Things don’t always happen the way you’d like when you’re on the road. Flights get cancelled, buses don’t turn up, they break down or arrive when timetables say they should, hotels aren’t where your map says they should be and the weather can suddenly shit all over what you may have planned.
The weather wasn’t crash hot during our time in Puerto Varas and Chiloé, so we weren’t getting our hopes up for our next destination – Pucón. The sun was shining when the bus we were on drove along the shore of Lago Villarrica and everything was looking just like a postcard.
Was luck in our favour?
We checked into our hotel, went for a walk to Playa Grande – Pucón’s black-sand beach, checked out a few shops and tours we could do and thought how perfect the day was to be climbing to the summit of Volcán Villarrica.
The town is surrounded by mountains, national parks, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, but it’s that snow-capped volcano we wanted to see up close, and the bubbling lava in its crater.
Had we been in town the day before, that would have happened, but climbing the volcano means leaving very early in the morning. We were still tucked in bed in Puerto Varas, at that point.
Sadly, or should I say typically, as mother nature had it, rain was forecast for the rest of our time in Pucón. That means one thing. Nobody climbs Volcán Villarrica in wet weather.
So what did that mean for us?
What can you do in Pucón when it rains?
Well, here’s what we got up to aside from sitting in the hotel room and doing internet stuff.
In winter, Pucón’s about the skiing. In the warmer months it’s about adventure – rafting, water skiing, zip-lining, canyoning, biking, sky diving and kayaking. Oh, and if you like your horses, you can saddle up to one of those, as well. Almost every block in this town has an agent that can book you onto some kind of adventure, if you’re up for it.
At the opposite end of the scale there are several meditation centres, a Buddhist monastery and shamanic retreats for the spiritual folk. Is that some ॐ-ing I can hear?
For something almost as mellow as om-ing, there’s always shopping. Pucón is filled with places to spend your pesos, be it on fashion, food or something crafty from one of the few ferías around the downtown precinct.
There’s Centro Artesanal Pucón (pictured above), Productos Frescos Artesanía and Fería Artesanal Pucón – all selling the same garb like souvenirs, clothing, food items and wood crafts. Check my map below for locations.
For the foodies, there’s a neat little shop specialising in everything local – cheese, preserves, pasta, honey, chocolate, smoked salmon, charcuterie, condiments and dressings, wooden chopping boards and even artisan beer. Plenty to see and plenty to buy.
Antojitos de Pucón, Fresia 316A
Eat & Drink.
Being in town during December meant we were there to enjoy berry season. They’re delicious, plentiful and you can grab a 1 kilo punnet of juicy blueberries, raspberries or gooseberries for around $2.
Head to the main supermarket in town – Eltit – and you’ll find people selling their homegrown berries just in front of the entrance. Not sure how the supermarket allows this, but if they’re cheaper than what’s sold inside, why not do it? Or, if you don’t want to pay, wander the streets and you’ll come across a cherry tree weighed down with fruit. They’re everywhere. If that cherry-filled branch is over the footpath, it’s anyone’s to sample.
During the day you can also find people selling homemade empanadas, custard-filled doughnuts and other sweet, fried pastries near the supermarket entrance. Why go to a pastry shop?
Ok, if you do prefer a pastry shop, there’s always Rostock on the main drag. A variety of empanadas, many breads, fluffy cakes, cookies, real pretzels, sweet and savoury tarts, strudel and cronuts.
On one side you can even pick up freshly sliced cured meats and cheese. Perfect if you’re packing a lunch and in the mood for sandwich making.
There’s also another smaller outlet on the corner of Uruguay and Palguín.
Rostock, Lincoyán 296 (corner Bernardo O’Higgins)
The coffee scene may not be pumping in Pucón, but there are places you can get caffeinated – or dosed up on tea or hot chocolate.
Cafe Berlin comes up as having the best coffee in town, and while we may not concur, it is worth trying. Many come for the sandwiches, salads, cakes and flammkuchen (German pizza) – maybe a beer or cocktail – but for us it was a round of espresso.
Don’t miss their torta castor – a domed chocolate hazelnut cake stuffed with bananas and cherries, smeared with cream and chocolate crumbs.
Cafe Berlin, Miguel Ansorena 160
Those after the best coffee in Pucón need to make steps to this little place. Ok, so we never got as far as trying the breakfast, those delicious-looking crêpes, burgers or pizza, but that Italian Molinari coffee kind of rocked our world. If only we found these guys on day one.
Cafe Luthier, Palguin 640
The German influence in Pucón is as present as ever, and it’s when you set foot in Kuchenladen that you can’t help but feel like you’ve been transported to Deutschland.
Cake lovers can binge to their heart’s content on the array of baked goodies that tempt visitors any day of the week. Many come to buy whole cakes, but sitting in with your own personal wedge and cup of something is the most perfect way to escape the world outside.
Not trying their kuchenladen cake (2800) would be some kind of crime, so forking into multiple layers of plum sponge cake, chantilly cream, cherry jam, pastry wafers, meringue and walnuts happened by default. And they don’t mess around with portion sizes, which we love.
Kuchenladen, Fresia 248
Those after a bit of happy hour action needn’t walk too far in this town. Two-for-one is a concept this pair is always on the lookout for, and a good place to start is Krater Pub on the main drag.
During the day it’s a grilled meat-lovers paradise, come sundown and it’s a pub that packs them in. Social gatherings, loud music, tapas and even karaoke.
Two beers for 3500 pesos and 2 mojitos for 5000 – that’s a bit of a bargain for this town.
Krater Pub, Bernardo O’Higgins 545
The streets off the main drag have plenty of eating and drinking options, so you can dive into more happy hour swilling at Tiki Burger, or into a burger, some tacos or burritos for sustenance.
On our only afternoon of sun in Pucón, sitting outside in the warm rays was heavenly. Pitchers of cold beer, caipirinhas – what could be more perfect?
Tiki Burger, Miguel Ansorena 250
Right by one of the bus stations is an unassuming little cafe next door to the other Rostock bakery outlet. They’re open for breakfast, they do juices, sandwiches and their specialty – empanadas.
Chilean empanadas are a bit on the grande-side, unlike those dainty little numbers we scoffed in northern Argentina. One can be a meal in itself, depending on the filling, of course.
At Ayün the empanadas are made in-house, and with the variety of fillings, it can be tricky to choose. We went with cheese (1600), which was ok, but the pollo verderas (1500) won, hands down. Ground chicken, spinach, peas and corn. Yes please!
Cafe Ayün, Uruguay 510B
A stone’s throw from Cafe Ayün is this fab little restaurant with a simple, local food menu, great craft beers and some really good vino. This is where we had our last meal before boarding a bus to our next destination, and we really wished we’d discovered it earlier.
Aside from all the meat options, there is a salmon dish and lasagne, just in case beef, pork or chicken is wearing a little thin.
For me, chuleta a lo pobre (5000), which basically translates to ‘the poor chop‘. Let’s call it a pork chop with chips, sautéed onion and fried eggs. Dean went for pork, as well – chuletas de cerdo (4000) topped with the most divine green onion sauce. Even the bread basket was a winner – small discs of fried bread with a zesty green onion salsa.
Riki Rocón, Palguin 640
For the ultimate in meaty indulgence, tackling a small mountain of sizzling flesh on a piping hot parrilla really ought to make the dinner agenda at least once whilst in town.
Sit in the front courtyard or inside and watch music clips or football as you chow on burgers and parrilla for two. Ok, we didn’t do burgers, but they are available.
Two steaks, two morcilla, ¼ chicken, two chorizo sausages, a hefty pork chop and two sizeable spuds. Sip it all down with a chilled pitcher of Kunstmann and embrace the oncoming meat sweats. That mountain of meat for two sets you back 13,990 pesos. Not bad, considering you may not even need breakfast the following day.
La Revancha Del Chino, Miguel Ansorena 323
A few set lunch menus – or menú del día – can be found dotted about town, offering good-value options to those that don’t want to spend too much, but still want something decent.
For 4500 pesos you can fill your stomach on the likes of creamy asparagus soup followed by cazuela de vacuo (beef, rice & veg soup) or pollo arvejado (chicken & rice) and apple jelly for dessert. Bread is included.
Los Lagos, Miguel Ansorena 302
Menú del día at night is a little hard to come by, so dinner is usually of the a la carte kind. We did find one place, though, that put on a three-course menu for 6900 pesos. Yep, that’ll do.
Ceviche kicks things off, then it´s trucha (trout) with rice and a side salad. Those empanadas (1500) you see were ordered off the regular menu. Desserts on these kinds of menus are rarely something to get excited about, and in this case, it was a small bowl of chopped tinned peaches, some syrup and cream. See what I mean?
Milla-Rahue Restaurant, O’Higgins 460
El Powder was somewhere we walked past almost every day, due to being located several doors down from where we stayed. It’s local, the owners are friendly, the restaurant is located a block from the main street, and it’s el-cheapo. Nice touch with the warm bread sticks and salsa, too.
Dean wasn’t all that hungry, so one of their homemade empanadas (1500) did just fine.
I went for one of Chile’s signature dishes – chorrillana (6000). This is something that’s always made for two, but somehow I managed to get through most of it. A very generous pile of fries topped with all sorts of goodies – sautéed beef, chicken, onion and sausage, olives, two fried eggs and an obligatory sprinkle of dried oregano. You can’t have Chilean food without oregano! Well, most of the time.
El Powder, Gral. Urrutia 52
Aside from all the outdoor adventure activities this town can offer, there are always hot springs. Pucón is in volcano territory, so thermal water is just about everywhere – and that means one thing. Soaking in it.
I guess you need something to soothe those sore muscles after giving them a workout. Right?
Set in a stunningly lush, forested canyon, Termas Geométricas stands above all the others. And you can see why. This Japanese-inspired set-up is a network of red wooden walkways built over a rushing waterway, complete with waterfalls.
There are 17 pools to soak in, each of them with different temperatures that are naturally regulated by channelling piping hot thermal spring water and mixing it with varying amounts of cold spring water. Some pools will scold you, others may be a little too cool. And then you find one that’s just right.
Change rooms and toilets are located close to the pools, and there’s even a cafe heated by a fogón.
Getting to Termas Geométricas.
If you have your own off-road vehicle, or one that can handle a relatively rough road, driving there takes about two hours. Alternatively, many of the tour agencies in Pucón can get you there for around 3500 pesos per person. This price includes return transport and entry to the springs.
How we got to Pucón from Puerto Varas.
Turbus can get you there in 5-6 hours for 9300 pesos per person from the Turbus depot on Avenida Del Salvador. Check the map for location.