Only 15 minutes north of the gritty port of Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas is a breath of fresh air on the azure shores of Lake Llanquihue, the largest lake in Chile. With its colorful German and alpine facades and views of the perfectly conical Osorno volcano, compact Puerto Varas is quickly becoming a magnet as a jumping off point for adventure travel in the lake region--kayaking, fly-fishing, trekking, and rafting.
The town itself feels like a mix of Europe and Chile and prides itself on being one of Chile's "greenest" small cities. Residents have fully embraced the local farm-to-table organic movement and local businesses making artisanal chocolates, beer, cheese, and sausages. Certainly, a shared heritage unites the people of Puerto Varas, a result of the German and Swiss influx in the mid-19th century. Some people still speak German at home, many schools are bilingual in German and Spanish, and German gastronomy mingles with southern-style Chilean seafood dishes. In many homes and businesses, portraits of golden-haired, pale-eyed ancestors hang on walls and last names like Krauss, Fischer, Bucher, and Braun are common.
To jump off into the astounding nature nearby, Puerto Varas is only an hour from Ensenada and Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales near the base of the volcano and turquoise waters of Lago Todos Los Santos (the official crossing to Bariloche, Argentina by ferry). Here, there is ample fly-fishing in the rivers, trekking, and picnic opportunities en route.