|View of Lake Villarica from the Gran Hotel Pucon|
|View from the park in front of the Gran Hotel Pucon|
There are approximately 20,000 inhabitants in Pucon, this quadruples during the summer season. The town itself is very relaxed full of shops, bars and some very good restaurants. Check out Senzo (an Italian restaurant) and Cassis (for the most delicious pancakes), both are found on Fresia. The centre of the town is very attractive with a wooden "ski resort" style, no neon signs in sight.
On our first evening we booked with the tour company based in the hotel, to climb the volcano the following day. Being out of season we were lucky that we were able to book a trip for just the two of us. The tour companies provide you with all the gear you need for this trek/climb, this includes crapons, helmet and iceaxe, just to let you know this is not a walk in the park. All you really need is to bring some warm long socks, some layers to wear under the gear they provide, sunglasses, suncream and some food and water to keep you going on the trek. The tour company will let you know if they do/do not provide food.
We left out hotel at around 7am for the short drive to the base of the Villarrica volcano, less than 30 minutes. From there if you are lucky and wind conditions permit it, you can take a short chairlift which reduces the uphill trek by up to an hour depending on your fitness. We were lucky! Having successfully negotiated the dismount from the chairlift we set off on a day which saw us learning how to use crampons, how to use an iceaxe in the event of falling and took us to the edge of the crater of a live volcano. A truly fantastic day, hopefully the following pictures will tell the story better than words.
|A hint of the great views to come|
|First break, just another 3.5 hours to go|
|Getting icy, time for the crampons|
|Finally the crater|
|Short break before checking out the edge of the crater|
|Red hot lava deep down in the crater|
After taking some time to enjoy the stunning scenary at the top, it was time to go down again, more pain to come. Fortunately if the snow conditons are ok, there are four "carved runs", where you can slide down using your iceaxe to control the speed. This was fantastic and the adrenalin buzz helped you to forget how tired your legs actually were. Climbing the Volcano was a brilliant experience which we'd highly recommend, just remember its not easy and you need to be reasonably fit. If you enjoyed this post, you can read more about Pucon, Villarrica and the region in our second post, Pucon (2).