Santiago, Pucon, Valdivia, Frutillar, Puerto Varas

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Santiago, Latin America's Sophisticated Capital

Back over the Andes to Chile and we find ourselves in the most civilized capital city since.... I can't remember.
We whiz to our hostel on a gleamingly clean and modern metro, glide up to street level on a funky escalator, and find ourselves on a spotless street with a mix of well kept old buildings and modern skyscrapers.

After a day of exploring around the pleasant pedestrianized city centre, in the evening we decide to check out Bellavista, Santiago's bohemian heart. We loved this area, it has a mix of lively bars and foreign restaurants that could rival any big European city. After enjoying a platter of middle eastern food, we grab a table on a terrace outside a bar, buy a litre of beer for the bargain price of 1 uk pound, and watch as the street fills up with Saturday night's party-goers. We're pleased to say that not even the Chileans go out as late as the Argentinians and at 10pm the bars were already fairly busy. We don't stay for long though as we've been invited to a birthday party out in Santiago's suburbs of Christian, a Chilean guy who we met in Panama. We had great fun at the party, and in addition to catching up with Christian, it gave us a great opportunity to meet other Chileans.

The next day, we walk up through a park to a view point over the city. Here it made us realise how close Santiago is to the mountains, as we could see snow capped peaks shooting up from the cities outskirts.

The Chilean Lake District

That evening we jump on a luxury sleeper bus south to Pucon, the main town in Chile's lake district. After a good night's sleep on a comfortable flat bed, we wake up in a totally different world. Pucon is like a small Swiss style town with a laid back feel, on the side of a lake. The still snow capped Villarica volcano towering next to the town made for an amazing sight. That afternoon we hire some bicycles and head out to explore some of the surrounding countryside. The scenery is amazing, with fast flowing crystal clean rivers, blue lakes, complemented by a mix of deep yellow or lush green vegetation, with snow capped mountains and volcanoes in the background. This would be up there with the best scenery we've ever seen.  

The next day we went on a 6 hour hike up and around the beautiful mountain lakes of the Huerquehue national park. The peacefulness of the area, the stillness and pureness of the water in the lakes, and the fresh mountain air made this a hike that we'll never forget.

Mini Germany

After Pucon, it was a quick stop to see the fish market and sea lions at the coastal town of Valdivia before continuing on to Puerto Varas. We're quite used to seeing British, French, Spanish, and even Dutch colonial influence on our trip around the world, but now it was time for something a bit more unusual. The area around lake Llanquihue in southern Chile was colonized by settlers from Germany and the homeland influence is still very much apparent in the architecture, the local food (Kuchen is on the menus everywhere) and the physical features of many local people. In addition to Puerto Varas, we checked out the small German settlement of Frutillar, which is home to the German Colonial Museum. It was a really pleasant small town by the lake and it felt so middle european that it was hard to believe we were actually still in South America.

So we say bye to the Kuchen, but not to worry as we know that some great chocolate awaits us in Argentina's chocolate capital Bariloche, our next stop.
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