After Junin de los Andes, Sami and I decided to cross the border into Chile for a few days. I had heard really good things about Pucon and I have to say, it lived up to the hype. The town was quite charming and there were a ton of outdoors activities ranging from hiking the volcano to white water rafting to hot springs.
We took a bus at 7am from Junin de los Andes and the trip took around 5 hours with the border crossing. The best part about crossing the border here was definitely the view of Lanin Volcano and we crossed into Chile.
Upon arriving to town, we checked into our hostel (the first in a week) which was called Etnico Eco Hostel. The hostel was fairly cheap which was great ($8000 chilean pesos per night per person) and they had a nice kitchen and outdoor sitting area. My only complaint is there was a lot of carpet and it smelled very musty and old. However, given the price and location, I would still recommend the hostel overall.
That afternoon, we went in search of a company that had space to hike Volcano Villaricca the following day. Since we were there in high season this can be a challenge. Plus the weather had been bad for the past week so several people were waiting around for good weather. Luckily, we were able to find a company off the main road that had space to climb the following day.
Travel Tip: A lot of companies only accept cash and the cost to climb the volcano was $100,000 chilean pesos which is around $140 USD so be prepared to pay in cash if needed. Also, we used Backpackers Adventure company on Palguin Street and the guides were amazing. I would definitely recommend them!
The next day, we met at the guide office at 6am to get organized and head to the volcano. In the morning, we had a perfect view of the top of the volcano and there were no clouds in the sky. We arrived to the base of the volcano around 7am and we were of the first ones in line for the chairlift to the start of the hike. Due to high winds, we had to wait around 30 minutes for the chairlift but finally we were able to get on and head up the mountain. (It is also possible to hike this portion but it is a bunch of loose sand and rock and the fun part of the hike definitely starts further up. However, the chairlift costs $10,000 pesos.) Once we arrived to the top, we put on the crampons and started working our way up the ice. About 1/3 of the way up the wind started to pick up and we had to wait for a while in an abandoned ski lift area. Luckily this was here because it protected us from the wind. After about an hour, the wind died down and we were able to continue.
We made our way up to around the 2/3 mark but then we had to stop again. Unfortunately, by this time, the clouds were covering the top of the mountain and the winds had picked up again. We found a place to wait next to some rocks to see if the clouds might blow over. The visibility was really low and one of the guides went to scout if there was any way we could continue given the conditions. After around 30 minutes, he radioed down and said there was only one group further up the mountain and they were turning around because of the winds. This meant that we too were turning around without reaching the top. We changed out of our crampons and put on special gear to slide down the mountain. This part of the hike was similar to sledding but without the sled. It was really fun but I definitely got very wet. Once we reached the bottom of the mountain we went back to the guide office where they had snacks and beer waiting for everyone.
While I was very disappointed we were not able to reach the summit the views and the experience were still reach amazing and I respected the guides decision. They did everything they could for us to reach the top of the volcano safely. We were some of the last people off the mountain because they wanted to make sure there was no way we could continue without risk. I definitely want to return to Pucon again so I can reach the top of the volcano and there is even a hike where you can combine 3 different volcanos into a 5 day hike. This too is definitely on my list to do next time I’m in Patagonia!
For anyone heading to Pucon I definitely recommend this excursion. The volcano is breathtaking and while it is expensive it is definitely worth it!