The town with the pretty red church by the lake: Puerto Varas, Chile
We loved this little town in Chile’s lake district. Heavily influenced by German immigration, the architecture has a lovely quaint feel to it. We only stayed in Puerto Varas for a few hours, but that was probably enough. It’s a little touristy and more expensive that other nearby towns, but the overall pleasantness of the place makes that entirely bearable. Unfortunately on the day we visited there were clouds covering the Osorno volcano, but on a clear day you should be able to see it standing proudly on the other side of the lake.
How to pronounce Puerto Varas: Pwer-toh BAH-rass
The famous church of Puerto Varas
This is a few blocks up the hill, away from the centre of town. Disappointingly, when we turned up at the famous white and red church Iglesia Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, it didn’t look much like the classic photos as many buildings had since been built between the church and the lake, obscuring the view. Perhaps there are some camera angling tricks involved – we spotted an observation point in one of the larger hotels further up the hill which may have had the advantage of blocking out the newer buildings.
Life on the lakefront
For us, the beauty in this peaceful town was its cosy coffee shops and restaurants (we recommend Cassis Cafe for excellent pizza and ice cream, plus proper coffee). Warning, these establishments are a little pricey, but it’s worth it once you’re sipping espresso with views of the lake and volcano in front of you. There are many interesting cafés and restaurants to choose from along the water’s edge.
Enjoying the surrounding nature
For the hikers reading this, there are several hikes to do around the Puerto Varas area. These include Volcán Osorno itself (on which you can also ski in winter) and Cerro Philippi, which gives great views over the lake and town. For those less adventurous, a 0.5 miles from the pier is a viewpoint called Mirador La Puntilla – or at very least a walk to the end of the pier is a must! You can hire kayaks to take out on the lake on a nice day.
Puerto Varas is a day trip away from the stunning Petrohué Falls, a river that flows over a bed of old lava rock in the shadow of the mighty Volcán Osorno. You can take the Ensenada bus from San Bernardo St. with Walker Martinez in town to get there.
Where to stay in Puerto Varas
As mentioned previously, we didn’t stay in the town, we just visited as a day trip from Puerto Montt. If we were to stay in Puerto Varas, however, we would have looked at getting a reasonably-priced room in Casa Apel Hostel – just look at how plush those beds are!
How to get the bus from Puerto Varas
If you’re staying in another town and want to head home, there’s no particular bus stop for the colectivos, you just have to look like you’re waiting and/or look like a gringo and a bus driver will pull up and shout to see if you’re going to the same place as him. This system actually works very smoothly!
Recommended stay to enjoy Puerto Varas: half a day