Pucón is a city in southern Chile with a population of about 23,000 inhabitants. Located 800km (500mi) away from the capital, Santiago, it can be reached through Temuco’s airport, which is 100km (60mi) northwest, although there are also a few direct flights from Santiago during the high season. An important touristic destination domestically, the city also attracts several foreign visitors who arrive looking for the varied array of outdoor activities available in the region. The main highlights in the urban landscape are the Villarica Lake and the volcano bearing the same name, whose last major eruption was in 1971 and that presents constant gas and smoke activity, as perfectly visible from downtown.
Although Pucón is a pretty pleasant place, it doesn’t really offer much to keep visitors busy throughout the day. For this reason, it is very common to see the city almost empty during the day, when tourists leave to enjoy the surroundings, and then watch it gain new life later in the afternoon, as travelers return to their hotels and to enjoy the varied local cuisine. Pucón is, by the way, an excellent gastronomic destination, especially considering its small size.
The greatest magnet for tourism in the Pucón area is, most certainly, the Villarica Volcano. Its cone rises to an altitude of 2,847m (9,340ft) above the sea level and makes for a popular challenge for those aspiring to become alpinists, since its peak can be reached by almost anyone in good physical conditions, as long as climate conditions are favorable and a licensed guide is hired – a requirement to attempt any hike to the top. The best season for this kind of hike is usually between November and December. Besides, this volcano hosts one of the most important ski resorts of the country: the only among the major ones located on an active volcano.
Besides the hiking and winter sports, Pucón is also an excellent base to pursue other outdoor activities, like trekking, canopy and horse riding. One of the most sought after activities, however, is rafting. Pucón offers a pretty interesting circuit in the Trancura river, located near the Argentinean border, where the rapids reach levels III and IV. Those looking for a more relaxing activity will find out that the rivers and lakes around Pucón are a great destination for the practice of recreational fishing.
Another reason why Pucón uses to receive many tourists is the wide offer of hot springs in the area, many of them established on the shores of the rivers running down the Andes, allowing for a greater contact with nature. Among the several options available, Termas Geométricas are definitely a great highlight. These hot springs are located inside the Villarica National Park, 82km (51mi) away from Pucón, on the southern slopes of the Villarica Volcano, near the village of Coñaripe. They are formed by 17 small pools filled with water in slightly different temperatures, which can be accessed by a set of elevated wood footbridges. During the winter, it is possible to bathe outdoors, taking advantage of the waters nearing the 39ºC (102ºF) and then leave directly to the snow.
More indicated for the summer, the Seven Lakes route is another excellent alternative to travel through the interior of Chile. Located around and southwards of Pucón, this route visits, for example, lakes Panguipulli and Calafquén, where it is possible to practice water sports and to rest on the its fine sand beaches, and includes the Huilo-Huilo natural reserve, with its exuberant woods and rivers.
From Pucón you can travel 380km (235mi) northwest to the largest city in southern Chile, Concepción, or take the opposite way for 155km (95mi) to Valdivia. Alternatively, the Argentine border is just 75km (45mi) away.