Stretching 340km south from Temuco to just below Peurto Montt, The Lake District's scenery is stunning: lush farmland, dense forests, volcanoes, and of course lots of lakes. At times it's reminiscent of the south west of England: cows grazing in a field, green rolling hills - until a flock of parrots rises squawking out of the trees!
This region was once completely covered in dense forest, the home of the Mapuche. Today, you will find rolling meadows and dairy farmland: the legacy of Swiss, Austrian and German settlers. The Germanic influence remains strong, especially around Lago Llanquihue. The Lake District has also become a beacon for adventure sports, with volcanoes to climb, snowboarding and skiing, and white-water rafting.
Villarrica is the Lake District's, if not Chile's, most famous volcano, drawing thousands of visitors annually. Despite last erupting in 2015, you can trek the slopes discovering parasitic craters and small mini volcanoes. If you don't fancy a climb, you can take an exhilarating flight over it.
Whilst most visitors come for the grumbling volcano, the Villarrica National Park has much more to explore. Stretching 40km to the Argentina border, it contains 2 more volcanoes, plus volcanic caves, hot springs, lush forest and waterfalls. The nearest town, Pucon, has become the Lake District's adventure sports hub and Hotel Antumalal is perfectly situated on a hillside above.
To the east of Villarrica lies another national park, Huerquehue. This area boasts a much more diverse array of flora and fauna, with many species of trees forming dense forests, and over 80 species of birds. A horseshoe of dormant volcanoes encloses a dozen stunning lakes.
Puerto Montt is the gateway to the southern Lake District, and the point of departure for the quaint island of Chiloe, with its unique wooden architecture and local myths. It's also the embarkation point for some stunning boat journeys heading further south to Patagonia through the fjords and hanging valleys of the glacial Chilean coastline.
Huge Lago Llanquihue is 870 sq.km; when standing on its shores it's difficult to see the edges, causing it to resemble the sea! It has a number of attractive towns and villages on its shores, all with a distinct Germanic influence (kuchen is for sale everywhere). Our favourite places to stay are Quincho Country Home and Hotel Ayacara. The latter is in Frutillar, a chocolate box town with black sand beaches and an incredible view of Volcán Osorno.
East of Lago Llanquihue, near the border with Argentina, is Lago Todos Los Santos - one of the most beautiful lakes in Chile. Its clear deep-green waters are surrounded by forests, mountains and the stunning snow-capped Volcán Osorno. The whole area is part of the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park (keep your eyes peeled for puma) and as such you'll find no development or roads around the lake. The only way to get between Petrohue and Peulla village (located at either end) is by boat; Hotel Petrohue makes a great adventure base, offering skiing, water sports, horse riding, mountain biking and canyoning.