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Puerto Octay

Visiting the small, picturesque village of Puerto Octay, on the northern-most shore of Lago Llanquihue, is like taking a step back into time to when the German colonists first came. This port town has typical farmhouses, many over a century old, surrounded by orchards. Across the countryside are mills from the colonial period. From the pier leave boats, carrying products to other destinations and vacationers on tours around this placid lake. On the eastern horizon rise Volcanoes Osorno (2,652 m/8619 ft) and Puntiagudo (2,190 m/7118 ft).


With the first Mapuche peace treaty signed in Osorno, Bernardo Philippi and Vicente Pérez Rosales opened the door for immigrants to come settle the Lake District. In 1852 a group of Germans arrived, establishing Playa Maitén. Two years later on this inlet others founded Puerto Octay, 9 kilometers (5.4 mi) to the west. This new port on Lago Llanquihue northern shore soon became the most important on the Puerto Montt-Osorno trade route. Legend says the village received its name thanks to those in search of Cristino Ochs’ general store, the only one in the area. Directions, it is told, were given as “donde Ochs hay” – or where Ochs is. Slowly Puerto Octay lost its place, though. After the Pan-American Highway was built, going through the villages along the western shore of the lake, Puerto Octay lost its importance. By the later half of the 20th century, this once bustling port became a sleepy little town.


Puerto Octay seemingly entered a time capsule. Its atmosphere is much more relaxed than the more touristy German towns on Lago Llanquihue, like Frutillar and Puerto Varas. Much of the traditional architecture remains, earning Octay the designation as an Architectural Monument. Strolling around the village, you’ll see some stunning examples of these buildings done in Primitive, Neo-Classic and Chalet styles. From the main plaza you’ll come across the Iglesia Parroquial (1911) and its even older parish house, and the former Escuela de Monjas (1913). One of the oldest structures in town is the chapel built by Nicolás Mayewsky in 1867.


Two of the places to learn more about the history of Puerto Octay are on the way to PenĂ­nsula Centinela. In the former home of the Niklitschek clan is the Casa de la Cultura Emilio Held Winckler, which has photos, historical documents and personal articles of the settler families. The center is open December-February: Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 3-7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Av. Independencia 591, Tel.: 69-1490). On the second floor is Museo El Colono with a collection of objects, photographs and machinery illustrating the daily life of the immigrants and the town's history (daily 10:15 a.m.-1 p.m., 3-5 p.m. Av. Independencia 591, piso 2, Tel.: 39-1266, E-mail:, URL: Entry: adults $2, seniors $1.40, children to 12 years old free). Also on the way to PenĂ­nsula Centinela is GalpĂłn Museo (Camino a Centinela s/n).


Three kilometers (1.8 mi) southwest of Puerto Octay is PenĂ­nsula Centinela. This five-kilometer (3-mi) long arm of land is fringed by Playa La Baja, a fine-sand beach. From the dock leave boat tours of the lake. Paddle-boats are also rented. Part of the Centinela is a nature preserve, laced with hiking trails. At the end of the peninsula is Hotel Centinela, originally a family vacation home, built in 1914. Campsites are also present in this area.


Going north along Lago Llanquihue, you come to Playa Maitém (9 km/5.4 mi). This gently sloping beach, surrounded by luxurious forests of maitén (Maytenus boaria) trees is a perfect place to camp, picnic or fish. It was here that the first families settled in 1852. Its church was built in 1867 by Miguel Majevsky. Even more tranquil is Playa Puerto Fonck, 23 kilometers (14 mi) from Puerto Octay. This village has well-preserved colonial buildings, including another Miguel Majevsky church, with a rose-window façade. Puerto Fonck also has an excellent beach at which to rest, picnic and fish.


Puerto Octay forms part of two scenic routes (rutas). With local rural and ecotourism providers, explore the mountain landscapes, searching for the mythical City of the Cesares, along the Ruta de los Césares. The Ruta de la Colonización seeks out the cultural and gastronomic legacy of immigrant to Lago Llanquihue. Other possible expeditions from this town include a hike around Volcán Osorno to Lago Todos los Santos, or a three-day mountain bike tour around Lago Llanquihue.


The biggest event on Puerto Octay’s calendar is Festival El Salmón de Oro. During the first week of February, musicians converge in the municipal stadium to bring these hills alive with music.




Municipalidad de Puerto Octay (Esperanza 555, Tel.: 39-1860, E-mail:, URL:, Banco Estado (P. Montt 345; ATM: MasterCard, Cirrus; exchanges U.S. dollars, Euros), Correo (Esperanza 555), Hospital (P. Montt 601, Tel.: 25-9258). The town also has Internet, call centers and carabineros post. Pick up your fishing license at the Municipalidad (Esperanza 555, Tel.: 39-1490).



Bike Way (V.A. O'Connor 867, Tel.: 42-4202) – bike rental

Canopy Chile (camino a Las Cascadas, Km 17, Tel.: 23-4020, E-mail:



Fábrica Artesanal Longanizas (Sector La Gruta, Tel.: 09-265-1840)



Camping El Molino (Costanera Pichi Juan 124, Tel.: 39-1375) -- $20 per site (up to 6 persons)

HosterĂ­a La Baja (PenĂ­nsula de Centinela, Km 4, Tel.: 08-218-6897, -- $13 per person

Zapato Amarillo (Camino a Osorno, Km 2.5, Tel.: 21-0787, E-mail: /, URL: – dorm $14 per person, single $30, double $24-30 per person; use of kitchen, bike rental; speak English, German, Spanish

Hotel y Marina Centinela (Península de Centinela, Km 4.5, Tel.: 39-1326,, URL: – 1 person $118-142, 2 persons $124-148, suites $180-200



Baviera (Wulf 582, Tel.: 39-1460)

PacalĂş (P. Montt 713, Tel.: 39-1450)

Tante Valy (Km 26, Tel.: 39-1461)



(Altitude: 101 meters / 328 feet, Population: 3403, Phone Code: 064)



Other places nearby Puerto Octay: RalĂşn, Osorno, Valdivia, Parque Nacional Alerce Andino, PucĂłn, Curarrehue , Temuco, CuracautĂ­n, Frutillar and Lago Llanquihue.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

01 Jul 2009

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