Day 1: Puerto Montt to Puerto Varas (12.5 miles)
Puerto Montt is a gateway port for cruise ships exploring Patagonia, but you can dodge the crowds and see a more peaceful side of the Lakes Region and the island of Chiloé (pronounced chil-o-way) by flying into El Tepual Airport. To navigate the route’s hilly terrain and dirt roads, consider renting a car with four-wheel-drive. Once you’ve left the airport, head to the harbor for a waterfront lunch at Mercado Angelmó (Palafitos de Angelmó; no phone), a two-story open-air market where vendors hawk garlic, eggs, and fresh-caught salmon, and musicians strum the 25-string guitarrón chileno at the upstairs food stalls. Sufficiently full with almejas al vapor (steamed clams), travel north to Puerto Varas along Route 5, with volcanoes Osorno and Calbuco in the distance. Just east of the city center is the rustic Quincho Country Home (Km 7.5, Rte. 225; 56-65/330-737; doubles from $250), overlooking Lake Llanquihue and surrounded by boxwood and riots of wildflowers. You’ll likely be greeted by German-born manager Silja Torborg, who owns the well-regarded Trails of Chile tour operator; heed her recommendation for an afternoon trip to the nearby Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, where you can walk along lookout bridges to see surging waterfalls at Saltos del Petrohué (admission $3). Continue west and stretch your legs at the black-sand beach of Todos los Santos Lake before a drive up Osorno volcano for spectacular views of six other snowcapped peaks.
Dinner in Chile is traditionally served late in the evening, which means that even the tardiest of guests will be served Quincho’s innovative cooking. On the menu? A three-course dinner spotlighting local ingredients, such as spiced pumpkin soup and lamb ravioli topped with tomato, garlic, and basil salsa. Have your dessert (strawberries four ways or house-made ice cream) in the pitched-roof, wood-beamed sitting room, next to a roaring fire.