After Santiago, we headed to Pucon, which is approximately 11 hours south of Santiago by bus. It’s a pleasant little town located in Chile’s lake district, and was the start of the Patagonia leg of our trip. The main attraction of the town is to trek to the summit of Villarrica, a snow-capped active (and one of Chile’s most active) volcano which can be seen from pretty much everywhere in town with smoke coming out of the top.
We did the trek on our second day in town. We were equipped with a bunch of snow gear from the operator we went through, which included ice axe, crampons, helmet, boots, gloves, pants, jacket, and a sled…
[Sadly, I forgot our camera for this hike in the rush to leave their office, so we had to rely on one of the guides’ 3 megapixel smartphone camera to prove that we in fact did make it to the top. Enjoy the grainy photos.]
We were quite lucky in that the weather obliged for our hike, since the hike is a no-go when there is any inclimate weather. Given the agreeable conditions, we didn’t necessarily need our cramp-ons. We relied heavily on the ice axe to brace ourselves as we were zig-zagging up the snowy/icy volcano. It was fairly steep in certain spots, so it required a bit of focus on each step to ensure we didn’t find ourselves sliding off of the side of the volcano.
We were able to get to the summit in approximately 5 hours, which featured an imposing smoldering crater at the top. We hung out at the top for a little while to take in the expansive views of the area and to fuel up for our exciting next leg of the trip: sledding down. I have to say, this was the most fun I’ve ever had on a descent. It tooks us roughly 30-40 minutes to sled down what took us 5 hours to hike up. There were a lot of little sledding lanes to go down.
Outside of the volcano hike, we just hung out in town and explored the general area. There is a lake with a beach in town which was pretty nice.
And we lucked out with our accommodation, we ended up getting a little cabin all to ourselves that came equipped with a television. We may or may not have watched a bit of HBO on our lazy post-hike day.