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Top 8 Things to Do in Chile’s Lake District

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While most people are familiar with Patagonia in the South of Chile, far fewer are acquainted with Chile’s Lake District. Greener and less rugged than its Patagonian counterpart, the Lake District is bathed in vivid green and peppered with brilliant, turquoise lakes. Blessed with gorgeous backdrops of snow-capped mountains and verdant valleys, the magical scenery of the Lake District gives Switzerland some tough competition.

But this Latino wonder is more than just a pretty face. The Lake District in Chile has all kinds of exciting and exotic things to see and do; from exploring nature and getting an adrenaline rush, to getting in touch with its unmistakably Chilean cultural. Whether you plan on a tour of Chile's Lake District (see this one for example) or heading out solo, listed below are the top things to do in Chile’s Lake District, in no particular order.

1. Cycle around Lago Llanquihue

Things to do in Chile Lake District
Cycle a short stretch along the banks of Lago Llanquihue
Cycling in Lake District Chile

Cycling along the banks of Lake Llanquihue can be a relaxing activity

The Lake District gets its name from the numerous lakes that speckle the landscape. In fact, there are 12 major lakes in this area, some of the more notable ones being Llanquihue, Calafquén and Panguipulli. Surrounded by charming little towns, the colossal Lago Llanquihue is one of the most picturesque parts of Chile’s Lake District. The lake has an area of 860 square kilometres and is the second largest lake in Chile. What better way to make the most of this patch of natural beauty than by hopping on a bike and cycling along its banks? You probably won’t make it all the way around the lake but doing a decent stretch is enough for you to admire its magnificence.

2. Day hikes in the national parks

Conguillío National Park in Chile Lake District
Hiking in Conguillío National Park offers scenic sights such as the Arcoiris Lake

There are excellent national parks all over Chile and the Lake District is no exception. Here you will find spectacular parks, rife with hiking and trekking routes, for you to explore. Some of the most popular parks include the Puyehue National Park and Conguillío National Park. In these parks, you will find waterfalls, thermal springs and endless natural beauty. A particularly popular hike route is El Pionero in the Puyehue National Park. The trail starts at the hot springs before snaking through the rainforest.

3. Climb volcanoes

Villarrica Volcano in Chile
The Villarrica Volcano as seen from Pucon
Osorno Volcano in Chile
Osorno Volcano is a spectacular sight, but even better is the view it offers from its peak

If you are really looking for a challenge then why not take on one of the Lake District’s most formidable volcanoes? Both Villarrica and Osorno can be found in this part of Chile and they have been enticing thrill-seekers to summit their snow-capped peaks for quite some time. The hikes up these volcanoes are gruelling and the weather near the top can be extreme, but the views from the summit and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment you will feel make it worth every second.

If climbing volcanoes intrigues you, you should definitely check out our list of popular volcanoes to climb in Chile

4. Ski down the volcanoes

Ski in Osorno Volcano
The Osorno Volcano ski field boasts 12 trails and a snow park
Skiing in Villarrica Volcano
The chairlifts at Villarrica take you to the ski field

There are ski centres located on both the Villarrica and Osorno volcanoes. The pistes you will find here are not too challenging and make a great day trip for anyone who feels comfortable on skis. Bear in mind that the ski fields are not massive, but they have plenty to keep you occupied for a few hours. If you haven’t ever skied down a volcano, now is your chance. It will make for some pretty cool stories to bore your friends with when you get back home.

If you are planning a winter holiday in Chile, then skiing is the best activity to indulge in. Here is a list of ski destinations in Chile that should help you prepare a thorough plan.

5. Kayaking

Kayaking in chile Lake District
A girl kayaks in one of the many Chilean Lake District's lakes

Admiring the sparkling lakes of Chile’s Lake District is one thing but getting up close and personal with them is a whole different experience. The water here is calm so you don’t need to be an expert kayaker. All you need is a sense of adventure and a willingness to get a bit wet. During your trip, you will float past fjords and glaciers and be able to take in the mountainous landscapes around you.

For a more exhilarating kayaking experience, find out which rivers in Chile offer the best kayaking.

6. Trek in Tagua Tagua Park or Tantauco Park

Real, untouched wilderness can be hard to come by nowadays, unless you are trekking in Patagonia. But these parks in the Lake District have it in abundance. Go for a multi-day hike in either Tagua Tagua Park or Tantauco Park for a real Indiana Jones experience. The former offers routes of around 2–3 days with small huts for you to sleep in at night. The latter, Tantauco Park, is for the more intrepid explorer and offers a 5-day circuit that will really test your endurance.

7. Enjoy the Petrohue Waterfalls

Petrohue Falls in Chile Lake District
Emerald green, tinged with white froth, the Petrohue Falls are spectacular to behold

There is something incredibly cathartic about watching water cascading into a pool and the Petrohue Waterfalls do not disappoint on this front. Emerald green, tinged with white froth, the falls are spectacular to behold and are the gem of the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. They can easily be incorporated into a bike ride or walk around the Todos los Santos Lake.

8. Immerse Yourself in Mapuche tradition in Temuco

Mapuche tradition in Chile Lake District
Visiting Mapuche families and understanding their traditions is a not-to-miss experience
Mapuche culture in Chile's Lake District
A visitor takes a chance at learning the Mapuche art of weaving

If all the adventuring becomes too much for you and you need a day to relax and unwind, take some time to explore Temuco and its Mapuche heritage. Nowhere in Temuco will you find a stronger example of Mapuche culture than the Feria Libre Aníbal Pinto. This is a huge market with over 700 stalls selling just about everything from seafood to leather goods to herbal medicine. Give yourself plenty of time to explore this place and be ready to haggle. Or even better, take a tour and experience the Mapuche tradition with one of the families. 

If you are looking to fill your agenda with natural beauty and plenty of time in the great outdoors then a trip to Chile’s Lake District is a must. Despite covering just 339km from Temuco in Araucania to Puerto Montt in Los Lagos, Chile’s Lake District offers many exciting things to do. The mixture of authentic Chilean culture and breath-taking scenery makes it an exceptional destination.

If you are looking for more places to visit and things to do in Chile, then check out our list of things to do in Chile.

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