Chile is an incredibly diverse country in terms of natural beauty and the south with its volcanic formations, stunning mirror surface lakes and green rolling hills leaves visitors in awe of the stunning nature there. Panguipulli is a hidden gem, well enjoyed by Chile’s elite and untouched by mass tourism.
Panguipulli, which is mapudungun for ‘hill of the puma’, is a city on the western side of a lake by the same name in the Los Ríos Region of Chile. The first recorded inhabitants of the region were the indigenous Mapuche. Guillermo Angermaier was the first non-indigenous person to settle in the region in 1885.
Almost another century went by before the city was officially founded in 1946. The Capuchin order, which had established a mission in the region, had constructed a twin towered wooden church in the town, which is now a major landmark. The town had remained small and is mostly functioning in support of the nearby agricultural and recreational properties that surround it.
A playground for the elite
Unlike nearby destinations such as Pucón and Valdivia, Panguipulli is not a popular tourist attraction. The town itself is very small without much sightseeing on offer, with the exception of the wooden church. However, this is no accident, but an unspoken design of the local landowners, the elites who prefer to keep the town small and non-discrete, letting tourists stay in the more populated towns while leaving the pristine lake as their own playground.
The wealthy flock to their waterfront vacation homes from Santiago in January and February to escape the sticky city heat and enjoy all a peaceful summer in nature. In winter, their houses stay empty under the watchful eye of a caretaker. Property prices around the western side of the lake are in the range of millions of US dollars and construction of vacation homes and condos is booming as more and more Chileans wish to spend their summers in this idyllic paradise.
Defying all laws of physics, time seems to move slower in the south. This is a place of relaxation and never-ending summer days spent lounging by the water while taking in the breathtaking views. Somewhere off in the distance cowbells sound as sheep and horses freely roam the large private lands under the setting sun. Fiery sunsets allow for one last glimpse of the white tipped volcano surrounded by the smoky clouds that it constantly spews out reflecting in the clear lake waters before another day is extinguished.
Travelers wanting to visit the region have several lodging options: befriend a wealthy Chilean with lake side property, spend a night or two in Panguipulli in a hotel or property rental, or camp in one of many cabana sites available. Trekking, horseback riding, as well as a full lieu of water activities such as kayaking, windsurfing, jet skiing, sailing are all on offer at this natural wonderland. After several days spent here one is guaranteed to leave fully refreshed.
The area also boasts gastronomic delights with fresh honey, cheese and jams. There are several worthwhile restaurants in town including the popular El Mirador and the more nondescript Patagonia Natural, where everything is made by hand upon order including amazing empanadas, which may be some of the best in Chile.
Don’t miss a chance to gaze at an active volcano while swimming in crystal clear waters surrounded by the lush greenery of the region – visit Panguipulli during your next trip south.
Born in Ukraine but raised in Canada since a young age, Kateryna Kurdyuk has since acquired a Masters of Media Studies and Communication from University of Melbourne in Australia and worked in the education field in Dubai, UAE. While currently working as an English Professor in Santiago, Chile, Kateryna is using her extensive experience living and travelling abroad to contribute as a writer to the emerging independent English-language media in Chile.