After the eternal landscapes and endless vistas of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, the little lake towns of Puerto Varas and Pucon are worlds away, so much so you begin to question whether you’re in a different country.
The thing about Chile is it’s over 4,000 kms in length despite on average only being 177 kms wide – this gives it some of the most varied scenery of any country in the world, and heading from north to south that became increasingly evident.
After flying from Calama, right up in the north of Chile, to the capital of Santiago, I then caught an 11 hour bus to Puerto Varas in the heart of Los Lagos, the Lake District down in the south. In doing so, I swapped the arid landscape of dust and desert for green rolling hills dotted with cows. Add in numerous coffee shops and a luscious lake and I was beginning to wonder whether I was in Chile at all, and at times I couldn’t help but think I was closer to home in Switzerland.
In Puerto Varas, two snowcapped volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, stand sentinel over the scenic town, and Lago Llanquihue adds another dimension as it lies in the middle of everything, the heartbeat that draws people in from far and wide.
However, Puerto Varas is unlike any other town in Chile. Because of its location and its climate, it was a major German settlement in the 19th century, and those roots and remnants remain in the architecture. Even some of the street names are in German here.
Unfortunately, the major down side to Puerto Varas (as in much parts of Germany for that matter) is the weather, and with approximately two thirds of the year being either grey or wet (and often both), sometimes you’re struggling to appreciate the true beauty of the place with both volcanoes shrouded in cloud (as it was when I was there).
When that’s the case, with my photography I always like to show exactly what’s going on. There’s no point getting frustrated with what could’ve been, but you’ve just got to use what’s around you, and with the white balance and ISO often difficult to judge I shoot specifically to wash out the contrast and the colours. Hopefully I captured some of the moodiness of the town here (f/10, ISO 400).
Thankfully, the weather in Pucon was much better making the photography dreamy again.
Pucon is firmly nestled beside the beautiful Lake Villarrica and under the smoldering eye of the volcano of the same name.
Again, much like Puerto Varas, Pucon has a distinct European feel to it, and a lot of Chileans make this their number one summer destination to laze on the beachside lake and escape the hotter weather in other parts of the country.
One of the main activities to do in Pucon is climb Volcano Villarrica. Standing at 2,860 metres, it is a volcano you can easily summit in a day and it was one of the main reasons why I visited the town.
I’ve done a lot of hiking with camera gear before, and I know you’ve got to be extremely selective in your equipment. That’s why I always carry my Manfrotto Pixi tripod with me. It weighs about a 10th of my other tripod, but with a wide angle lens it still does the trick.
I won’t go into the details of the climb, I’ll leave that for another day, but the views were simply breathtaking, only getting better and better the higher and higher we climbed. When you’re on a climb like that, it can be difficult to swap between lenses all the time, so I opted for my Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens, though I did have my other 24-70 with me just in case!
It may seem strange travelling 20 hours and 12,500 kms from London to a place where the equivalent could be found in the Alps, just a short flight away into Europe, but that’s the beauty of Chile. There really are few places in the world where you can start the day in the desert, fly into the cosmopolitan hub of Santiago, and spend the evening with a hot chocolate by the lake. Never is the cliché “variety is the spice of life” more evident than it is in Chile.
PRODUCTS MENTIONED: Manfrotto Pixi tripod
Macca Sherifi is a blogger, photographer and presenter who has worked in the travel industry for the past five years. He has travelled to over 70 countries, volunteered in Bangladesh and worked in both China and Australia.