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Introducing Puerto Varas

Two menacing, snowcapped volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, stand sentinel over picturesque Puerto Varas and its scenic Lago Llanquihue like soldiers of adventure, allowing only those on a high-octane quest to pass. Just 23km from Puerto Montt but worlds apart in charm, scenery and options for the traveler, Puerto Varas has been touted in the past as the 'next Pucón,' but unlike its kindred spirit to the north, Puerto Varas has been able to better manage its rise as a go-to destination for outdoor adventure sports, and, as a result, avoids some of the tourist-package onslaught that besieges Pucón.

There is great access to water sports here – kayaking and canyoning in particular – as well as climbing, fishing, hiking and even skiing. While Puerto Varas gets packed in the summer, it receives many more independent travelers than Pucón. It basically shuts down in the winter except for a few hearty skiers and mountaineers.

With all of the conveniences of Puerto Montt just a short trip away, Puerto Varas is a top choice for an extended stay and also makes a good base for exploring the region. Some find it too touristy, but its juxtaposition of German heritage and contemporary Chilean adrenaline is both beautiful and addictive.