Climb a Live Volcano: Villarrica: Chile’s Most Active Volcano in the Scenic Lake District

While the forest and sapphire blue lakes make the park a hiker’s paradise, the three dominating snow capped peaks make it impressive. The constantly active Villarrica (2847m) with the extinct Quetrupillan (2360m) and Lanin (3746m) making up the trio.

The two nearest towns are Pucon and the smaller Villarrica, both tourist towns, where the quantity of adventure tour companies is matched only by the restaurants and bars offering after adventure recovery.

The volcano presides over both towns emitting menacing fumaroles like a grumpy dragon. Whether having a beer at an outdoor table, enjoying a peaceful stroll by the lake or visiting the supermarket it’s very much there.

Hiking Up the Volcano

The full day trip starts early, about 7.00am to give time for kitting out with ice axe, boots, crampons, goretex pants, jacket and gloves.

A tour group consist of about 20 or so tourists. Villarrica is not technical or especially steep however it can be a slog with the sun beating down relentlessly. A good fitness level is required or there is the option to use the chairlift part of the way.

It’s all worth it once arriving at the summit. The crater is extremely active and entertaining. First it makes a warning rumble, then bubbles like a cauldron, and finally with a hiss, spurts red hot larva from the crater which instantly cools and turns black on contact with the ground.

There is not a long wait between spurts, they keep coming, some leaping impressively higher than others.

The return descent is fast and thrilling in total contrast to the effort expended on the way up. The guides give a lesson on how to use the ice axe as a brake and you slide down channels cut in the snow, easily and speedily.

There are sometimes a few minor pile-ups of bodies and some who hug a rock because of brake failure. No one is issued with a helmet.

The Tour

Full day trip CLP48,000 (USD102) includes all gear/equipment, beer and a certificate at the end of the tour. Bring your own lunch. Politur has offices in both Villarrica and Pucon. High winds and bad weather can delay ascents for days, or worse still force climbers to turn back halfway. Check cancellation policies.

You can take a taxi to the cafeteria at the base of the volcano, rent the necessary gear and hike to summit independently. The normal precautions concerning weather and not climbing solo should be observed.

Villarrica National Park

The park is 12km from Pucon along a good road that leads to the Rucapillán sector of the park. Here there are some good hikes and the start of the route to the summit of Villarrica. There are no buses, access is by taxi or private car.

Villarrica’s Active History

Villarrica has a history of eruptions stretching back to the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the 1500s. The eruption in 1971 was more serious with fatalities, mud flows and damage to property.

Other Activities

A rafting trip on the lower RioTrancura, or the more challenging upper Trancura. Kayaking trips along Rio Liusura. Mountain biking the popular route of Ojos de Caburgua. Horseback riding in the surrounding countryside.

Accommodation

Both Villarrica and Pucon have a full range from camping to upmarket hotels in beautifully manicured grounds. Officina de Turismo O’Higgins & Palguin Street Pucon can assist with accommodation.

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