Puerto Montt is known as the gateway to Chile’s Lake District and Patagonia but many travelers prefer to explore, eat and shop in nearby Puerto Varas, on Lake Llanquihue, the second-largest lake in the country. You can see the peaks of Osorno, Mt. Calbuco and Mt. Tronador from town, and there are fascinating flavors along with the stunning views. Puerto Varas is known for its German settlers and German architecture and food. From craft beers to baumkuchen (tree or log cake), you won’t go hungry in Puerto Varas’s atmospheric restaurants replete with good cheer. The town also has some lovely buildings like the 1918 "Wooden Church" and the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Church.
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.
Spring break in North America turned out to be the best time to visit this region. The hotels were reasonable, weather was crisp and sunny, but the people took the prize. We truly felt like guests in a town waiting to make our stay amazing.