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The Villarrica Volcano, at 2,847m is both one of Chile’s most popular volcanoes and one of its most active. Despite the obvious risks this poses, it hasn’t stopped thousands upon thousands of adventurous climbers from reaching its summit. One look at the rugged snow-capped peak rising majestically out of the ground is enough invitation for an expedition to an adventure seeker. Surrounded by natural beauty on every side, the Villarrica Volcano is more than just a photographer’s dream; it is an unrivalled grandeur.
Now you’ve made it all the way to the legendary Villarrica Volcano, it is time to decide how you’re going to tackle this monster mountain. Here are some activities you could get stuck in to while you’re there.
1. Climb Villarrica Volcano
The Villarrica Volcano is popular mostly for the unforgettable climb it offers. But, be warned that this hike isn’t an easy task. It requires proper climbing equipment and a lot of stamina. You either start the hike from the base of the volcano or you can take a chairlift and start a bit higher up. Guides usually recommend the chairlift so you don’t drain yourself too quickly.
The ascent and descent will see you clambering across rocks and, later on, ice. There is no path to guide you so you just dig your ice axe into the snow and get climbing. The journey is punishing but the views from the top are spectacular. Once you’ve reached the peak, you come down the same way you came up or take an almost vertical ice slide. Take your time and soak up the scenery while you go.
- Best Time: Summer (December – February). This is when the weather will be best so you will have a better chance of reaching the peak.
- Difficulty Level: Demanding. You will need good stamina and an understanding of how to use proper climbing equipment if you want to climb this volcano.
- Duration: 7 hours
- Take the chairlift and skip the first hour of walking. It will save you energy and increase the chances of reaching the summit.
- Make sure you wear lots of layers so you can easily adjust to the temperature.
- Do not attempt to climb this solo. Always take a tour.
- Check the weather before you go up. Bad weather has caused injuries and even death in the past as wind and snow can get pretty extreme up there.
After climbing, the second most popular activity to take place at the Villarrica Volcano is skiing. Ski Pucón is the name of the resort on the Villarrica Volcano. It isn’t big but it certainly has enough to keep you occupied for a day. Comprising of 17 runs, 10 of which could be considered ‘major’ runs, the ski field is perfect for beginners and wildly picturesque.
If you are a more experienced skier and are looking for a challenge, there are some opportunities here to go off-piste. You can even go all the way to the summit and take a look at the bubbling lava before sliding down the fabulously long and diverse run that will take you back to the main resort.
- Best Time: Winter (May to November). This is when the snow will be at its best.
- Difficulty Level: Easy. The runs themselves do not pose much of a challenge.
- Hours of Operation: 9am – 5pm every day of the week.
- Make sure that the weather will be clear or you won’t have much fun on the slopes.
- Take plenty of water with you.
- Don’t go to the summit unless you are very confident about your skiing abilities.
Skiing is a must if you are headed to Chile for a winter vacation; and the country has more skiing destinations to offer than just Villarrica Volcano. Join this ski tour that covers 7 volcanoes in 12 days!
3. Soak in the Thermal Springs
After a day of hiking or skiing there is absolutely nothing on this planet that is better than a soak in a natural hot spring. Fortunately, weary explorers don’t need to travel far to fulfil this wish. Villarrica has its very own hot springs known as the Termas Geométricas.
Not only are these thermal springs great for soothing your quivering muscles but they are also exceptionally beautiful. Surrounded by verdant swathes of nature, you’re going to struggle to leave these bubbling pools of happiness.
- Best Time: All year round.
- Hours of Operation: 10am - 11pm (Dec 21 - Mar 21) and 11am - 8pm (the rest of the year)
- Stay hydrated in the pools. The heat can cause you to sweat and lose water so make sure you’re drinking lots.
- Take cash with you to pay for the entry fees.
Getting from Santiago to Pucón, the closest town to the Villarrica Volcano, is simple. You can either get a bus directly from Santiago to Pucón, which takes around 9 hours or take a 1 hour 25 minutes flight from Santiago to Temuco. From Temuco you can get a bus or taxi to Villarrica, which is an hour's ride. Since, Pucon is the accommodation base for many, you can head straight there from Temuco. And catch a half an hour taxi ride back to Villarrica.
Flying takes far less time but is more expensive so you will need to decide whether your time or your money is more important.
Plenty of local agencies offer the excursion of Villarica Volcano, but be very careful about the agency you choose. Weigh your options and go for a committed agency that provides good quality mountain gear and professional mountain guides. Your choice of agency heavily decides if you will have a good time during your adventure or not!
The trick is to not buy the cheapest price. Usually, it directly reflects the quality provided by the agency. The local agencies charge between CLP $60.000 and up to $110.000; CLP $85.000* being a reasonable price for a good service and mountain gear. The price usually includes transportation, professional guides (1 guide for 4 people, 1 assistant), helmet, wind breaker, gloves, pants, mountain boots, crampons, ice axe, backpack for your food, and mask. The only thing you have to bring is the first layer of clothes, food (sandwich, 1 or 2 liters of water, fruits, cereal bars, etc) and your camera. — by Marie-Lou Goullieux from Amity Tours
The most important thing to have if you are going to climb the Villarrica Volcano is patience. You will not be allowed to climb if the weather is bad so this might mean you have to spend a few days waiting around in Pucón. If time is of the essence then this might cause an issue so bear it in mind.
Whether you climb up the Villarrica Volcano or ski down it, your experience is sure to be one of the most thrilling (if not mildly terrifying) of your life. While the hike up is a challenge, don’t give up; you will reap the benefits when it is over. If you want to try climbing some more volcanoes on your Chile vacation, try our list of top ten volcanoes to climb in Chile.
*Note: Prices are as of May 2018.