lagun los patos chile villarica

Hiking the Villarrica Traverse

Every single hike I’ve managed to do in Chile has amazed me more and more than the last and I’ve no idea how its possible. My latest adventure took me to the backside of Volcan Villarrica over what’s known as the Villarrica Traverse. Admittedly I only did the last three days of this 5 day traverse, however it blew away every expectation I had.

The hike starts rather uneventfully on the road leading up to Sendero Estero Mocho along a river, and through the forest until the trail joins into Sendero Los Venados. From there the trail heads along the side of Volcan Quetrupillan through somewhat deserted terrain. On nice surprise was patch of green in the barren landscape, due to a stream running through the area complete with a wonderful waterfall.

You first come upon Laguna Azul from a ridge with a view of the whole lake and it is a sight to behold, the name does not lie. The campsite for this night lies beside the lake and though there are no facilities, its a spectacular spot.

The morning of day two traversed old lava fields, more desert, and a few rivers where you might get wet. You might notice that the map given by CONAF shows the trail going around Argentina, this is not the case, you actually spend the better part of an hour going around the side of a mountain through Argentina and back into Chile as this is the easiest way and is officially marked. Just as you get back into Chile you come over the crest of a ridge and are presented with one of the most surprising and breathtaking views I’ve come across, I was literally stopped in my tracks. To your left is a mountain range, in front of you lies Canino Del Diablo (the devil’s canine) and looking similar to Torres Del Pianes, to the right is Volcan Lanin and directly below you lies a lush beautiful grass covered valley spotted with small ponds and waterfall. Bring lots of battery and memory, you’ll be using it.

You finish off this day at Laguna Los Patos (Wild Goose Lake) where the water is warm enough to swim, but mind the bugs. Alternatively you could hike straight out as its mostly down, not very long, nor strenuous. Personally, I liked having my own private lake for the evening and enjoying the stars.

If you have the time, I’m told the 5 day is spectacular, with a camp next to a glacier, if nothing else, fitting the 3 day into you schedule will not leave you disappointed in he least.

Hiking Tips:

  • If you’re using my notes and data for reference keep in mind I’m a reasonably fast hiker, though I don’t hesitate to stop and take photos or enjoy a snack.
  • If you carried it in, you can carry it out, the seemed to be a fair amount of garbage at laguna azul particularly.
  • Also, there are no toilets so dig a hole.
  • The trail is reasonably well marked and generally I didn’t have much issue with finding the trail.
  • There are bugs that bite on a good portion of the trail, they generally seem to be most active at hot times of the day so keep moving. Wind or the cool night air seems to keep them at bay.
  • I’d recommend hiking from west to east, there is less uphill and the views are more dramatic.
  • Getting to the hike can be a bit of a pain, the bus will drop you off at the highway and from there you might be able to get a hitch to Thermas Palguin or a bit further, starting early and catching people on their way to work or start hiking will help.
  • For getting off the hike the is supped to be a bus, I ended up hitchhiking.
  • You will likely not see many people on this hike, prepare accordingly.


Day Distance (km) Moving (h) Total (h) Downhill Distance (km) Uphill Distance (km) Downhill Elevation (m) Uphill Elevation (m)
1 16 4.5 7 4.5 9.7 564 1293
2 16 4 5.5 6.4 6.1 686 561
3 8.5 2 2.5 4.8 2.7 696 260

Water sources:

  • Day 1 – First half lots of water, second half has only one source.
  • Day 2 – Two sources of water on the first half but mostly desert, the second half has lots of water.
  • Day 3 – Fill up before you leave, its mostly bog and cow fields from here.