Pucón in southern Chile is an adventurer’s dream destination. After all, its name means “the gateway to the mountains” in the native Mapuche language. Surrounded by lakes, hot springs, caves and one of the country’s most active volcanoes, this charming town regularly doubles in size to welcome thousands of travellers looking for an action-packed visit. There's world-class skiing and snowboarding in the winter, while the summers are perfect for sun-drenched days by the water and exploring the national parks and rainforests.
Hostels in Pucón make the most of their natural surroundings with outdoor facilities like fire pits, pétanque courts and climbing walls. You can hang out in an on-site barbecue and eating area or chill in a comfy living room with Netflix. Rest your head in a converted 1930s monastery or stay in a Pucón hostel that is a treehouse with lake views. After a hiking trip, you'll appreciate a soothing Jacuzzi or a hammock in the shade of a cherry tree.
Downtown Pucón runs along Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins, lined with travel booking agencies and supermarkets as well as plenty of bars to sample some local pisco (grape brandy). At the bottom of the street, you’ll reach the lakeside La Poza district where you can see stunning mountains vistas from the viewing platform. A short walk away is Playa Grande, the largest beach on Villarrica Lake, with clear swimming waters, dark sand and sun loungers in the summer months.
Summiting Villarrica Volcano is a popular activity with travellers, and you can go with a guide to tackle the 2,847m climb. The best part is sliding down the snowy section of the mountain on a large plastic saucer. Other adrenaline-packed activities include hydrospeeding (riverboarding) or whitewater rafting down Class II rapids on the Trancura River. For a more tranquil option, take a hike through Huerquehue National Park or a soak in outdoor hot springs at the Termas Geométricas just south of the city.
Being a small town, Pucón is easy to navigate on foot and you can hire a mountain bike to discover the surrounding areas. The closest airport is La Araucanía International Airport in Temuco. You can take a shared minivan or taxi to Pucón, which takes around 1.5 hours. There are a few different bus stations in the centre of town, including TurBus and Pullman, with daily connections taking you to Valparaíso in around 12 hours. Local providers go to nearby Villarrica, Curarrehue and Huerquehue National Park.