Small Pucón for big Chilean adventure
With a bit over 20,000 inhabitants, Pucón is a center for travelers from around the world with numerous excursions to surrounding regions but the town itself offers great local food for every taste out there, with great local beer, and all of that was built on heritage of people from many countries that found their perfect spot there. A relatively young city, established in 1883, it is strategically placed at entrance of the Trancura Valley thanks to Argentinean army but it turned out it is strategically placed for tourists too.
Pucón is located 800 or so kilometers from Santiago and accesible via weel-known Panamericana Route or from Argentina via Mamuil Malal Pass. What's interesting is it micro climate. During winter months you have the perfect place for all snow related activities and during summer you may enjoy on sand beach in climate that's almost tropic. That, along with the fact that temperatures are from 4C to 23C, means that people are coming to the town all year round and it can be quite crowded sometimes.
Lake Villarrica and Villarrica Volcano are two of the main attractions there (take photos) and we recommend avoiding the period from December to March when up to 50,000 tourists are coming to ski season and it's almost impossible to enjoy the town and everything it's offering. And there are some. Pucón is small which means you can go anywhere without a car or a bike and you'll see that it's not that snow reminds you of Alps, it's its houses with plenty of wood similar to European towns you may see in Alps.
When there, you may get a feeling that Pucón is a bit "upper class" and you'd be right. It was the destination of choice for artists, intellectuals and members of high society and even today Chileans think about it as a destination for higher class tourists, so to speak, although the city has evolved into a destination for everyone, even for those with a backpack and desire to travel and nothing else. Activities these days range from having fun in the casion to hanging around in a local restaurant.
While at good places to eat and drink, we must mentions several places to illustrate how diverse your experience can be. Cassís is a chocolatería, specializing in sweet treats of all kinds. This is the place for breakfast, they will tell you, but great pizzas are perfect for lunch too. Latitude 39º offers Western dishes for those of you who can't imagine a day without a burger. They also have a good beer selection. Then, Panadería, a place for cheap meals, but very delicious meals. Their selection of homemade bread stays shoulder to shoulder to best bakeries in Paris.
The Pucón's main beach - it's not so big but it's main - is one of the city's main attraction and in the high season you'll have hard time find a free spot for yourself. Although there are several beaches just a few miles outside, it seems that everyone likes to hang out on the main beach which is nicely located near the Gran Hotel Pucón. But Pucón's popularity comes from it's base position for all expedition for nature lovers.
You can visit a volcano Villarica - the weater is changing all the time and there could be a tiny eruption now and then so you should be careful - or enjoy relaxing moments in thermal pools. For those more adventorous, there is rafting, fishing, boat rents, canyoning and all other water activities. One thing not to be missed is a visit to a nearby national park with forests dating hundreds years ago and there is pudu - the smallest deer in the world, looks like the small creature just jumped out from some Disney story.
Back in town, you may enjoy colorful markets or a craft fair or you can visit Museo Mapuche to hear the story about Mapuche, warrior who weren't afraid of Aztecs, Incas or Spanish Conquistadors. Opening hours: When the owner has nothing else to do. But he tells great stories from the past. After that, take a walk from a pier on La Poza, visit Playa Grande to take some photos of surrounding hills, and via Ansorena Street pay a visit to the monastery with a spectacular view. Then - plan a new out of town trip because you can find an adventure wherever you go. ■