The lakeside town of Puerto Varas, Chile is picture-perfect – and an ideal destination within the Chilean Lake District to spend a day or two…or even more! During our time in the “City of Roses”, we discovered some of the best things to do in Puerto Varas, Chile – and we are sharing our top tips for travelers who want to experience the city like we did!
About Puerto Varas
Dating to the mid-1800s, Puerto Varas was built by a community of German immigrants. The town features traditional wooden houses and local fare that is heavily influenced by Germany. However, the unique architecture and food are only part of what makes the town one of the top Chile attractions. Puerto Varas also boasts an array of outdoor activities and absolutely stunning vistas.
Panoramas Puerto Varas
Puerto Varas sits on the edge of Chile’s second largest lake, Lago Llanquihue. The town’s waterfront is situated perfectly for panoramic views of Osorno and Calbuco Volcanos that sit on the other side of the lake. Although both volcanos are often shrouded in clouds, Puerto Varas weather changes throughout the day…and shifting winds can quickly sweep the clouds from the snowcapped peaks.
Things To Do in Puerto Varas
The best way to tour Puerto Varas is on foot. The Puerto Varas attractions listed below are all accessible via an easy walk. Our list of Puerto Varas things to do is perfect for visitors who have just one day or over a weekend. Travelers staying longer will likely want to add a day trip to their Puerto Varas itinerary – so we’ve made a few suggestions for the most popular Puerto Varas tours at the end of the post. We’ve also included a helpful Puerto Varas sightseeing map below.
Walk the Waterfront of Lake Llanquihue
The Llanquihue Lake is the main tourist attraction in Puerto Varas. Along the lake’s coastline there is a 1.5-mile walkway that allows visitors to take in the best views of Osorno Volcano. If you are beginning your walk from the Puerto Varas center, make your way to the Plaza de Armas main square and then walk out onto the pier for the first sweeping views of the lake.
Stroll to the south, passing a funky museum (more on that in a minute) and Playa Puerto Chico to the end of the lakefront path. Walk to the north to the most popular mirador de Puerto Varas (Puerto Varas Viewpoint): La Puntilla.
Take in the Views: La Puntilla
The La Puntilla Mirador Puerto Varas offers the most incredible views of the Lake Llanquihue and Osorno Volcano – and it’s just a half-mile walk from the main pier. Our best photos of Puerto Varas were taken from the La Puntilla vantage point.
At the center of the scenic outlook is a creative art sculpture of Princess Licarayen. The women, with her hands to the sky and wind in her hair, is the main character of the Mapuche legend of the lake and volcano.
Visit the Historic Church: Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus
The Catholic Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus (Sacred Heart of Jesus Church) is a national monument that showcases the town’s German influence. The church was constructed between 1915 and 1918 using native woods (ulmo and oak) and sheets of corrugated iron.
Designed to resemble the Marienkirche Church in Germany’s Black Forest, the interior is pristine. Featuring a royal blue ceiling, arches and a dome, it’s much bigger inside than we anticipated. The wooden benches and floors were constructed from local manio and laurel woods.
Below the church is a sunken park, Gruta Lourdes Park. A statue of the Virgin Mary sits in a cave surrounded by offerings. The green space is a peaceful retreat along the main road.
Trekking Puerto Varas: Parque Philippi
On the north side of the city, near Mirador La Puntilla, is a local forest park, Parque Philippi. We hiked the path to the top of the hill Cerro Philippi, where a wire cross stands above the town. Although the walk was pleasant, the summit didn’t provide the views we’d hoped to find. Nevertheless, the park provides a fabulous nature retreat just steps from the town center.
Puerto Varas Hiking
Adventurous travelers looking for a longer hike might want to consider a day trip from Puerto Varas to Volcan Osorno. Details at the end of the post!
Go to a Museum: Museo Pablo Fierro
The Pablo Fierro Museum is one of the most interesting places in town. The funky museum – which is easily identifiable from the unique exterior – houses Fierro’s artworks, as well as historic artifacts from the region. The collection tells the story of how the Germans integrated into the Chilote culture. Visitors are welcome to touch the exhibits and ask questions. Entrance to the museum is free.
Try Your Luck at the Casino Puerto Varas: Casino Dreams
We had no plans to gamble when we chose to stay in Puerto Varas; in fact, the main reason to visit the town is to spend time in the outdoors. However, when the weather turned brisk and blustery, we took the opportunity to warm up inside the city center Casino Dreams. Once inside, we couldn’t resist making a small deposit of $2 into a slot machine, which provided about 23 seconds of fun.
The casino itself is fairly typical, with rows of noisy machines and a few roulette and card tables, all shrouded in a haze of smoke. In addition to gambling, visitors can go to the casino for events and shows, like concerts and comedic acts.
Eat in Puerto Varas Restaurants
The restaurants in Puerto Varas feature a variety of local and international cuisine. From fine dining to cheap eats, visitors have a choice when it comes to eating out. Costumbrista is a highly-recommended local spot, but we enjoyed the simple comfort food – fresh-made tomato soup and a jamon y queso panini – at the charming Office located on Plaza de Armas. Find a list of the top-rated best restaurants in Puerto Varas on TripAdvisor.
Feria Artesanal Market
The small Feria Artesanal Market features about 10 shops selling local handicrafts. Fabrics, traditional clothing and jewelry are a few of the products on offer. There may only be a few sellers, but it is worth a quick peek at the wares they have for sale.
Puerto Varas, Chile Map
Use this link to access our Puerto Varas Map on Google Maps.
Day Trips from Puerto Varas
Much of the tourism in Puerto Varas revolves around visiting the nearby attractions, which can be experienced on day tours from the city.
Tour Puerto Montt
Visitors can easily take a day trip to Puerto Montt without the help of a tour or guide. Get details of what to do in Puerto Montt here. Tourists who would rather join a guided tour of Puerto Montt can get details from the Puerto Varas Information Office.
Osorno Volcano Tour
Let a guide lead the way on a half-day trekking trip to the famous Osorno Volcano. Get the details!
Learn about the history of the German pioneers in the city of Frutillar, where there is a Colonial Museum and preserved German architecture. Find out more!
Petrohue Waterfalls and Osorno Volcano Tour
Visit two of the region’s most beautiful natural wonders – the scenic Petrohue Falls and the iconic Osorno Volcano – on this 5-hour tour. Learn more here!
4-Day Chilean Lakes Region Tour
Let a professional guide plan all of the details of your 4-day itinerary of the spectacular lake district. Get the itinerary and trip details here!
What You Will Need For Your Trip
If you plan on trekking in the region, hiking poles may be useful for your trip.
Don’t forget travel insurance! Check rates and coverage of World Nomads insurance to travel protected.
Puerto Varas Hotels
When searching for Puerto Varas Accommodation, we were most concerned with location and price. We quickly found many options for hotels in Puerto Varas, Chile – and ended up staying at the quaint Hotel Weisserhaus in the city center. Enjoy Puerto Varas Hotel (previously Patagonia Hotel) is also highly recommended; check prices here. You can start your search for Puerto Varas, Chile Hotels on Booking.com – like we do!
Puerto Varas can be reached by plane, boat, bus or car.
Puerto Montt Airport to Puerto Varas
If flying, visitors will arrive at the Puerto Montt Airport. Secure transportation to your Puerto Varas hotel in advance on Viator.
Puerto Varas Bus Terminal
Where your bus terminates will depend on which company you use. Check with the bus company in advance to find out where your bus will arrive and/or depart.
Bariloche to Puerto Varas
We were arriving in Puerto Varas from Bariloche, Argentina – and found we had two main options to make the trip: a picturesque lake crossing or a 6-hour bus ride.
While the lake crossing via boat most appealed to us, it was unfortunately not within our budget at the time of our trip. The bus ride, although along a significantly less photogenic route, was economical at about $30 USD per person. We booked our seats in the front row, which gave us a view through the front windshield for the journey through the Andes Mountains. Not quite as scenic as the views from the boat excursion, but amazing scenery, all the same.
The actual border crossing from Argentina to Chile was both more basic and more intimidating than I thought it would be. All luggage – both carry-on and under the bus – had to be removed and inspected by police dogs (mainly sniffing for drugs, meat, cheese and other animal products). Meanwhile, we lined up inside to get our passports stamped.
The full-day excursion by boat from Bariloche to Puerto Varas is, by far, the most scenic route. The trip includes crossing three lakes – Nahuel Huapi Lake, Lake Frias and Todos los Santos Lake – with additional optional side trips. Because the lakes are not connected, buses are used to between the lakes to complete the trip. Get prices and book this trip now!
We want to know: What would you add to our list of things to do in Puerto Varas, Chile? Give us your best tips and advice in the comment section below!
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