Pucon: Best Things to Do in Chile's Adventure Capital
Pucon is the adventure capital of Chile, and it is not possible to get bored here for a minute with such a large number of activities to choose from - no wonder Pucon is so popular among backpackers. We've put together a list of the best things to do in Pucon, a beautifully set town on the lake's shore with Villarrica volcano on the backdrop.
We arrived in Pucon not that long time after we crossed borders between Bolivia and Chile, and we still could not believe how different those two neighboring countries were.
Pucon, often nicknamed Chile's adventure capital is a clean medium-size city sitting on the shore of Villarrica Lake with a perfectly cone-shaped Villarrica Volcano looming behind, and it has a completely different atmosphere.
We felt like we almost overnight appeared back in Europe, somewhere in a mountainous village in Austria.
Pucon is conveniently located in the heart of Chile's Lake District, and because of the awe-inspiring setting, it is quite easy to understand why the town is equally popular among foreign travelers and local visitors as well. Many backpackers arrive in Pucon to try one of many adrenaline or sports activities, and they do not leave disappointed.
There are so many things to do in Pucon, that you would have needed more time than an average traveler usually has to try it all, not mentioning the fact, that you would have needed at least double your daily budget as Pucon is not the cheapest destination in Chile.
We've narrowed down the list of the best things to do in Pucon, both in the summer and winter, so get inspired by the activities possible to try when in this adventurous South American town.
Some of the best things you can do in Pucon are budget-friendly such as admiring the volcano from a distance, while other activities such as volcano climbing, white water rafting or skiing can be quite expensive, but we promise that everyone will find here the favorite activity according to budget and travel style.
HIKING IN HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK
There are several national parks around Pucon, but Huerquehue National Park caught our eyes from the very beginning.
The nature in the park is truly stunning, and there are several trails you can choose from, so it does not matter if you prefer to do short hikes, full-day trips or multi-day treks, you will for sure find the best option here for you.
One trail was closed because there was still snow on the path (a guy in the information center told us there had been a harsh winter that year), we did not want to do the most popular but crowded Los Lagos Trail, so we opted for the six-hour climb to Cerro Sebastian, and if you have time, we recommend you to follow this trail as well, because the views from the top were splendid.
To get to Huerquehue National Park, you need to take a bus from Caburgua Bus Terminal (check schedule one day in advance, it changes depending on the season). The ride takes 45 minutes and the return ticket costs CLP 4000.
The must-do activity and the main reason why so many travelers put Pucon on their itinerary is climbing Villarrica Volcano.
The climb to the top takes approximately four or five hours, depending on the pace of your group (you cannot climb Villarrica volcano on own) and on the weather. It is not uncommon that the climb is rescheduled in the morning or you will have to return even when half way up because of unstable weather conditions or volcanic activity.
Although this adventure is a must-do, always consider how fit you are to make it safely to the top.
You will need to use ice axe and crampons when hiking up because there are snow and ice on the path. When you get to the top, you will have great views of the crater and other volcanoes around. The way back is challenging as well, but the fun part is that you can ride on a sled for a bit!
You can shop around in Pucon for a guided tour, but always make sure you'll have experienced guide, good equipment, and never pay the full amount before your climb but only a deposit in case of cancellation.
OJOS DE CABURGUA
Pucon and its surroundings are full of waterfalls, but the most popular one is Ojos de Caburgua, a series of falls creating crystal clear and turquoise pools.
Waterfalls are on the private property, so you need to pay CLP 1000 per person entrance fee, but the place is nice, clean, and you'll be walking on well-built wooden boardwalks (it is not possible to swim here anymore).
You have several options on how to get to Ojos de Caburgua.
You can either rent a bike in Pucon and do a one-day trip, rent a car, take a tour or travel by bus to Caburgua Lake, from here walk to the waterfalls and later return to the main road and take a bus back (this is what we did).
Caburgua Lake is another picturesque water surface near Pucon where you can go for a half-day trip.
You can either rent a bike or take a bus from Pucon's Buses Caburgua Terminal. The ride takes less than 30 minutes, and you will pay CLP 800 one way.
You can relax and sunbathe on the Caburgua Lake's shore, walk on the dark sand beach or rent a canoe or paddle board.
WALK AROUND LAKE VILLARRICA
As we said before, Pucon is really not a classic South American town. It is way too clean, and when walking in the center, you'll find here many fancy restaurants, bars, bakeries or coffee shops, where, when backpacking around the continent, you'll find treats you hadn't have for ages.
Refresh in the town, or pack a take-away, and enjoy a leisure stroll around Villarrica lake (you can even go jogging here).
Pucon is not a budget-friendly destination, so enjoy this completely free activity with perfect views as much as you can.
TRY WATER SPORTS
Surrounded by lakes and rivers, Pucon is a great base for any watersport you might think of.
Pucon belongs among the best white water rafting destinations in Chile, the best place to go rafting is the Trancura river which offers, depending on the water level and season rapids from class I to V, so it is awesome for families with kids, inexperienced rafters or even for professionals.
When rafting seems too wild for you, it is possible to try kayaking on Licura River, or you do not need to travel anywhere, stay in Pucon and rent a paddleboard or canoe and enjoy a lazy afternoon exploring Villarrica Lake.
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SKIING & SNOWBOARDING
Pucon is one of those lucky destinations, where the season does not die off in mid-autumn, but thanks to the mountains around and great weather conditions, it is quite lively during the winter as well. Before you start packing, only a quick reminder that seasons are opposite in South America, so you can expect snow in Pucon from June to October.
Less than 20 kilometers away from Pucon lies a ski resort which is not very modern, but on the other hand where else you will have a chance to ski or snowboard on an active volcano?
Skiing in Chile is for sure not the cheapest, and Chile is not a traditional skiing destination for travelers from Europe or from the USA, but if you are in the area when the mountains are covered with snow, it must be a unique experience.
Thanks to the volcanic and geothermal activity around Pucon, you can enjoy relaxing in warm water in natural hot springs. There are several places where you can go, but the most popular hot springs are Termas Geometricas in Panguipulli where you can find several pools with different temperatures, and it is not hard to spend here all afternoon.
We are usually not big fans to sit in the pools and do nothing, but in Geometricas Hotpools there are 17 pools, so it takes time before you'll try them all.
The hot springs are 90 kilometers from Pucon, so if you want to travel independently, you need to take a bus to Temuco which serves as a transportation hub for the area (Jac bus company), and here you need to change a bus to Panguipulli as there is no direct bus, or you can take a hassle-free tour which includes both transport and admission.
RENT A BIKE
You do not to be super adventurous to enjoy outdoor activities in Pucon.
Almost every shop in town rents a bike for either half day or full day, and although the price is about one third more expensive than in San Pedro de Atacama, it is an interesting way how to explore the region without renting a car or using public transport.
When cycling, you can visit hot springs just outside the town, or popular day-trails are to Caburgua Lake or waterfalls Ojos de Caburgua.
Some people say there is no better way how to see the world than from horseback, and we can only agree.
We tried horseback riding for the first time in San Agustin in Colombia, and there is nothing you should be worried about, even though you do not have any experience. The landscape around Pucon is picturesque with many hills, meadows, lakes, and volcanoes, and it would be hard to find a better activity when you can connect with nature.
You can search for a horseback riding tour here.
WHERE TO STAY IN PUCON
Pucon is a top-destination in Chile every backpacker and adventure lover must to visit, but it is also a holiday destination for local people who love to arrive in the city anytime they can, but especially in the summer.
This situation means two things. You can find many accommodation options in Pucon, but you often need to book your room well in advance (even in the winter, because Pucon is winter resort as well).
We've handpicked three best hotels for every budget category.
Budget | Hostal French Andes - For the price, you will get amazingly clean rooms, some are dormitories while some private. Garden, kitchen, wifi, and views of the volcano are another reason why to stay here.
Mid-range | Enjoy Gran Hotel Pucon - Beautifully appointed rooms, poolside sundeck overlooking the lake, gym, large garden, that's all in the center of Pucon. Great value for money.
Luxury | Mirador Los Volcanes Lodge & Boutique - Wooden and rustic cabins guarantee privacy, while large windows offer stunning views of the surrounding. The property features free wifi, breakfast, and swimming pool.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK WHEN VISITING PUCON
Packing for Pucon depends on in what season you plan your travels and on your preferred activities.
In the summer, from December to February you can expect warm days, but it can rain as well and afternoons can be quite windy (the wind is not that warm usually), while winters are very cold.
That means one thing you need to pack a bit of everything.
Fleece Jacket for Him & for Her | Although days during the summer were warm, we found fleece jacket useful in the morning or later in the afternoon, and you will for sure need it when traveling in Chile outside summer months.
Rain Poncho | It can rain anytime in Pucon, so no matter if you go hiking or biking, always pack a rain poncho.
GoPro | For all outdoor activities it is better to have an adventure camera. If you do not have it yet, we think it is worth it to invest in this item.
Sunscreen | Sun is strong in Pucon, do not underestimate it and protect yourself against sunburnt.
HOW TO GET TO PUCON
Despite its small size, Pucon is a well-known destination, and it is not hard to get there.
We traveled to Pucon from Santiago de Chile, which was a 9-hour uneventful overnight journey.
From Pucon, you can carry on either south and get slowly closer to Chilean Patagonia, or you can cross borders to Argentina and explore the Lake District in this country.
You can also visit a Puerto Varas, like we did, before we started our Carretera Austral road trip.
The closest airport to Pucon is the one in Temuco.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
The airport is 90 kilometers from Pucon, so you can reserve a shuttle to get there smoothly.
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