Pucón, a town of about 22,000 situated halfway down Chile’s spine, is the Southern Hemisphere’s Jackson, Wyoming. It’s perched in the mountains and offers endless outdoor options. The key difference: Pucón is surrounded by a group of active volcanoes, the most famous of which is 9,341-foot Villarica, a popular destination for trekking and backcountry skiing that blew its top last March. The eruption momentarily scared off travelers; that, combined with the arrival of shoulder season, makes this the perfect time to head south.
Stay at Hacienda Hotel Vira Vira, a sprawling adventure resort on the banks of the Liucura River. The place was opened by former Swiss banker Michael Paravicini in 2014, when he and his wife decided to switch continents and start over. His first step was to buy riverfront property (smart); his second was to hire head guide Edgardo Songer, who spent 18 years leading trips for the iconic Explora Resorts (smarter).
Once you arrive, you’ll have your pick of adventures—especially in the Chilean spring, from September to November, when there’s snow up high and roaring water below. Want to work your thighs? There’s a 12,393-foot volcano to climb up and ski down. Want to catch fish? Pluck a fat brown trout from the Liucura, out the hotel’s back door. Want more adrenaline? Take a raft down the raging lower Trancura River, where, says Paravicini, “the chance you will fall off the boat is really high.” Want to keep it mellow? The hotel operates its own organic farm; help out with the day’s chores for the full farm-to-table experience. Whether you pitch in or not, you will be treated to multicourse meals sourced from the property, served with Chile’s justly renowned red wines.
Plan Your Trip
Access: Fly LAN to Temuco, 90 minutes north of Pucón, where Vira Vira staff will pick you up. From $1,650 for three nights, all-inclusive.
Weather Report: 64° high, 40° low in October
Detour: Borrow a mountain bike from the lodge for a 20-mile ride through Villarrica National Park to soak in the 106-degree Geometricas hot springs.
Indulge: This is red-meat country. Tackle an enormous slab of beef like a real huaso—a Chilean cowboy—at La Maga in town.