Chile has captivated travellers for decades, offering its visitors everything from beaches and deserts to snowy mountains and glaciers. A lesser ventured natural attraction in Chile but equally striking is perhaps its multitude of volcanoes that pepper the landscape.
Chile houses several volcanoes, of all shapes and sizes, and all equally wonderful to gaze at. However, if you want to see some of the most stunning vistas this side of the equator and don’t mind a bit of a challenge then you should seriously consider scaling one of them. Of the many outdoors activities Chile offers, only a few will be as thrilling as climbing one of the volcanoes. The difficulty level ranges from easy to punishing, but the end result is rewarding. So, let's take a look at ten popular volcanoes in Chile (in no particular order) that are conquerable. We leave it up to you to decide which one is right for you.
The Villarrica (pictured above) is by far the most popular volcano to climb in Chile but don’t let this lure you into a false sense of security. This is a really difficult climb that requires crampons and ice axes. If you decide to visit the volcano in the winter then you might want to consider hiring some skis and hitting the pistes while you’re up there.
- Location: Just outside Pucón
- How to Get There: The bus from Pucón to the volcano leaves regularly and takes just under an hour.
This bad boy volcano not only has the title of the highest active volcano in Chile but it also wears the crown of being the tallest of its kind in the world. The summit sits at almost 7,000m above sea level but the climb to the top is not too difficult. Altitude sickness can easily kick in, so beware.
- Location: Near Copiapó
- How to Get There: You will need to go with a tour operator who will guide you through the 6 hours’ drive to Laguna Verde where you start the climb.
Sitting in Chile’s lake region, Osorno Volcano is better known for its skiing and snowboarding routes than for its climbing. Nonetheless, it can be done – although it requires a bit of a technical knowledge, particularly as you near the summit. If you choose to climb the volcano then you will be in for a treat at the top as the views are truly outstanding.
- Location: 60km northwest of Puerto Varas
- How to Get There: You will need to book a tour to get there from Puerto Varas, and you also require a permit to climb.
Straddling the Chilean/Argentine border is the Lanin Volcano, which can be climbed with relative ease so long as you are reasonably fit and have a bit of stamina. The expedition can take between 2 and 3 days so make sure you take everything you need with you and are prepared for a challenge. The permit to climb is free but you must start before noon or you will be denied access.
- Location: Around 75km away from Pucón on the border with Argentina
- How to Get There: It is actually easy to approach from the Argentinean side from the town of San Martin de los Andes – you can take a bus from here. From the Chilean side you will need to travel with a tour.
Located in the North of Chile, along the border with Bolivia, Parinacota is a monstrous volcano that can be subject to harsh winds and snow. But, that doesn’t mean it is the exclusive haunt of expert climbers as the climb itself is not that difficult. The easiest way to climb this mountain is to establish a base camp (usually from the Bolivian side) and then do the 12 hour round trip to the summit from there.
- Location: On the border of Chile and Bolivia
- How to Get There: Take a bus from Arica to Putre and then local transport to Parinacota Village where you will start the trek.
Popular opinion of the Llaima Volcano is that it is one of the most beautiful volcanoes in Chile. Its snow peaked cones makes it rather pleasing to the eye before you even begin hiking. Once you get to the top, the vistas are unrivalled. However, the volcano has had a recent increase in volcanic activity, which can make it a bit of a riskier climb.
- Location: Just east of Temuco
- How to Get There: There are regular buses from Temuco to Cherquenco and from there it is a 20km hike or hitch-hike to the base of the volcano.
Another stunning example of Chile’s volcanoes, Lonquimay sits in the Andes and is the definition of winter wonderland during the snowy months. The climb is not too technical and if you are lucky you might get to witness a mild eruption. If the climb isn’t enough for you then try some of the snow sports that are available here all year round.
- Location: Roughly 130km northeast of Temuco
- How to Get There: From Temuco take a bus to Curacautín and then another one to the Malacahuello National Forest.
This gigantic stratovolcano is one of the highest peaks in the Andes and is an incredibly rewarding climb for those who dare to take it on. Despite its accessible location it is not a popular climb so if you choose to make your way to its summit, you are likely the have the peak to yourself.
- Location: On the border with Argentina, directly east of Santiago
- How to Get There: The easiest way to get there is to drive but you will need a number of permits.
If you are looking for a volcano with something a bit different then you should definitely make time for El Tatio into your itinerary. El Tatio is home to the third largest geyser field in the world and contains over 80 active geysers. Brave adventurers can ascend the mountain and watch them erupt or even take a dip in one of the pools – be sure to check which ones are okay to bathe in.
- Location: Northern Chile Andes
- How to Get There: With a tour from the San Pedro de Atacama Desert. It is not a good idea to attempt going alone.
Chiliques is exactly what you imagine a volcano to look like. It rises majestically out of the arid ground around it and dips at the top where the crater is. However, despite its aesthetically pleasing appearance, it is not an easy climb due to the amount of volcanic sand and lack of well-beaten path. The climb takes around two days and hikers should be wary of altitude sickness.
- Location: Near San Pedro de Atacama
- How to Get There: Either book a tour in San Pedro de Atacama (recommended) or organise private transport to take you to the base.
Climbing a volcano is both a physical and mental challenge. It will test your stamina and your capacity for coping in trying circumstances. Yet, despite all of this it will undoubtedly be one of the most amazing things you’ve ever done – so strap on your hiking boots and get walking. It's time to conquer at least one of these volcanoes in Chile!