Encouraged by Manuel Montt, the President of Chile in the mid 1800s, the German government sponsored immigration to this area and Puerto Montt was founded in 1853. Hence, the port and surrounding Lakes District have a distinctive German flavour.
Driving into Puerto Varas on the huge Lake Llanquihue, the houses and shops have a Bavarian look but the backdrop of volcanos is uniquely Chilean. The beautiful, Fuji-like snow-capped peak of Osorno seemed to follow us all around the lake, while the now almost flat peak of Mt. Calbuco that erupted just ten months ago was often shrouded in cloud.
The ash from that recent eruption covers a large swath of the countryside and it’s easy to see why tourism has dropped in the area. However, there are still bus loads of tourists, both local and foreign, as well as backpackers getting supplies for their trek up to the craters and further into the Andes.
All six on this private tour were Canadian and, when told that we would be visiting the very special Petrohue Falls in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, we expected a high cascading waterfall. It is, however, a chute-type with water tumbling over various levels of volcanic rock. Add to this the backdrop of Osorno volcano through the trees and varied colours in the water and it is truly quite spectacular. A little further on in the park, past lava flows hardened long ago and Coihue trees unique to Chile, is Laguna Verde, a small emerald coloured lake (due to a combination of minerals and algae).
Our last stop, on the opposite end of the lake was Frutillar, another Bavarian-style village colonized in the late 19th century, which has a modern theatre with a wrap around walkway overlooking the lake. Tony and I especially enjoyed a series of cartoons depicting various composers on the walls inside. They were by Swiss artist, Jacques Truffert