Chile's southern region of lakes and volcanoes is an expression of nature's inimitable aesthetic and startling exuberance. Between volcanic cataclysms, glacial sculpting, torrential rivers and massive temperate rainforests, this is very much a landscape in flux, modeling and remodeling itself before our eyes.
This area is home to one of the most remarkable indigenous cultures in the Americas, the Mapuches. For nearly three centuries, the Mapuches defended their homeland, La Araucania, from the Spanish conquistadors. Three centuries: such vigor! But that is the nature of the lake region.
Vigorous, yes; but safe and with a European elegance which is surprisingly familiar. As the Mapuches ceded their territory to the newly independent republic, European settlers flocked to this paradise of rich volcanic soils, ancient forests, and clear glacially formed lakes whose waters reflect the chain of active volcanoes along the eastern horizon.
These settlers cut and burned the massive tracts of temperate rainforest back into the mountains and built their towns throughout the central valley, in select ports along the wild Pacific coast, and upon the shores of myriad rivers and lakes. The pastoral landscape which characterizes the central valley in this region - broad undulant pastures, German-style farmhouses, quiet tidy lakeside pueblos - can be attributed largely to the industry and vision of these 19th century immigrants.
If the Lake Region's forests were a challenge and threat to these first settlers, to the modern-day traveler they are a source of wonder. In the northern portion of the Lake Region, La Araucania, national and private parks protect the last tracts of Araucaria trees, an ancient conifer dating from the Jurassic age and now a Chilean natural monument. The towns of Temuco and Pucón, built in the heart of the Mapuche homeland, provide access to the rivers, lakes, forests and volcanoes that make this one of Chile's prime adventure travel destinations.
Further south, the Valdivian Rainforest - the second largest temperate rainforest in the world - blankets the mountains of the coast and the Andes. The cities of Valdivia, Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt are jumping-off points for excursions among the chain of beautiful lakes which nose into the Andes, in some places straddling the continental divide which marks the Chile-Argentina border.
Where the Central Valley finally sinks into the Pacific and Chilean Patagonia begins, magnificent old-growth Alerce forests are home to the world's second longest-lived tree: examples of this endangered conifer surpass 3500 years of age.
Each of the destination cities in the Lake Region feature excellent hotels, dining, shopping and transportation services, and put you within reach of diverse attractions for all tastes, ages, and levels of fitness. Of particular interest is the chain of National Parks that extends along the Argentine border, protecting habitats ranging from forest to volcanic plateaus.
Visits to these parks, Andean lake cruises to Argentina, and numerous lakeside resorts are excellent great trip ideas for families or the general interest traveler. More adventurous or specialized travelers will find nearly limitless opportunities for hiking and mountaineering, whitewater rafting, birdwatching, mountain biking and horseback riding, among other activities.
Thanks to the Tourism Promotion Corporation of Chile : 202-530-4109