Subject: More about Chile: Lake District
Hello fellow Travelziners,

About a week ago Marta in Washington asked about travel in Chile. The following is a little bit about a trip we took in November of 2001.

We approached the Lake District from Puerto Montt after having spent a few days in Chiloe. We spent about 5 days in the Lake District traveling from south to north. You could spend a lifetime exploring this area. And we definitely plan on returning for more in depth visits. We were there in early November which was shoulder season, except for Puerto Varas things seemed very slow. We especially noticed this at the hotel in Puyehue which we shared with maybe one or two other guests. And we got a special low-season rate while we were there.

In Puerto Varas there are two restaurants you must try; first, Merlin, which is one of the finest restaurants in Chile. (Tel. 65/233105). We had a little difficulty finding it because they had moved since they had been written up in the guidebook we used.Old address was Martinez 584 new address is Imperial 605. And we just made it in time before they closed for the day. But it all came to fruition with an absolutely mouth-watering meal. Second, Cafe Mamusia, right in the center of town at San Jose 316. By the time you reach Puerto Varas if you haven't noticed the German influence on Chilean pastry chefs you won't be able to miss it here. The kuchen and other pastries are delicious. Try the thousand leaf torte! And when you're there berries will be in prime season. The raspberries are melt-in-your-mouth scrumpdiddleyicious!

We drove from Puerto Varas to Puyehue by way of Frutillar, and then off the main highway through Puerto Octay on the north shore of Lago Llanquihue past Lago Rupanco and on to Puyehue. This drive was fantastic despite the fact that it rained most of the day. We stopped for mid-morning coffee and kuchen in Frutillar and picked up an empañada (Chilean fast food) at a corner shop in Puerto Octay. I was really intrigued with Puerto Octay, a quiet small charming little town on the lake shore. I'd like to go back and investigate it further. The scenery was green, green rolling hills and pastureland interspersed with stands of hardwood forest. Lots of dairy cattle, raspberry farms, and an occasional flower bulb-producing farm. That day the rain kept us from seeing the volcanoes but the previous day and the days after afforded us ample views of the various snow-capped volcanoes, Calbuco, Osorno, Villarica, as well as the peaks of the Andes further to the east. In Puyehue we stayed at the Termas Puyehue Hotel and Spa: Truly a resort-style hotel with lots of spa treatments due to the thermal waters. We did a little bit of hiking and wish he had had time for more. The trees are out of this world! That's true for Torres del Paine as well. If you are considering doing some hiking I recommend getting Chile and Argentina: Backpacking and Hiking by Tim Burford published by Bradt Publications, UK and the Globe Pequot Press, USA.

>From Puyehue we headed north and west to Valdivia. My cousin had visited the town in the 70's and his descriptions always intrigued me. We weren't disappointed. We rented a room on one of the two rivers, Valdivia and Calle-Calle, that join at the city. Walking along the river watching the sculls and crews rowing by had us thinking we were in Boston or Oxford. We did visit the college located here, the University Austral of Valdivia, which has an exquisite botanical garden. And close by is another nice park, the Park Saval with a gigantic lotus pond. If you do go to Valdivia definitely make the short trip out to the coast to Niebla. The old Spanish fort and it's commanding view of the beautiful rivermouth and ocean is spectacular. We were fortunate to be there on a bright warm sunny day and loved it. The vantage point is fantastic. We were able to watch dolphins and seals working their way along the river hundreds of feet below us. And one dining recommendation for Valdivia, try the Cafe Haussmann for lunch. Their crudos (steak tartare) sandwich is quite tasty (and popular) and should be enjoyed with a frosty beer from the local brewery, Cervecería Kunstmann (notice the German influence).

Well Marta I hope this is helpful. I'll write about Torres del Paine soon. Maybe some of our other Travelziners can add a thing or two.

John in San Diego