Guest Post: Hiking in Chile
Julia Chan has just returned from the adventure of her life, travelling around South America, the South Pacific and South East Asia for 12 months with boyfriend John. Read more about her adventures in her blog A Chinese Nomad.
Hiking the Villarica Volcano in Pucon Chile
Last year my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of backpacking for a year around 3 continents. The start of our trip was in South America visiting Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
South America is a hiking paradise
We visited some great locations for walking, skiing, climbing. However, one of the standout days was in Pucon, Chile. You can get to Pucon either by coming from Santiago in the North on an overnight bus or if you’re in Argentina popping over the boarder at San Martin de Los Andes, which is a similar resort (the crossing can be closed at times due to snow fall).
Located pretty much in the middle of Chile, Pucon is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream: there’s hiking, rafting, horseback riding, skiing and fishing.
The main attraction is the Villarrica Volcano in Chile which stands over the town of Pucon. Standing at 2,847 m (9,341 ft.) the volcano is one the most active in Chile and has seen major eruptions in the past, the most notable being in 1964 and 1971. There’s a traffic light signal now in the town centre, which gives an indication of volcanic activity. It was green while we were in town!
The attraction of the volcano is that you can either ski in the resort built at the bottom of the volcano or climb to the top of it. We went for the climb.
Before being able to climb we needed to wait for a spot of good weather, this meant we had to wait five days. However, in that time we headed to the springs and to the local national park, which was spectacular covered in snow.
We booked with a company in the town centre that provide equipment if you haven’t got all the gear required. They also give the option to ski down from the top or slide down on a mini sled. We choose to sled down which was great fun.
The start of the walk is via the ski resort. You walk below the main ski lift with the terrain being flat. However once you start to climb, you need to put on your crampons if there’s been no snowfall and cold night causes the surface of the snow to freeze.
We were lucky and able to keep the crampons off. Along with the crampons we had an ice pick each and a layer to go over our usual walking clothes.
The climb was spectacular seeing the view from the volcano and the amazing ice, which had formed on the higher ski lift and an abandoned ski lift station further up the mountain.
The walk in total was about 5-6 hours setting off early about 8:00am. We reached 500 meters from the top when the weather and wind direction changed meaning the sulphur smoke coming from the top of the volcano was in the path taking us to the top.
If conditions are good you can trek into the crater and look down in the volcano. If you’re really lucky, you might see active lava fountains. Our luck wasn’t with us but we enjoyed the slide down the volcano, which took around 2 hours.
Some member of the group didn’t make it past the first 2 hours, and from the original group of 15 only 6 made it to the end. Altitude sickness can affect you but overall it wasn’t too strenuous a hike.
If you are in the area or planning on heading to Chile, then we fully recommend heading to Pucon and climbing up the volcano.