Hiking in Chile:
South of Santiago but north of Patagonia lies Chile’s Lake District. Its undisputed center is Pucon, which lies at the edge of the Villarica Lake and in the shadow of the Villarica volcano. The small town looks like a Swiss village of gingerbread houses and café-lined sidewalks, as well as spectacular restaurants. Just an hour’s flight south of Santiago (fly into Temuco), the region is an ideal destination for Chile-lovers who have already experienced Santiago, the Atacama Desert, Easter Island and Patagonia.
November through April is the ideal time to visit (during Chile’s summer), when the lake is refreshing, days are warm and the sun is shining throughout the days’ activities. Favorite treks include hiking up the volcano, which is capped with snow throughout the year, and through forests of monkey puzzle trees (gorgeous, tall pine-like specimens). In winter (June through September), guests can ski the surrounding mountains and the Villarica volcano, which is located on the Argentina border.
Located a mile outside town, Hotel Antumalal is a 1950s throwback resort. The hydrangea-lined driveway leads to the main building, which can only be described as a study in 20th-century architecture (in fact, the hotel is on many Chilean architecture schools’ syllabus). The owners, a Czech couple who moved to Chile in the 1940s, were attracted to the area as it reminded them of the Swiss Alps, the area they loved and missed. Still family-owned and -run, the lodge has hosted presidents and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II and exudes an old-world charm, perpetuated by the lovely staff.
All rooms feature large picture windows—enforcing the Lloyd Wright concept that nature is the best décor—as well as fireplaces. Rooms are comfortable if a little haggard but bathrooms leave much to be desired. With 22 guest rooms, including two private cottages, the hotel feels intimate, but the restaurant is so good, it attract non-guests for dinner. Evenings begin with drinks (try a pisco sour) and homemade potato chips by the fireplace or on the terrace, enjoying the spectacular sunsets. In fact the name, Antumalal, means “corridor of sunset,” and was a big reason the owners originally picked the spot.
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