Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales
Established in 1926, Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales was Chile’s very first national park. It is a veritable geographical extravaganza whose dominant features are Volcán Osorno, a symmetrical snowcapped cone that’s often called the “Fujiyama of South America,” and fjordlike Lagos Todos los Santos, which forms an elongated lacustrine highway toward the Argentine border. It also, though, contains rushing rivers, steep forested canyons, and a scattering of alpine lakes.
The 251,000-hectare park takes its name from Vicente Pérez Rosales, an adventurer and explorer whose mid-19th-century travels literally cleared the way for European settlement, as he hired the indigenous Huilliche to set fire to the forests near Lago Llanquihue. Pérez Rosales later made a name for himself during the California gold rush.
Boat traffic began to cross Lago Todos los Santos as early as 1890, with the first tourists arriving in 1903. Long before Europeans saw the area, though, indigenous peoples had used the southerly Paso de Vuriloche to traverse the Andes, and Jesuit missionaries used a slightly different route south of Volcán Tronador, the area’s highest peak.
At Petrohué, Conaf’s Centro de Visitantes contains exhibits on the park’s geography, geology, fauna, flora, and history.
Mid-September–mid-April, daily except Sunday, Turismo Peulla operates 8 a.m. buses to Ensenada and Petrohué via Puerto Varas, connecting with its own bus-boat crossing to Bariloche (Argentina); return buses leave at 6 p.m. The rest of the year, the Bariloche crossing takes two days, with an obligatory overnight at Hotel Peulla; buses run weekdays only, leaving Puerto Montt at 8:30 a.m. but returning at 10:45 p.m.
At Petrohué, a dockside kiosk sells tickets for the three-hour voyage to Peulla, where it connects with the bus to the Argentine border at Puerto Frías and a relay of bus-boat links to Bariloche. Hikers and cyclists can also take this route; round-trip tickets to Peulla cost US$35 for adults, slightly less for children; lunch at Hotel Peulla costs an additional US$12 per person. From Puerto Varas, the fare is US$45; for more details, contact Turismo Peulla (San Juan 430, 2nd floor, Puerto Varas, tel. 065/236150, www.turismopeulla.cl).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition