Hotel Petrohue

Petrohue, Lake District, Chile Book from US$250

Reviewed by Liz Williams
Cosy hotel and wooden cabins set below a snow-capped volcano on the shores of Lago Todos Los Santos, one of Chile's most beautiful lakes, with lots of outdoor activities
Situated between the towering outline of the Osorno volcano and a blue-green slice of Lago Todos Los Santos (fed by glacial rivers and waterfalls), the setting alone is enough to draw people to this hotel. Deep in Chile’s oldest national park, Vincente Perez Rosales, the drive over volcanic overspill and alongside the tumbling turquoise waters of the Petrohue river leads to a clearing in virgin forest by the lakeshore, wherein stands the 20-room Hotel Petrohue and 4 lakeside cabins.

After a fire in 2002 the hotel was completely rebuilt in wood and stone, and now resembles a large Alpine chalet. Simple but comfortable interiors continue the theme, with a warm combination of pale wood, open fires and fine views of the lake, mountains and forest offering a taste of what lies beyond. And once inspired (it won’t take long), simply step outside amongst this serene natural setting and into the hotel’s Expediciones centre, from where, with everything from climbing to canyoning, the adventure really begins.

Highs

  • The setting, even when it rains, is truly spectacular
  • Hiding away in your own wooden cabin
  • Canyoning down beside a rushing waterfall, high on adrenaline as the spray coats you, to finally make it back down to earth and dive into the pool below
  • Fly-fishing in crystal-clear azure rivers on the south side of the lake - one of my most memorable experiences in 20 years of travelling
  • At the end of an exhilarating day, taking a dip in the indoor/outdoor swimming pool and curling up by the crackling fire

Lows

  • Rain showers are a regular feature for most of the year; sun-seekers should go during the summer months (December-March)
  • In December and January watch out for large horse flies, known as Tabanos, and throngs of tourists making the lake crossing on their way to Bariloche, Argentina

Best time to go

The main season runs from November to April - the Chilean spring/summer, when all activities are possible. It's also worth visiting in autumn, when it's still very beautiful for simply relaxing and hiking. The small ski resort being built on the volcano means that even winter brings its own draw. The area is prone to rain all year but is wettest in July and driest between January and March. The maximum temperatures in summer are around 20C, though sometimes it can reach 28C; the minimum is around 8C. In winter, the maximum is about 12C, even reaching 16C, and the minimum can drop to 3C.

Our top tips

Make sure you take a boat to one of the islands in the centre of the emerald green lake - if nothing else, it gives you a spectacular view of the volcano and waterfalls cutting through rocks and forest, and it’s a pretty memorable place for a picnic. Or take the ferry boat from Petrohue to Peulla at the other end of the lake - from where you can walk up to a stunning waterfall or along the picturesque road to Bariloche through alpine meadows.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 20 rooms and 4 cabins
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pools
  • Sauna
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 20 rooms in the recently built hotel are simple, modern and cosy, with lots of wood, thick duvets, carpets and large windows with views of the lake, volcano or river. Ensuite bathrooms throughout are small and functional, with white-tiled floors and pine fittings; all have a bath and a shower with plenty of hot water and decent pressure.

Families, groups or those who prefer more privacy and independence should consider one of the 4 wooden lakeside cabins, which sleep from 4 to 8 people. They're good value, so even if there are just 2 of you it can work out cheaper than staying in the hotel. All have 2 or 3 ensuite bedrooms (a double, a twin and in some cases a triple), a living/dining room, and a kitchen.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

After a day of outdoor activity, unwind with a pre-dinner drink in the light and airy sitting room, where large wooden sofas with plump cushions encircle a crackling log fire and a huge coffee table made from half a tree trunk. Then head into the restaurant for a bite to eat. Here too you'll find a large open fire, fresh flowers, stripped wooden flooring and fine views through the huge glass windows.

The food is simple fare rather than inspirational gourmet cuisine. Dishes on the daily menu might include soup, avocado stuffed with chicken mayonnaise and smoked salmon, followed by chicken curry, stroganoff, or the ever popular Chilean dish of steak topped by eggs - plus the highly recommended chef’s salad, a combination of almost everything you can think of. Breakfast is a selection of bread, cookies, cakes, jam, cheese, fresh fruits, tea, coffee, juice and scrambled eggs. There aren't any other restaurants in Petrohue so we recommend booking the inexpensive half-board plan.

If you're staying in one of the 4 cabins, you can either eat in the hotel or self-cater. Each has its own kitchen equipped with an oven, a fridge, cooking utensils and a dining table. There's a small shop in Petrohue selling vegetables etc, but it's not always open and we recommend that you stock up with provisions in Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas on the way.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Enjoy watersports on the lake - windsurfing, fun-boarding and lasers (water-skiing can also be arranged), with tuition available

  • Go hiking with Franz, the general manager. There are no roads around Lago Todos los Santos but there are numerous trails through the ancient forests of the surrounding Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. Keep your eyes peeled for a puma (if you don’t find one ask Franz if you can meet his father’s pet puma - an interesting experience in itself, and great for photos!). Apparently, there are also Pudu, Coipos, beavers, foxes and forest monkeys inhabiting the park, and, from my own experience...tarantulas!

  • There are well-marked paths to the Osorno volcano and the brave-hearted can try trekking up a snow-covered mountain to its peak. The expeditions centre can also arrange a number of guided treks lasting from 3 hours to several days

  • Trout and salmon fishing are excellent on the lake and the surrounding rivers. One of the most magical moments in my life was fly-fishing here on a summer's day 10 years ago, alongside an azure-coloured stream, and discovering an old homestead producing milk and honey, hidden away from the rest of the world

  • Try canyoning - for adrenaline seekers, an increasingly popular new angle from which to view the surroundings, making your way down narrow gorges by abseiling down alongside waterfalls and jumping into the crystal-clear pools below

  • The Petrohue river offers kayakers 2 different levels of rapids (II and III), whilst the turquoise waters of Lago Todos Los Santos are ideal for sea-kayaking

  • The river also offers white-water rafting on class II and III rapids, to the impressive backdrop of mountains and volcanoes

  • You can also try rock climbing, largely centred around a natural 15m rock wall with 6 routes for different levels, with tuition available

  • Horse riding is available 15km away, but worth the trip if you take an extended ride. The ride up to the Del Caliente waterfall, with spectacular views of the Calbulco volcano en route, followed by a well-earned dip in the waterfall, is particularly recommended

  • Bird-watching is excellent here - twitchers will have a field-day amongst this scenery, with myriad species flitting amongst the trees and soaring above the slopes

  • In late March and early April, search out the salmon trying to leap the smaller waterfalls downstream from the Petrohue Falls - a somewhat smaller-scale version of those famed Alaskan runs, but an interesting spectacle for any wildlife (and fishing) enthusiasts nevertheless

  • Ease away the excesses of the day in the hot springs of Callao and Río Blanco

  • It's also possible to ski on the volcano, with 3 chairlifts being built at the time of our visit

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Canyoning
  • Climbing
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Rafting
  • Sailing
  • Skiing
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are welcome (extra beds cost the same as for adults), and are likely to enjoy the activities on offer, especially slightly older ones. The cabins with their self-catering facilities are ideal for families.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
7/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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