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Chile's Lake District

The "Switzerland of Chile" stands on its own spectacular merits

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Volcan Osorno, Chile

Volcan Osorno, Chile

ArtToday.com

Chile's Lake District is famous for its spectacular scenery of deep blue mountain lakes, snow-capped volcanos, pristine beauty of alerce (larch) forests, popular resorts, year-round sports, and traditional folklore, handicrafts and legends.

The Lake District covers two of Chile's regions, the Ninth Region, more evocatively known as La Araucanía, and the Tenth Region, Los Lagos. It is anchored at the northern end by the inland city of Temuco, in the middle by Valdivia on the Pacific and Osorno inland. Puerto Montt on the Bay of Reloncavi is at the southern end (see interactive map.) From north to south, the Lake District stretches from the Pacific east to the Andes.

Chile's Lake District is aptly named. There are twelve major lakes in the district, with dozens more dotting the landscape. Between the lakes there are rivers, waterfalls, forests, thermal hot springs, and the Andes, including six volcanos with Villarica being the highest at 9395 ft (2,847 m.)

The Lake District is a major highlight of many tours to and in Chile. The scenery has been likened to Switzerland, and with the early emigrations from Germany and the subsequent German feel to farms, towns and traditions, it is cosmopolitan, yet entirely Chilean.

Temuco (see map) is the capital of La Araucanía and the gateway to the Parque Nacional Conguilio, home of the monkey puzzle tree, or araucaria, which takes centuries to mature, and to the resorts of Villarica and Pucon.

Puerto Montt, the capital of Los Lagos, is the gateway to Chiloé, Aisén and Chilean Patagonia where the islands and fjords of Patagonia begin.

Nearest to Puerto Montt is Chiloé Archipelago, consisting of hundreds of islands, the largest one being Isla Grande. Chiloé for many years was all but isolated from the rest of Chile, thus retaining its rich ethnic and folkloric traditions and mythology. The ever-present fog lends to the mystique of the area.

This area, northern and southern regions both, is very rich in flora and fauna, particularly so in birds and marine animals.

Getting There

  • By air from domestic flights terminal in Santiago, making sure you sit on the left side of the plane going south, to see the Andes cordillera. Flying north from Punta Arenas, sit on the right side. Check flights from your area. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.
  • By bus services to and from Santiago and other cities
  • By sea. Puerto Montt is both the gateway to Chile's lake district and the departure point for cruises to Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords Cruise/Tour
  • By lake. Lago Todos los Santos is one of South America's most popular water crossings. Visitors and residents make the crossing to and from Argentina via boats, catamarans and bus portaging through the spectacular scenery of the Chilean/Argentine border.
  • By land via the Panamerican Highway (ending or beginning at Chiloé) from Chilean cities, or from Argentina via Paso Puyehue, about 4000 ft (1212 m) during the summer months.
  • For more information on modes of travel, see these Varied forms of transportation throughout Chile.

    When to Go

  • The Lake District is an all-season destination, with an overall temperate, if rainy, climate.
  • Spring and summer, from November to April, are drier months than the winter months, but expect rain at any time.
  • Rain is heavier during May to October, and cold. Be aware that flooding can alter travel plans.
  • See today's weather in Temuco, Valdivia or Puerto Montt.

    Shopping Tips

  • The Lake District is the home of the Mapuche Indians, and their colorful handicrafts are sold in craft fairs, shops and boutiques
  • With so much water, it's no wonder that seafood is so good. Visit the fish market of Angelmó to see the wide variety. You'll also see the large handicraft market representing the area's traditions.

    Food and Drink

  • Chilean seafood is superlative. Try the local specialties, including
    • Parillada de Mariscos - grilled mixed seafood
    • Cancato - grilled fish stuffed with a variety of vegetables, cheese or sausage
    • Curanto - various meats and sausages, fishes, mollusks and crustaceans, potatoes and corncobs cooked in an earthen pit overlaid with leaves. It's also prepared in a kitchen in a large earthenware pot. However cooked, it is eaten in layers, and usually reserved for major fiestas and holidays
    • Browse through the menu at Salvia's "Local 20" for local seafood favorites.
    • Chilean wine, of course!

    Please read the next pages for things to do and see in Chile's spectacular Lake District.

    1. About.com
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    3. South America Travel
    4. Countries & Territories
    5. Chile
    6. Cities and Regions
    7. Sur and Lake District
    8. Chile's Lake District

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