Pucon can easily be called the adventure capital of Chile because of all the numerous adrenaline rising activities that you can do here. Pucon, Chile is a wonderful destination to go to even if you don’t like extreme sports, as there are lighter options as well. The best things to do in Pucon include climbing Villarrica Volcano, white water rafting and mountain biking.
I spent quite some time in Pucon Chile because I waited for the weather to clear, so that I can climb Villarrica volcano, the main thing to do here. So, I had plenty of time to explore and do pretty much all the best things to do in Pucon.
I have to mention that Pucon is an eco-friendly city, which means that everyone recycles and that plastic bags are banned. No matter which hotel, hostel or guest house you choose to stay at, you have to separate the rubbish in the proper bins. When you go to the supermarket bring a backpack with you because you won’t be able to buy a bag. Pucon has become a plastic free zone since 2013 and in two years it managed to eliminate all the plastic bags in the city.
Prepare your trip to Chile with my recommended Lonely Planet Travel Guide:
How to get to Pucon
I arrived in Pucon from Puerto Montt, after spending a wonderful week on Chiloe Island. If you are coming from this direction, make sure to book your bus in advance, as there is only one running each day. The schedule varies, so I can’t tell you what time it actually runs. However, prepare for a 6 to 7 hours journey. If you need to spend a night in Puerto Montt, I recommend Casa Perla, a very cosy B&B with lovely hosts.
If you are coming from Santiago to Pucon then you will notice that there are several buses leaving both in the morning and in the afternoon. I booked my ticket with Pullman Bus, which offered a comfortable journey and a stop for lunch. The journey is very long, around 14 hours. Even if in the schedule it says less, from my experience it’s always more.
I booked my bus tickets directly at the station in both cases, where you can pay by card.
Where to stay in Pucon
During my trip to Pucon I stayed in two different hostels, both very different from each other. The first one was Alma Nativa Hostel, which had a pool and it was located in a quiet part of town. You can read its reviews on Tripadvisor here or book directly on Booking.com
After 3 days however I had to move because the weather was still not getting better and I had to extend my stay in order to climb the volcano. Alma Nativa had no availability so I booked Chili Kiwi Hostel, which I loved so much and which I wish I could have stayed at for the entire time I was in Pucon. Located just on the shore of Villarrica Lake, Chili Kiwi offers different types of accommodation, from classic dorms to tree houses. I booked a bed in one of the cabins, which had ensuite modern bathrooms and its own fully stocked kitchen shared with only one other room. The atmosphere here was very friendly, with amazing staff and plenty of facilities. One of the best hostels I have stayed in, taking in consideration the sturdy and comfortable beds, and the private lockers as well. I highly recommend it as one of the best hostels in Pucon, you can read the reviews on TripAdvisor here or book directly on Booking.com here. You may find a cheaper deal for another hostel, but not a better value for money. And no, they didn’t pay me to say this, I paid them to stay here, haha 😊
The weather in Pucon
The average yearly temperature in Pucon is around 11 degrees Celsius. Due to its geographical position, in Pucon rains a lot, even in summer (the European winter), when there should be the dry season. Always pack a rain jacket with you and prepare for the unexpected.
If the weather is not good, the ascension on Villarrica volcano will not proceed. The hiking companies usually have access to advanced meteorological systems that can predict a day before how the weather is going to be like. Even if the sky is clear, if it’s too windy you won’t be allowed to climb.
If you are coming to the town specifically to climb Villarrica Volcano, you should know that the best weather in Pucon for this is between December and February, when the least quantities of rain drops.
What to eat in Pucon
Organic food at Trawen
I found this place on TripAdvisor and went there because of all the recommendations, which did not disappoint. I ordered the salmon with quinoa which tasted very fresh and it was so good! Priced a little higher than other restaurants around, Trawen is known for using only organic ingredients and classic French cooking methods. The interior of the restaurant is very rustic and inviting. They also sell craft beer, which of course I had to try. I chose Crater, solely on a name basis (as I was about to hike to the crater of an active volcano), a dark beer, very aromatic, made with blueberries.
Pizza at Café de la P
After getting your body under a lot of stress, you do need to fill up with carbs to recover from the effort. I went for pizza at Café de la P, a place that I eyed quite a few times whilst passing on the main road, because of its majestic looking cakes. Yes, I did stop by for a cake before I left Pucon as well.
I ordered a pizza with salami and olives, topped with mountains of melted cheese. It was so good! I added dried oregano and merken on top, to make it a bit spicy. Merken is a type of smoked chili that is served in flakes pretty much with every dish you order.
The cake I had here was a lemon and blueberries kuchen accompanied by a chocolatey frappe. Cause, why not? I just climbed a volcano, I deserved it!
Pastel de choclo
I had this traditional Chilean dish at a side of the road restaurants, somewhere on a side street, where probably no tourist adventures to. I sat down at a table covered with a red paper cloth and I was offered a menu in Spanish. Nobody here spoke English and all the other customers seemed to be workers in their lunch break. “Perfect” I said to myself, the food must be good.
I pointed to the pastel de choclo in the menu and also to the terremoto, a drink based on cheap wine topped with a scoop of pineapple ice cream, some grenadine and a shot of pisco. All of this is served in a large beer mug. Terremoto actually means earthquake in Spanish and this drink bears its name because it’s meant to shake you once you finish drinking it and try to stand up.
Coming back to the pastel de choclo though, I highly recommend you try this dish at the most local place you can find. The dish is served in a clay bowl, with no frills, and it looks like nothing special. However, once you break in the top layer of corn with your spoon, deliciousness starts coming out with each mouthful. The filling inside had ground beef, chicken, onions, slices of hard-boiled eggs, olives and raisins. The portion was so massive that I had troubles finishing it. Pastel de choclo is so good, a must try when you visit Pucon or Chile in general.
What things to do in Pucon for adventure lovers
Climb Villarrica Volcano
The number one reason why adventurous tourists include Pucon in their Chile itinerary is to climb Villarrica volcano. There are plenty of companies who are offering tours that will take you up the volcano. Be very mindful though when you choose one, and make sure that they have professional guides who can provide assistance in case of something happens, together with high quality equipment. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to go on the mountain on your own.
Hiking Villarrica volcano is expensive, so be prepared to splash on quite some money to do this. The most reputable company in Pucon for climbing Villarrica Volcano with is Summit Chile, but you do need to book quite in advance as they take a very limited number of people up each day. If the weather is not good the slots get moved ahead, so the availability drops. Unfortunately, I arrived in Pucon when the weather was bad and I encountered such a long list, so they recommended me to go with one of their trusted partners, Antu Rios y Montanas, which had the same high safety measures. I got the last spot on their list.
If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on climbing Villarrica, here is an online tour which you can book and guarantees your spot. In case of bad weather, they either rebook you on a different date or they give you a full refund.
I won’t lie to you, climbing Villarrica Volcano is the hardest thing I have ever done. It was exhausting, scary and breath-taking (in the literal sense). It was so hard to breath up there and every step felt like so much effort, especially after reaching the snow and attaching the crampons to the boots. The backpack with all the gear and the water felt like weighting tons.
The way down on the other hand is a lot of fun! The struggle is over, you simply slide down the volcano on a tiny sledge that’s attached to your backpack, using the ice pick to break.
Sky dive over Villarrica Volcano
If you don’t fancy climbing the volcano but you want to see the lava inside, in Pucon you can skydive over Villarrica. Costing as much as the climb, even double if you want the photos and the videos, a few travel agents around town and a couple of hostels do sell this activity for adrenaline junkies.
I personally didn’t do it and I don’t think that I would ever have the courage to jump off a plane. However, there were plenty of people in my hostel who did it and they were ecstatic about the experience.
From all the locations in the world where you can skydive, I admit that doing it over an active volcano must be quite unique.
Go white water rafting
I tried for the first-time in my life white water rafting in Pucon. As I was waiting for the weather to get better so that I can climb Villarrica, I went to one of the travel agents around town and booked myself into a new adventure.
I was terrified that the boat will overturn and that I will end up in the water. In my mind I’ve made so many scenarios in which I would get injured that I was almost to the point of giving up. Thankfully the kind people in my hostel encouraged me so I showed up for my booking. I chose the lower river, which was milder than the upper river, so imagine my surprise when all the other members of our rafting team were… children. Yes, I was the only adult in the boat, except for the guide.
Did I have fun? Oh yes! Did I scream more than the children all together? Yes! Did the boat overturn? No. Trying white water rafting in Pucon was fantastic and I still am so proud of myself to have chosen to do it and not give up.
If you are afraid of rafting but want to enjoy the water at your own pace, you can always go for a kayak tour on Liucura River, which is very gentle. You can check out kayaking tours in Pucon here.
Go mountain biking
Renting a mountain bike in Pucon is very easy and most of the travel shops on the main street do it. It’s very cheap and it allows you full freedom to explore the surroundings.
There are many trails that you can follow, some more difficult than others. I chose to stay local, following the map I was given at the shop. The trail was not very difficult, but it involved climbing a few hills. Mid-through I had to cross a river and follow the path through the woods, which was pretty interesting. The last point of the trail was a lake with a beautiful view of the volcano behind it.
Explore the Termas Geometricas
After all that adventure Termas Geometricas was my favourite place to relax my body at. Going to Termas Geometricas has a hefty price but it is all worth it, trust me! I mentioned that the average temperature in Pucon is around 11 degrees, year-round. What better what to experience the cold than from inside a hot water pool?
Termas Geometricas is a natural spa built in a Japanese style, inside a natural ravine, where the hot thermal waters comes directly from Villarrica Volcano. There are many pools carved directly into the rocks, each with a different temperature, from very cold to very hot. The ravine is half a kilometre long, and it is recommended to first walk all the way to the end to see the waterfall, and then start soaking your body in the delightful warm water. For courageous souls, there is even a smaller waterfall with ice cold water, under which you can take a natural shower.
Termas Geomatricas have lockers where you can safely store your belongings. You need to bring a bathing suit with you, if you don’t have one you can buy it in reception.
My recommendation is to go to the Termas Geometricas in the afternoon. When the weather gets cold and the sun starts to set, there is no better way of experiencing the nature and its sounds than from inside the thermal water pools.
Before you leave you can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and something to eat from the cafe, near the open fire which stands in the middle of the room. It is a pretty romantic place.
The most convenient way to get to Termas Geometricas is through a tour. This is how I’ve done it. Because I chose the afternoon slot, so that I can enjoy the sunset and the darkness inside the ravine, I wanted to rely on a professional driver to take me home safe. The Geometricas are 2 hours away drive from Pucon – not because they are far away but because the road goes up the volcano, on an unpaved path. The minivan will pick you up at the hotel and drop you off in the same place, when you return. Keep this in mind when you book a tour and it looks expensive, which includes the transport and the entrance fees. Here is a link to such an inclusive tour.
Go horseback riding
Another relaxing activity that you can do in Pucon is horse riding along the river, through the countryside. The small individual experiences are suited for every type of rider, advanced or not. I did not experience horse riding here, but in a different location. However, I wanted to include it in this article because it is an adventurous thing to do in Pucon. You can check out horse-riding tours in Pucon and book by clicking here.
Visit a Mapuche Fair
This activity does not fit the adventure zone, but it would have been a pity to leave it out. Whilst I was riding my mountain bike, I stumbled upon a traditional Mapuche fair, where my curiosity made me stop and check it out. There was traditional music, organic traditional recipes cooked on the spot, even a roast going on. There were also some small stands with handicrafts, from where I bought a new dream catcher for my home, as the old one broke. I don’t buy dream catchers online because I believe they have to come from a culture that uses and believes in them. So, this was the perfect opportunity to buy an authentic new one.
Other adventure tours in Pucon:
I did some research and found a few other adventure tours that you might like, but that I haven’t tried them yet. If you happen to book any of them, please let me know how the experience was 😊
- Trekking in Huerquehue National Park – Click here to check It out
- Exploring Caburgua and Lake Caburgua – Click here to check this tour out
- Llaima Volcano Ascent – Click here to check the details for this hike
- Kayak to Aillaquillen Island – Check out this tour here
- Have an organic dinner with the locals – See more details by clicking here
To end, have you been to Pucon before? Are you an adventure person who would like to climb Villarrica Volcano? Or if you climbed it already, what did you think of the hike? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.
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