A December 1988 trip
to Valdivia by Robert Raymond Ingledew
Quote: Salmon fishing in lake Llanquihue is fantastic; the view of the Villarica volcano in Pucón is breathtaking, the road from Puerto Montt to Río Puelo is unique... But Southern Chile has far more than that: Pucon, Valdivia, Osorno, Frutillar, Petrohue, Calbuco, Ancud, Castro, Quellón, Coyhaique, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine...
HOTELS: 1) VALDIVIA: Pedro de Valdivia or Villa del Río would be my choices. I have stayed at both. 2) PUERTO MONTT: The Vicente Pérez Rosales is a very nice four star hotel (I would give it 3 stars) located in the downtown of Puerto Montt. The Colina hotel is cheaper, still OK, and has some economy private rooms with shared bathroom. 3) ISLAND OF CHILOÉ: If you go to the island of Chiloé, Castro is in the center of the island, and the Hostería De Castro (3 stars) is a good place for touring the island. Casita Española is cheaper, charges half rate on week-ends and is still good. Further south, at Quellón, you only have very cheap hotels and a 4-star hotel that costs about one hundred dollars per night for a single room.
There are many beautiful places south of Puerto Montt, and I will refer individually to each one. We will start by the Island of Chiloé. The first time I saw this island, it was flying from Puerto Montt to Coihayque (there is no direct road between these cities). The whole archipíelago seem like at broidered combination of patches of different colors. There are no high mountains in Chiloe; it is rather a rolling area. Everything is very green, and farms are everywhere. The best bus service to the archipielago of Chiloe is Cruz del Sur (also one of the best from Puerto Montt to Santiago de Chile), and it covers literally the whole island. We reach the city of Ancud as soon as we disembark. You do not need to stay at a hotel here, it is so near Puerto Montt, but if you want to, the Hotel Balai is a good alternative. I just went right through directly to Castro.
Once you pass the city of Ancud, the scenery along the channels becomes colorful and beautiful. Fishing boats on the coast, of all colors, fishermen's huts up in the air on top of wooden poles (amplitude of tides is important here, about 30 feet). Get a window seat on the right-hand side of the bus, and you will take some fantastic photos. Ancud is just south of Puerto Montt, and to get there the bus crosses on a ferry. The city of Castro is our next destination. It is half way between Ancud and Quellon. The hostería de Castro has a beautiful panoramic view of the sea, so try to get a room on the upper floors. A single room here should be costing now some 75 dollars per night. You have a cheaper and very nice option at Casita Española Bed and Breakfast, that has nice rooms, is quite cheaper, and offers a fifty percent discount on weekends.
Quellón is an important port in the south of the island. It has a very nice 4-star hotel where a single room costs 100 dollars per night. There are also two very basic lodges, where a room costs some 20 dollars. I stayed at one of these. The bed was OK, but the room did not compare with a standard one star hotel in Argentina. Quellón has a very nice coastal avenue, and many ships in the port. It is an interesting place to visit in order to have a complete picture of the island. There are other very nice destinations in Chiloe that I have not visited, but of which I have seen beautiful photos, like Chonchi. Don't forget to visit this beautiful destination.
Salmon fishing in the whole area is fascinating. The whole area south of Puerto Montt and also north is full of salmon hatcheries. Sebago and Coho salmon are everywhere, and you can fish them in the sea, in lagoons or in the rivers. Chile is the third exporter in the world of salmon and all hatcheries are concentrated between Puerto Varas, Puerto Montt and Río Puelo. The sea area where these hatcheries or salmon farms are faces the Chiloe archipielago. Keep this in mind, and take a good fishing rod with you.
Coihayque is another very nice area, but it is difficult to get there, except by plane. I had to go for business reasons, but it is really more of the same and does not justify a visit. The Simpson river offers good fishing possibilities, but I should repeat here that the Puerto Varas area in Chile is in my opinion the best salmon and trout fishing destination. Hotel prices are expensive here. A two star hotel costs easily one hundred dollars per night. I have never visited Puerto Natales, but have seen fascinating pictures of the area. The easiest ways of getting there are from Punta Areas (4 hours on the bus) or from El Calafate (the glaciers area of Argentina) that is only 5 hours away by bus. There are also bus services from Río Turbio (Argentina) to Puerto Natales. If you visit Puerto Natales, don’t miss the Torres del Paine National Park and the Grey Clacier. They are just fantastic. If you want to see photos of the area, click here: www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/secciones/02/c/galeria.asp. Punta Arenas itself, like Río Gallegos in Argentina, are only two important cities, with more than 100,000 inhabitants each, without anything special to see very near. But I am sure that just as there is an important penguin colony 80 miles south of Rio Gallegos (Cabo Vírgenes), there must be interesting things to see there also.
On the other hand, Puerto Natales is in the midst of an archipielago of islands with beatiful views in any direction. Punta Arenas is a free port, and you might would to look around the shops to see if you find anything interesting. But I am sure that Iquique in Northern Chile has better prices and more variety. From Punta Arenas you have direct bus services to Puerto Natales (4 hours), Río Gallegos (6 hours) and El Calafate (9 hours). There are also bus services to Ushuaia, but this involves crossing the Strait of Magellan with possible ferry delays, and travel should take some 12 hours. Enjoy your trip to Southern Chile.
Robert Raymond Ingledew
Villa Carlos Paz (Cordoba), Argentina