A Volcanic New Year’s Eve in Puerto Varas

Santiago Chile
Santiago Chile

After Valparaiso, we headed to Chile’s capital, Santiago. We didn’t get up to too much here except for wander around places with air conditioning to give us some respite from the 35 degree heat. I didn’t really gel with Santiago, but perhaps we were unlucky. All the museum workers were on strike while we were here, so after walking around the major park, we just found ourselves a little stuck for things to do. I was very ready to leave when we hopped onto our night bus to Puerto Varas.

Puerto Varas Lake Llanquihue

Founded and built by German immigrants, Puerto Varas looks like a town in the Bavarian alps, except on the shore of the second biggest lake in Chile and swap mountains for active volcanos! It is quite breathtaking.

The town itself certainly feels geared to a certain type of tourist, there were a number of outdoor brands such as The North Face with shops and lots of hire car places. I was still harbouring my desire from San Pedro de Atacama of hiring a car, so we made a plan to hire a car for the next day and some bikes so we could drive out towards the volcano and cycle a trail up that way. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a car big enough to fit two bikes in so we thought we’d settle for a drive and then a hike.

La Marca Steak

We ended our day with one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. One of the benefits of being English in South America is it’s fairly easy to get table reservations at busy restaurants, as you’re more than happy to get a table when they open at around 6.30/7pm. I am typically quite bad at taking photos of food, because I’d rather just get eating, so this is a photo of Jonny’s half eaten steak, sorry. If you ever happen to be in this part of the world and are a meat eater, please get steak at La Marca. Honestly, we ate quite a lot of steak once in Argentina but this beat all of them.

Puerto Varas

New Year’s Eve rolls around and we go pick up the car and set off with some lunch to our hiking destination and I felt pretty gutted to be doing the driving as everything was SO BEAUTIFUL. (To be honest, I think Jonny was pretty gutted I was doing the driving too because I am a terrible driver.) It’s really difficult to not just stare slack-jawed at the ominous, snow capped volcano. The last couple of kilometres of road to our destination was actually still covered in volcanic ash from the last eruption. We were pumped.

Puerto Varas
Puerto Varas river
Puerto Varas

We got out of the car and all of a sudden we were SWARMED by these big black flying insects, with red bottoms. There were dozens of them, all around us. You could see lots of people swinging items of clothing around them. It was unbearable. They were buzzing in our ears and we had no idea what they were and it was horrific, so we got back into the car and were like, we’re going to have to go back and put some DEET on or something, we’re going to get killed. So we drove all the way back to our hostel and did some googling. They were tabaños, or a type of horse fly, bigger than the sort we get in the UK. Just our luck, they only exist in the area in late Dec/early January and are also attracted to dark colours, aka my entire wardrobe. The last thing I wanted to deal with was a horse fly bite, but just having lots of big flies buzzing in your ears and face was incredibly unpleasant. We decided to sack off the hike and to just drive around the entirety of Lake Llanquihue instead and get out and take photos at beauty spots.

puerto-varas-04 Puerto Varas

It ended up being a great day and a lovely little road trip. There were places to stop along the way, including lovely hidden emerald coloured pools, shady and free from horse flies.

Puerto Varas Lake Llanhique

The further round the lake we got, the greener and more farm-like it got, with stunning views of three volcanos on the other side of the lake.

Puerto Varas Hire Car Puerto Varas volcanoes

We got back in the late afternoon and after a quick shower, headed to the sister hostel for an NYE barbecue. Unlike Christmas Eve, we actually got a barbecue this time! At midnight UK time, I facetimed my parents and then my very drunken besties. Once it got dark, we headed down to the lake to watch the town’s firework display. They were done from a barge on the lake and it might not have been the most impressive fireworks display I’ve ever seen, but knowing those volcanoes were looming behind in the darkness made it so damn cool.

Puerto Varas NYE

We then had a little dance in the street to a fun, brass-heavy band to finish the most interesting NYE I’ve ever had.

Now I’d love to know: where’s the best place you’ve spent NYE? I’d love to hear your stories!