Volcán Villarrica

Just a few week ago, on March 3rd of 2015, I turned on the television to news of the Villarrica volcano erupting in the Chilean town of Pucón, with a resulting evacuation of 3,500 of the 22,000 residents.  A popular tourist destination located some 500 miles south of the capital of Santiago, Pucón is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, where sports revolve around skiing, snow boarding, hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting, kayaking, fishing, fly fishing, and llama trekking (I have to admit I have never heard that one before).  The incident on the news brought back some wonderful memories that I have of visiting lovely Pucón and our adventures on the Villarrica volcano. In 1999 (sounds and feels like eons ago), Hubby and I took a 10 week sabbatical from our jobs and backpacked around South America.  We had some good friends living in Santiago, which was a great home base for exploring Chile.  From the Atacama desert in the north, to the western coastal towns of Valparaiso and Viña Del Mar, to the southern lake district town of Pucón, the idea was to cover a good cross section of the country.  As it was early July and therefore their winter time, we planned our five day itinerary in Pucón to include hiking in Huerquehue National Park, a visit to the thermal baths of Huife, skiing the volcano, and, weather permitting, a hike to the summit of Villarrica .

We flew from Santiago to the town of Temuco, a city known for having the largest percentage of Mapuche (local Indian) inhabitants in Chile, as well as a large number of German descendants who immigrated to the country between the two World Wars.  We stopped for a quick lunch of beer, sausage and artisan cheese, before driving the sixty-six miles to Pucón.

Hubby in Pucón with Villarrica volcano in the background

As these were pre-Google days, I did much of my research on South America through travel books such as the Lonely Planet and Fodor’s series.  I read about a great spot in Pucón called the Hotel Antumalal.  Antumalal, whose name means “Corral of the Sun” in the native Mapuche language, opened in 1950 on the side of a hill overlooking Villarrica Lake.  The Bauhaus design, conceived by hotel architect Jorge Elton, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, is retro-chic in design and décor, with wraparound glass windows, goatskin rugs, tree trunk furniture and walls made with thick slabs of monkey puzzle wood. The hotel has been host to many famous names, including Queen Elizabeth, Jimmy Stewart, Neil Armstrong and, interesting for the AZ crowd, Barry Goldwater, whose portrait hangs alongside the other luminaries in the lobby.  Memories of our stay include the stunning views of Lake Villarrica, cozy fireplaces in each room with breakfast in bed, hours spent exploring the 12 acres of gardens, and (not to be missed) the nightly cocktails of Pisco Sours.

View from our room at the Antumalal

On the fourth of July, we had high hopes of summiting the volcano, but because of deep snow, we opted instead for a sunny day of skiing.  The views of the surrounding valleys and volcanoes were breathtaking from the slopes.  I must have been in Lala Land, because after lunch, on a groomed slope (!!) I took a nasty spill and dislocated my shoulder.  An ice-pick, crampon-wielding climb up the volcano was therefore out of the question for me, and I had to “settle” for snuggling up next to the fire back at Antumalal with copious amounts of Pisco Sours to ease my pain.  Hubby, on the other hand, woke up at the crack of dawn to tackle the ascent to the rim of the volcano at 9,317 feet with his guide, Claudio.  Starting at the top of the chairlift, the ascent took them 4-5 hours.  And the way down?  Forty-five minutes, using their slickers as sleds and ice picks as brakes.  Yippee!!!


Ski terrain at Ski Pucón found on Powderquest.com


Moi just prior to my spill


Villarrica Lake from the ski slopes


View of another volcano as seen from Hubby’s ascent


Hubby at the rim


Que tengan un buen fin de semana!

Hotel Antumalal
Km 2 Camino Pucón
Villarrica Pucón
Región de la Araucaniá, Chile

All photos by Marci Symington and Hubby for texaztaste.com, unless otherwise noted.

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  • La Comida de Chile – Texaz Taste
    January 27, 2016 - 4:21 am

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