Last weekend was an absolute blast. I spontaneously decided to go to Pucón (10 hours south of Santiago by bus) and it was incredible. It’s a small city nestled between a ton of mountains and a few volcanoes, the closest volcano being Villarrica which is quite active. In fact there is an alarm system in the town in case Villarica erupts. My adventures in Pucón, Chile consisted of plenty of water sports, roaming around a town that reminded me of the village in Whistler, Canada, and eating plenty of amazing food. So without further ado, here’s seven amazing things to do in Pucón, Chile.
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White water rafting was so crazy. Other than last weekend, I’ve only been one other time and that was in my senior year of high school with my grad class. However, the tour I did in Canada during high school put us on a motorized raft so we were able to hold on the whole time. With Politur, we had to paddle and hold on with our feet wedged beneath the seats in front of us. I almost fell out a few times and it was kind of frightening trying to paddle when it felt like we were all going overboard. At one point we were allowed to jump out of the raft and float down the river so I jumped out along with two other women. It was so cold but super fun and the guides were very knowledgeable.
Politur has two white water rafting tours available. The one I went on was the ‘Rafting Bajo en Pucón’ which means that the tour takes you through the less intense rapids (grade three rapids) of the Trancura River. At the time of updating this blog post, the ‘Rafting Bajo en Pucón’ Tour costs $25,000 CP or $37.74 USD for 3 hours. The other tour available is the ‘Rafting Alto Pucón Rio Trancura’ which takes you through the more intense rapids (grade four rapids) of the river.
This horseback riding tour was actually a ‘Mapuche tour’ where we got to go to the area just outside of Pucón where some Mapuche people live. The Mapuche people are indigenous to Chile and they speak Mapudungun as well as Spanish. As far as ethics go, I do not think that this tour was harmful to the Mapuche people or culture but I do question what the Mapuche people think when they see white tourists horseback riding through their village taking photos of everything. For this reason I only took photos when no people were around. I really wanted to experience this tour to learn about how the Mapuche people live differently than other Chileans and I made sure to tip the guide well.
Upon arrival, our guide got us settled onto our horses and we headed up the side of a mountain. He explained that the mountain we were ascending was very important to the religion of the Mapuche people. He also told us that the Mapuche are very spiritual people but they do not believe in one god. They believe rather in good energies and bad energies and they believe that everything (people, rocks, trees, mountains, etc.) has a soul or energy within them.
This area was definitely the most peaceful area I’ve been to in all of Chile so far. When we were about half-way up the mountain we stopped so the horses could graze and our guide told us about various problems that the Mapuche have with the government, as well as with classism. After our descent we were treated to a wonderful traditional Mapuche meal complete with the best homemade empanadas I’ve ever tasted, sopaipillas and these small, circular almost bread like biscuits that I found out were actually made out of black beans. The salsa was also incredible and we were served juice made from wheat which was surprisingly sweet and delicious.
I don’t remember what tour group I went with during my time in Pucón but you can book a Tour Cabalgata Mapuche with Politur here.
While I was in Pucón I chose not to climb the famous Volcán Villarrica because of my asthma. It is a very difficult hike up to the top and some visitors may experience some altitude sickness symptoms. If you choose to go on this trek make sure you are prepared and fit enough to complete the summit. Once at the top, you will get incredible views of the lakes below as well as be able to peek inside the deep volcanic crater. Some tours allow you to descend the volcano via small sleds. Other tours drop you off at beautiful thermal baths and hot springs for glorious post trek soaks.
Pucón is a very beautiful little city and the center is well worth exploring too. Make sure to check out some of these incredible restaurants, featuring Chilean, French, Uruguayan, Argentinian and German foods. The center really does remind of Western Canada’s Whistler Village. It’s just really charming and beautiful with a laid back atmosphere.
The biggest and closest lake to Pucón is Lake Villarica which has a perfect view of the famous Villarica volcano. In fact Pucón is basically situated right on the shores of Lake Villarica. The two other most popular lakes close to Pucón are Caburgua Lake and Tinquilco Lake. Caburgua Lake is about an hour drive away from Pucón and Tinquilco Lake is about an hour away as well.
I went kayaking at Caburgua Lake while I was in Pucón and it was beautiful. To the left side of the beach I even found some beautifully colorful salamanders there. I didn’t get a photo of them because I was scared of dropping my camera into the lake but they were really fascinating.
You can choose to swim, kayak and paddle boat at many of the lakes and their various beaches. You don’t need to book anything in advance, you can just show up and rent a kayak or paddle boat when you get there.
Aside from eating Chilean food, Pucón has a large German immigrant population so you can also enjoy plenty of authentic (and delicious) German food. I had bratwurst, strudel, and this incredible German pasta (I don’t remember the name of it) all for the first time. It was delicious and the beer was obviously amazing as well. My favorite German restaurant in Pucón was the Bier Garten which is pictured both above and below. You can also check out this article to learn about some of the other amazing German restaurants in Pucón.
Just before you reach Caburgua Lake by car or tour, there is a beautiful hike that leads to the Ojos de Caburuga (Eyes of Caburgua) Waterfalls. The forested hike is lush, green, and for the most part well shaded from the heat. I really enjoyed this hike and loved the views of the bright blue pools and rushing waterfalls immensely.
I enjoyed my time in Pucón so much I just hope I can go back one day. Since I was only there for a long weekend, I didn’t have time to do half the things I wish I had been able to do now, like visiting the Pinterest famous Huilo Huilo Reserve, for example. If you’re planning a trip to Pucón, make sure you check out the Politur website to see more options of the incredible experiences and tours you can go on during your visit!
PS. I was not paid or sponsored by Politur to promote their tours, I just had a really great time with them on my white water rafting tour and they have so many other wonderful tour options.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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