Puerto Varas is located twenty kilometers from the regionâ€™s capitol Puerto Montt. It is a small, cozy town settled on the south western shores of Lake Llanquihue. Its nickname is City of Roses and it is considered to be one of the prettiest cities in the Chilean Lakes Region. The town is located upon a hill which allows for great views of two amazing volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, which are located near the area.
The town was initially founded in 1854 by Vicente PĂ©rez Rosales. He developed the small port town to assist Puerto Montt as a lake navigation center and commercial area. Upon realizing the special qualities, beauty, and size of Lake Llanquihue (it is the third largest lake in South America), Puerto Varas was made an official port city December 30th, 1927. Puerto Varas tourism sprang into action around 1934 with the building of the first major hotel, which is now home to the village casino. Soon after the construction of the hotel the road to the town of Ensenada, 45 kilometers away, was built. The dirt road, which is now paved, follows the shores of the lake, eventually leading to Volcano Osorno.
The German settlers of the early 1900â€™s were definitely on to something and the town has grown to a year-round population of 28,000 inhabitants. This number doubles in size during the tourist months of December through March. The main source of income for the locals is the production of milk, cattle, sausages, and other agricultural products. The Puerto Varas farming has provided the restaurants with a tasty array of fresh produce, creating an outstanding quality of dishes. Seafood and fresh water fish are also delectable in these parts.
Puerto Varas tourism is the second source of financial gain for the local people. Puerto Varas is an outdoor loverâ€™s playground. Set at sixteen feet above sea level, it offers tons of different excursions, including sea and lake kayaking, fly fishing, volcano tours, river rafting, horseback riding, and hiking. There is also skiing offered during the winter months on the slopes of Volcano Osorno. For those not so interested in the outdoors, there is a tour of the beautified, early 1900â€™s homes of the German settlers, the antique churches of the same time period as well as museums explaining the history of the area.
Due to being a major tourist draw, the village is filled with all varieties and qualities of hotels and restaurants. There are multiple four and five star accommodations, hostels, and famous houses of the colonial period that have been transformed into hospedajes (hostel-like accommodations). It is important to book a hostel or hotel reservation in advance during high season. The restaurants are a diverse, eclectic mix, offering everything from sushi to Mexican food, not to mention the regular Chilean fare.
Puerto Varas is a recommended stop for those traveling in this area of Chile. Although it is quiet during the winter months, it is good place to learn about Chilean culture and people. If visiting during the off season keep in mind that most restaurants are not open on Sundays and some hotels shut down completely.