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Lake District

Lake District

Sunrise over Lake Llanquihue seen from Puerto Varas

Famous for its spectacular panorama of bright emerald and turquoise lakes whose surfaces mirror snowcapped volcanoes and sprawling forests, Chile's Lake District is picture perfect. Rolling hills scattered with hundreds of lakes and lagoons give the district its name. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in Chile; numerous visitors are not only attracted by the beauty but also by the varied outdoor activities available, its well-structured tourism infrastructure, and the countless national parks and nature reserves.

The Lake District covers two regions of Chile, the Ninth Region - more commonly known as La Araucanía - and the Tenth Region - Los Lagos. It is home to the indigenous Mapuche who defended their land against the Spanish conquistadores for 300 years. German settlers came and cleared the land, felling timber for their typical shingled houses. Both ethnic groups have left their mark on the region in architecture, art, and food.

The Chiloé Archipelago consist of hundreds of islands, the largest one being Isla Grande; it was almost completely isolated from the rest of Chile for many years. That is how it retained its rich ethnic and folkloric traditions and mythology. Another great advantage is Chile's proximity to the Argentine Lake District where you will find equally beautiful sceneries.

Puerto Montt, in the south of the Lake District, is the starting point for some of the most amazing cruises imaginable through the fjords and hanging valleys of the glacial Chilean coastline. Explore the region - there is plenty more to see and to do away from the principal destinations; including hot springs, boat rides, adventure sports, beaches, and mile after mile of bumpy dirt roads for picturesque drives await you.

The entire area is very rich in flora and fauna, birds and marine animals abound in particular. The Lake District is an attractive destination, an irresistible combination of outdoor living at its best and idyllic scenery.

The landscapes of southern Chile are dominated by a nature that greatly favors them. Originally, they were subjected to severe earthquakes, volcanic explosions and melting icebergs that gave life to fertile valleys, lakes and rivers crowned by some active volcanos on the eastern horizon.

These characteristics have placed their stamp on the region, turning it into one of the most attractive points for tourists. The rapidly flowing rivers are famous among those who practice rafting and fishing, and many are surrounded by exuberant vegetation along their entire length. Outstanding among these rivers is the 236 miles long Biobío, which once was the region's natural frontier and the dividing line between The Mapuche territory and Spanish Chile. The valleys, rivers and lakes in the south allow for a peaceful country life, with excellent lands for farming and raising livestock.

The rivers and volcanoes in the south form a scenario of wide valleys, with a steep drop toward the Pacific Ocean, an environment surrounded by large lakes. The region is also characterized by cities that show signs of a large European immigration, especially German. Urban centers such as Valdivia, Osorno, Frutillar, Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt have incorporated features of this culture into their architecture and gastronomy.

National parks and reserves are one of the biggest attractions in the area and protect native forests that include millenarian tree species, such as the larch. The area from take Calafaquen to lake Pirihueico is known as the Seven Lakes district, because they share the same river basin and are interconnected by rivers. From a traveler's point of view, the most outstanding lakes are the Catafquen, Rinihue and Panguipulli.

Further south, the city of Valdivia is the gateway to the coast, where the remains of Spanish forts can be admired at the mouth of the Valdivia river The origin of the city's name is found in a special type of vegetation known as "Selva Valdiviana'- evergreen forests with endemic species.

Near the city of Osorno, you may enjoy the landscape formed by lake Puyehue and the national park of the same name, as well as lakes Rupanco or Lianquihue. On the shores of the latter lake, the most outstanding destinations are Frutillar and Puerto Varas, and also the beautiful Saltos del Petrohud waterfall. Following the road south, we come to the Todos Los Santos lake.

In a straight line from Puerto Varas, you reach Puerto Montt, starting point for the Southern Road, which takes you to the Patagonia and Chiloé, an island whose traditions and mysticism fill visitors with awe.

This dramatic environment and geography have made this Lake Region the capital of adventure and nature tourism in Chile. You have here all types of comforts, hotel facilities as well as the possibility of going trekking, fishing, doing sports, mountain biking, rafting, skiing in Antillanca, taking cruises, relaxing at the Puyehue hotsprings and observing the flora and fauna. Also cultura activities and outings will teach you more about the historic of chile south.

With Chilean independence, pressure to settle these lands increased, and unoccupied land was distributed to a brimming tide of European settlers. These settlers, many of them German, cut and burned the rainforest back from the western shores of the great lakes, creating a new landscape of manicured farms and tidy villages.

Recreation and relaxation
Natural beauty and excellent tourist services meet halfway in the lake region. On the shore of Calafquén lake, the town of Lican Ray boasts a lovely black sand beach and a full range of accommodations. Further south on LLanquihue lake, Puerto Varas and Frutillar are top resort destinations, with unbelievable views across the lake towards Osorno volcano.

The city of Puerto Montt is the seafood capital of Chile. Visitors will be astounded at the bounty of shellfish, salmon, and other delicacies that await them in Angelmó, Puerto Montt's port district.

The Cruce de Lagos Trans-Andes cruise connects Puerto Montt with Bariloche, Argentina, via a series of ferry crossings of Andean lakes, including the spectacular glacially-carved Todos Los Santos lake. Cruises through the fjords and glaciers of Patagonia typically depart from Puerto Montt.

Trekking routes in this area focus upon national parks such as Puyehue, Vicente Pérez Rosales and Alerce Andino, which protect great tracts of temperate rainforest, volcanic terrain, waterfalls and clear-flowing streams.

Observation of flora and fauna
Southern Chile's evergreen temperate rainforest - also known as the Valdivian rainforest- contains some 25% of the world's remaining reserves of this vastly productive forest community. Even more impressive are old-growth stands of alerce, a towering conifer that ranks as the second longest-lived tree in the world. Near Valdivia, the Cruces River Nature Sanctuary provide habitat for a wide variety of birds.

Float trips, trolling and bank fishing are all good ways to fish the abundant rivers and lakes of this region, where rainbows, brown trout and salmon find ideal habitat. Top destinations include the Petrohué river and the Puerto river, both accessed from fishing 'mecca' Puerto Varas.

  This is the land of the historic Mapuche people, an ethnic group that resisted the Spanish conquest for over 300 years and which, in certain areas, still maintains its language, mysticism and traditions. These inhabitants, whom the Spanish conquistadors called Araucanians, are the origin of the territory's name. Nevertheless, the natives called themselves Mapuches (men of the earth).