Pristine Beauty

This journey will take you from the land of the Mapuche near Temuco to Argentina and then back to the southern Chilean lake region near Puerto Montt, which is distinguished by German settlers.

The area around Temuco is called “Araucanía” – thanks to the many araucaria trees that grow there in the altitudes. This area is the region with the highest indigenous population in Chile and the center of Mapuche culture in Chile.
“Mapuche” means “people of the earth” (mapu = earth, che = human). Originally, the entire area between the “little north” of Chile and the Island of Chiloé was home to the Mapuche.
Depending on the region, they lived either as farmers, fishermen or hunters and are also famous for being very skilled silversmiths and weavers. Today, many Mapuche communities are engaged in tourism.

Chile’s southern lake region is the gateway to Patagonia – and a very special zone, because around 1850 German settlers began to settle down in this once inaccessible wilderness. Many were disappointed by the German revolution of 1848 and attracted by promises made by the Chilean government. Hundreds of artisan and peasant families came to the region to seek a better life. Their traces are still present everywhere today.
At the same time you will find some of the most pristine and beautiful landscapes of Chile there and the region is also famous for its delicious food.
With your own rental car you are flexible to discover all the amazing attractions of beautiful southern Chile – a really unique experience!
Well planned with the right partner, a rental car trip to Southern Chile is safe and uncomplicated.

It’s best to plan your trip in Chile with your own rental vehicle in stages and to cover the long distances with domestic flights. Car-Rental-Chile makes it possible: We will be happy to advise you on domestic flights and assist you with the booking process.

First of all, a few tips on trips with a rental car to Southern Chile and Argentina:
You should be prepared for some rainy days, even in summer. However, when the sun shines, the radiation is quite high, even if the temperatures are not. So, in addition to rain gear, you should always have sunscreen in your equipment.

Some roads are remote gravel roads where you rarely see other vehicles. There may be poor cell phone reception, so in case of a breakdown you should be well prepared. In order to make sure you do not have to worry about emergencies, Car-Rental-Chile offers additional accessories such as emergency kits, extra spare tires, and tools.
Please be aware, that many remote roads are made of gravel, sand or stones, so we recommend careful driving. Keep in mind that, on gravel roads you can only go about half as fast as on asphalt.

There are many accommodations between Temuco and Puerto Montt, ranging from simple campsites, hostels, holiday homes and middle class hotels to extravagant luxury hotels and boutique hotels. There is something for every budget and every need! With your own rental car you are flexible and can adapt to weather.

Be respectful! Although many Mapuche open their doors to tourists and explain their ceremonial items, instruments, clothing and rites to the travellers, many things remain sacred to them to this day. If you are offered to wear traditional clothing, play instruments or join the demonstration of a ritual, don‘t be shy! However, please do not just take or use instruments and other items and always ask kindly for permission before taking pictures of people.

There are wild pumas living in the area. However, they generally avoid people. In case you should encounter one, for instance in the Alerce Andino National Park, please stay calm and create the impression to be a very large animal by staying close together and holding your backpacks over your head.


Sample Itinerary for a Rental Car Trip from Temuco to Puerto Montt:

Araucanía Airport/Temuco – Pucón
Pick up your rental car at the Araucanía airport near Temuco. Please have your driving license and a credit card ready, since a copy of the card must be deposited as a guarantee. The copy will be erased upon return of the car, if there is no damage.

Start your journey on Ruta 5 Sur towards Freire and then follow the signs to Villarrica and Pucón. Spend the rest of the day exploring the lovely tourist town of Pucón, dine at one of the many restaurants and relax on the beach of Lake Villarrica. It is also a good idea to drop by one of the many agencies and see the offer of guided excursions for the next few days.

Overnight stay in Pucón or surroundings. Distance covered: about 95 km on asphalt.

Around the Villarrica Volcano
The Villarrica volcano is stunning – both because of its perfect shape and snow cap like from a picture book and because it is still active! During the day, smoke rises occasionally from the crater and at night you can often see a red glow over its cone, a fascinating reflection of the lava inside. If you love hiking and are in a good physical condition, you can climb the volcano with a professional guide (book in advance!). Take a look into the crater and then slide downhill on the snow with a special suit – a really unique full-day excursion!

For those who do not dare to do this, we recommend a visit to the caves below the volcano: About 2 million years ago, the top layer of the lava flowing from the volcano began to solidify, while the underlying layers continued to flow. This gave origin to tunnels which reach 300m deep into the volcano. Those caves can be visited with a guided tour, where you can have a look at the lava stream from below. Afterwards, there is enough time for an afternoon rafting adventure (book in advance!) or a trip to the three waterfalls “Salto El Leon”, “Salto La China” and “Salto Palguin”, about 30 km from Pucón.

Overnight stay in Pucón or surroundings. Distance covered depending on chosen excursion about 50 – 100 km on asphalt. The volcano climbing tour includes transfer.

Mapuche Culture and Healing Waters
Immerse into the Mapuche Culture today and visit a „Ruka“. There are plenty of options for a visit, you can choose between half-day, full-day and overnight stays. A half-day visit includes an introduction to social structure and traditions. You may ask questions, try on typical clothing, eat Mapuche delicacies and, if you like, you can play “Palin” with your host, a typical game similar to hockey.
If you come with more time, you can also take a cooking lesson or go on a horse riding excursion and much more. An overnight stay in a traditional Ruka is certainly a unique experience!
We recommend the Ruka Antu Rayen in Quehue, very close to Pucón (book in advance!). Señora Rosario and her husband Don Florencio receive their guests warmly; however, like many people in this region, they speak only Spanish and Mapudungun.

If you opt for the half-day visit, in the afternoon there is plenty of time to drive to the beautiful “Termas Geometricas” and let the day fade out in the warm pools inmidst of rocks and jungle.

Overnight stay in Pucón or surroundings. Distance covered: about 20 km (Mapuche) and about160 km (Termas Geometricas), partly on a gravel road.

Araukaria Trees
Today, take a hike through the beautiful ancient “Cold Rainforest” of the Huerquehue National Park, northeast of Pucón. The hike starts quite steeply, but the amazing view down to the valley is definitely worth every step. The path leads from one lagoon to the other, the lagoons being surrounded by primeval araucaria trees which gave the region its name and have been growing there since jurrasic times.

If you do not feel like hiking, take a panoramic drive from Pucón via the village of Curarrehue to the Lanin volcano on the border with Argentina. One oft he first things you will see entering the village, is the restaurant of the award-winning Mapuche cook Anita Epulef – a perfect place to have lunch (or dinner on your way back). Check opening hours and make a reservation in advance.
The further you head towards the Argentinean border, the more araucaria you will be able to see without a strenuous hike. However, there are several options for smaller hikes or walks as well as beautiful viewpoints. You will have to return at the Paso Mamuil Malal checkpoint, unless you have the permission papers to take your rental car to Argentina.

Overnight stay in Pucón or surroundings. Distance covered: Huerquehue National Park: about 70 km, partly on a gravel road. Lanin Volcano: about 160 km, partly on a gravel road.

Pucón – Huilo Huilo
Leave Pucón early towards Villarrica and then turn south towards Panguipulli. From Panuipulli follow the beautiful road along the lake of the same name to the private nature preserve „Reserva Ecologia Huilo Huilo“. Spend the rest of the day exploring the many options, Huilo Huilo holds for you.

Overnight stay in Huilo Huilo or surroundings. Distance covered: about 125 km, mostly on asphalt.

Huilo Huilo
Inmidst of an amazing landscape that could scarcely be more pristine, the Reserva Ecologica Huilo Huilo Natural Park is home to surprising hotels that will take you into a magical world of forest fairies and other fantastic creatures …

There is a wide variety of outdoor activities such as hiking in the virgin forest, rafting, canopy, theme hikes, jeep tours, water sports and in winter skiing, snowshoeing and sleigh rides. Most of the activities are guided.
In the park, there is a Huemul conservation project. Huemuls are an endemic small deer species, threatened with extinction. Furthermore, Huilo Huilo places great emphasis on sustainability. Besides environmental protection measures, local education projects prepared the local people from Neltume and surroundings for jobs in the tourism industry or as artisans who sell their crafted goods in and around the park.

Due to the many options of things to do, we recommend to stay at least three nights before contuniung your journey.
Overnight stay in Huilo Huilo or surroundings. Distance covered depending on activity.

Huilo Huilo – San Martin de los Andes
Say goodbye to the fairies at Huilo Huilo and drive a short distance down the gravel road to Puerto Fuy. Take the ferry to cross the very long and narrow Lago Pirihueico where the road to San Martín de los Andes in Argentina continues. Be sure to have all the papers for border crossing at hand.

Use the rest of the day to explore the nice town of San Martin de los Andes. With its many wooden chalets, it resembles an idyllic Swiss village. Depending on the season and weather conditions, you can go swimming in Lake Lacar or go to the nearby ski centers for winter sports or hiking.

Overnight stay in San Martín de los Andes or surroundings. Distance covered: about 60 km on a gravel road.

San Martín de los Andes – Villa la Angostura
Today’s route itself is an attraction, since the road passes two national parks: The first part goes through the Lanin National Park, named after the volcano of the same name and the second part through the Nahuel Huapi National Park, named after the lake of the same name. The road is partly winding and covers mountainous areas. You will cross several rivers and come by several lakes. Lush green and beautiful turquoise blue in all shades are the dominant colors in this picture book landscape. The distance between San Martin de los Andes and Villa La Angostura is not too long, but take your time for lots of breaks – the route is just too beautiful to simply pass by! In some places you can even swim in the rivers or lakes. About 45 km before reaching Villa La Angostura, it is worth taking a short hike to the Cascadas Ñivinco waterfalls, a fantastic spot for a picnic!

Once you arrive in Villa La Angostura, you will feel as if you were in the Alps – wooden chalets everywhere between mountains and lakes. Villa La Angostura is considered one of the most beautiful places in the southern Andes and is nicknamed “Jardín de la Patagonia” (“Garden of Patagonia”).

Overnight stay in Villa La Angostura. Distance covered: about 108 km, including about 45 km on a gravel road.

Villa la Angostura – Puerto Varas
Today cross the border back to Chile at Paso Cardenal Antonio Samoré and then drive with your rental car towards Entre Lagos. This beautiful route leads through the Puyehue National Park with many options for walks or a picnic on a riverbank. There are mountains with dense cold rainforest, volcanos and waterfalls along the road.
From Entre Lagos you can either continue take Ruta 5 near Osorno to Puerto Varas, or turn south at Entre Lagos and drive on a country road past Lago Rupanco and Lago Llanquihue. This route takes a little longer, but is very nice. Stop in Frutillar. The beautifully restored houses are very picturesque next to the modern and impressing concert hall “Teatro del Lago”. The concert hall can be visited with a guided tour. The open-air museum in Frutillar showcases several restored houses from the early German settlement phase and a small cementery. Everywhere in town you will find German cakes and tartes.

After this nice stop, go on to Puerto Varas. If you arrive early, visit the family-run “Museo Antonio Felmer”, located about 10 km west of Puerto Varas, behind the village of “Nueva Braunau”. There, the grandson of a settler family leads guests through a well-sorted collection in a nicely restored old barn. A visit to this museum helps to understand the harsh living conditions the settlers faced upon arrival and during the first generations.

Spend the rest of the day strolling along the lakeshore in Puerto Varas and try some local delicacies.
There is a wide range of excellent gastronomy in Puerto Varas, some with lake views. The offer ranges from grill restaurants to fish specialties, great cafes, international cuisine and locally inspired burger and pizza adaptations, among others. For fish lovers, we recommend the restaurant “La Olla” (expect waiting times) with a large selection of local specialties and generous portions.

Overnight stay in Puerto Varas. Distance covered via country road, slower: about 235 km on asphalt. Distance covered via highway, faster: about 250 km on asphalt.

Volcano Osorno and Petrohue Waterfalls
After a delicious breakfast, go on a daytrip to the beautiful surroundings of Puerto Varas. Drive along the lakeshore towards Ensenada. First stop of the day is by the wild ‘Saltos de Petrohue’, rapids and waterfalls that seem to dance over the lava rocks that have their origins in former outbreaks of the nearby volcanoes. The waters have been shaping these impressive rocks for thousands of years. If the weather permits it, you can see the majestic volcano Osorno rising behind the rapids – like in a picture postcard! Follow the road a bit further until you reach the shore of Lago Todos los Santos. There is a small museum about the pioneers of tourism in the area and you may have a great view of the volcano Puntiagudo, the “peaked volcano”.

Go back to Ensenada and continue your tour driving up the perfeclty shaped Osorno volcano (2,660m). The road ends at 1,200m. Enjoy the unforgettable views of the mighty towering heights of the Osorno and the neighbouring volcanoes of Calbuco, Antillanca, Tronador, as well as to Lago Llanquihue, which lays below. Hike across the volcano’s immense lava fields, the panoramic views will improve with every step. Weather permitting, enjoy a ride by chairlift.

Overnight stay in Puerto Varas. Distance covered: about 150 km, mostly on asphalt.
Tip: On your way back, stop at the café “Onces Bellavista” and enjoy what in Southern Chile is called “Once Alemana” – the portions are huge and the home-made breads and cakes are delicious. Spectacular view of the lake and volcano round the experience up.

Alerce Andino National Park
Get up early today for a wonderful tour: The Alerce Andino National Park located on the first kilometers of the famous Carretera Austral, just south of Puerto Montt, offers a fairy tale landscape:
The forest is very dense, but where it opens, you will find crystal-clear rivers, waterfalls and secluded quiet lakes, surrounded by steep cliffs. There are some of the last millennia-old Alerce trees, that seem to reach directly into the sky. Hiking trails of different lengths and difficulties start from each of the entrances.
Probably the most beautiful hiking tour goes from the Lenca-entrance to the spectacular “Laguna Triangulo”. Depending on the fitness of the hikers and length of the break you take at the lagoon, this hike takes a total of 6-9 hours.

If you prefer not to hike, then you can go for a rafting adventure on Rio
Petrohue or take a sea kayak tour at the Reloncaví Fjord (book both in advance).

Overnight stay in Puerto Varas. Distance covered: about 120 km, including about 15 km on a gravel road.

Puerto Varas – Puerto Montt
On your way from Puerto Varas to the Airport in Puerto Montt, take a detour to the “Monumento Natural Lahuen Ñadi” to see, how the landscape in the whole region looked like before the German colonization around 1850. Due to excessive forest clearance, these wonderful Alerce forests exist today only in protected areas such as national parks – fortunately, there are quite many of them.

Then, drop off your rental car in Puerto Montt and take your return flight.
Distance covered: about 40 km on asphalt.