Tucked away in the Andes of Patagonia, Pucón is a sweet little city which booms with tourists in the summer months. It’s a mecca for adrenaline junkies and the perfect base for an action-packed holiday; think Queenstown, Taupo, and Tahoe. For the four days we were there, we felt a world away from South America and more like we were back in New Zealand!
Pucón sits on the eastern side of Lake Villarrica with stunning views of a snowy volcán (of the same name) which is one of the most active in South America. It’s a city but it has the charm and quaintness of a small town or village, as many lake and ski resort towns do. The streets are narrow and lined with low wooden lodges housing tour offices, cafe-cum-bars, and gift shops. It used to be a playground for the rich and still is really with its numerous spas, designer shops, and chic restaurants but these days, there are activities on offer to suit all budgets and that will keep you busy for weeks on end. We heard many times people say “we were only booked for 2 nights but have ended up staying 2 weeks!”
Sitting under the shadow of the volcano was our hostel, Chili Kiwi, our favourite hostel to date! Owned and run by a Chilean and a Kiwi (although you wouldn’t know it from his accent) they’ve really got the “hostel for backpackers, run by backpackers” thing down. Every night there’s a briefing in the bar about the many activities on offer in town, with helpful advice on what’s a good and bad investment because, like most adventure towns, the activities don’t come cheap! You also get tips on where to buy the freshest fruit and veg, the tastiest and cheesiest thin-crust and of course, the best beer, which happens to be onsite. They’ve built a craft beer bar offering great happy hour prices so it’s no surprise that guests tend to hang out there on an evening, watching the sunset from the beer garden…or the tree house but you have to get there early!
We opted to stay in one of the dorms and it was luxurious! The dorms are housed in lodges, equipped with their own kitchen and bathroom so you never have to wait to use the communal ones. Every bed has it’s own reading light and bookshelf and the mattresses are out of this world comfy.
Can you tell we liked the place?
If a dorm isn’t your thing, you can fork out a little more dinero to stay in the tree house or one of the newly built “hobbit houses”.
One evening, we hired a kayak from the hostel and explored the lake at sunset. There’s a huge peninsula that juts out onto the lake and access to its white sandy beaches are for residents only. However, if you’re kayaking, you’re technically allowed to beach the kayak and use the first three metres of the beach without a telling off. Just one of the great tips we got from James, the hostel owner.
We could have opted to do some adventure sports like climbing the volcano, rafting, or hydrospeeding but we were pretty lazy and spent our days at the beach! Honestly, we were kind of hiked out and wanted a wee holiday…from the holiday.
We did walk up to a waterfall one day. I stacked it on some tree roots and we got lost down the side of a cliff and had to clamber our way up through mud and dense forest. All in a morning’s work.