Returning to Chile II

More than two months after the February 27 earthquake that shook southern Chile, few travelers have wandered over the border from Argentina. Like the autumn misty rains, uncertainty about what awaits them swirl. Slowly, though, some are venturing in, to experience the region’s rich natural and cultural diversity.

Temuco's damaged market. Photo by Lorraine Caputo.


Temuco, the next major city north of Valdivia and capital of Región de los Lagos, suffered considerably more. Buildings that were damaged include the municipal market, public hospital, several hotels, the Intendencia where the Sernatur office was, the Museo Nacional Ferroviario and a motley array of homes and businesses. The city is back to speed, though. Market stalls continue to sell artisan crafts and serve seafood meals. The hospital is attending to patients. Sernatur has now moved out to the Museo Regional de la Araucanía (Avenida Alemania 084). The train museum, Museo Nacional Ferroviario Pablo Neruda, is scheduled to reopen the week of May 17.

Another building casualty in Temuco. Photo by Lorraine Caputo.


Pucón is eagerly awaiting the return of tourists. The town’ most famous attraction is Volcán Villarrica in Parque Nacional Villarrica. Totally unrelated to the earthquake is the volcano’s decades-long activity. It seemingly mood-swings being from just mildly seething to spitting out tongues of fire and gas. At present it is on yellow alert, but climbs are still happening every day. When you arrive in Pucón, the volcano may be having a calmer day. Check on conditions when you get there, and remember to keep an eye on the traffic light at the municipality for warnings. Pucón, though, has many other attractions to enjoy, among them bike riding, horseback riding, rafting and over a dozen fantastic hot springs. Hotels, restaurants and other necessities were untouched by the quake.


All the other national parks in Región de los Lagos, including Conguillío, Huerquehue and Tolhuaca, are open. Refuges and trails are in good shape. To the northeast is Volcán Llaima, another active volcano. A four-kilometer (2.4 mile) off-limits zone has been established around its crater. The ski lodge, though, is expected to open this season, as are the other ones in Región de los Lagos. All border crossings were unaffected by the earthquake.

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