smaller cities and a lot of industry. So I booked myself a seat in a night bus from Valdivia towards Santiago.


The city Valdivia

Even though the center of Valdivia seems to be rather small on maps, the city is rather big. I consider Valdivia as the center and most important city within the Rivers region of Chile. It is located at some big rivers merging together before entering into the Pacific next to the coastal town Niebla. The center contains all shops, good restaurants, church, and the lakefront, my preferred place. You easily recognize the big German influence when strolling along the streets.


There was a big market next to the Calle-Calle river separating central Valdivia from the island Isla Teja (also Valdivia). You could get many souvenirs, I even found people selling cuckoo clocks. In the morning hours it was rather calm, not many people are there before 10am. Within the veggie, fruit, and seafood section of the market, greedy birds waited for getting a glimpse of fish from incautious people. Right next to the market, many tour providers tried to sell different boat cruises along the many rivers around Valdivia.


Bierfest Kunstmann

During my time in Valdivia, I recognized signs for “Bierfest Kunstmann”. My search engine proved to me that I unintentionally picked just the correct weekend to be in Valdivia for the Bierfest. So, of course, I went there. I didn’t spend 18€ entrance fee for the tent, stuck to the beer garden which was for free. The Kunstmann brewery offers different types of craft beer and lager.

On my way to the Bierfest (Parque Saval at Isla Teja), I went to a supermarket to get myself some snacks. In the end, I found cut cheese and cut sausage as we have it in Bavarian bakeries. I couldn’t resist. In the Bierfest, I got myself beer and a Breze, so I had a rather Bavarian “Brotzeit” with those, my sausage and cheese. And all of that while listening to the bands from within the tent through speakers.


The coastal village Niebla

A short minibus ride away from Valdivia is the tiny village Niebla. Tiny but very charming, at a mountain slope with access to beaches. When I went to Niebla, I visited the Fiesta Costumbrista. This is a big hall with a huge variety of small food stalls. As located at both a big river and the pacific, there were plenty of fish options. I got myself some Pastel del Choclo, my new favorite dish of the region (and Chile, as there are not many Chilean dishes). Both in Pucón and Valdivia including Niebla, you could get very good dishes and snacks.


The beaches of Niebla, especially the playa grande, were amazing, with chilled atmosphere and friendly people around. I didn’t jump into the water, as I had my camera with me and couldn’t lock it away. From a little viewpoint with seating areas above the beach, I enjoyed watching the dolphins jumping and playing around, quite close to the shore and people.


Offerings within the Rivers’ Region

Valdivia is maybe not the most beautiful city, considering some crappy buildings in its suburbs. Nevertheless, I appreciated that the buildings are not made out of “paper walls” (as many hostals along the Carretera Austral were). So sleeping was possible without hearing the people of the next rooms. Beyond this, what really impressed me, was the high standing of culture. The Lakes Region has a website with a great overview on many events. So I consider Valdivia as a city with a high quality of living, since it offers a lot more than just “a place to stay”.



My hostels in both Osorno, Pucón and Valdivia were not wheelchair accessible. The minibuses I took to get around within Pucón and Valdivia were also not accessible. Therefore, I have not included this text into the category for accessibility. 

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