The tourist town of Puerto Varas, set on the banks of Lake Llanquihue with views of the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, makes a great base to explore the southern end of the Lake District. With plenty of hotels, restaurants and shops on relatively quiet streets that roll up and down the hillside it’s a pleasant alternative to the more commercial Puerto Montt.
We stayed one night each in Puerto Varas both at the beginning of our tour of the region and again the night before our flight out of the Puerto Montt airport back to Santiago. This post covers both stays.
Cumbres Hotel (Stayed on March 4, 2018)
Set on the water with great views of Volcano Osorno, this business style spa hotel has a restaurant and pool, comfortable lounge areas and easy parking in front of the hotel.
The spacious rooms have comfortable beds. Amenities include a safe and a Nespresso type coffee maker. The Wifi connection is reasonably good. The one negative is the lack of outlets.
The breakfast buffet includes an extensive selection of items that span desserts and pastries, breads, cereals, cut fruit, cold cuts and cheeses, to hot items such as scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, breakfast meats and potatoes. The coffee is fresh brewed with hot milk available. One of the nicest spreads we have seen both in terms of variety and quality.
Solace Hotel (Stayed on March 14, 2018)
This large functional establishment has comfortable, spacious rooms with an extra-large king bed and a sitting area. Amenities include a safe and the Wifi signal is strong. They have free parking in front of the hotel.
The breakfast buffet offers a large selection of breads and other baked sweet goods, whole and cut fruit, cereal and yogurt, and an assortment of cheeses and cold cuts. Hot items include scrambled eggs and potatoes. Fresh brewed coffee with hot milk is available.
Dinner at the hotel was one of the worst yet. The Pisco sours were a very pale yellow and tasted like lemonade. They forgot our ceviche appetizer, which after sampling the quality of the mains was probably a good thing.
The pastel de choclo, a Chilean casserole made with fresh corn and a variety of meats, was the best dish of the evening. The tomatoes in the side salad were the variety of hard tasteless tomatoes you find in the States. A surprise since this being the end of summer here the tomatoes have been wonderful.
Don’s fish dish was a small portion of a not very fresh medley of hake, shrimp and octopus.
Lunch at Cassis Chocolates and Café (March 4, 2018)
This popular chain was hopping on a Sunday afternoon. The extensive menu may be too broad as the food quality was hit or miss.
The Llanquihue salad with smoked salmon, avocado, red onion was excellent.
Don’s pizza, ordered without cheese, however, was white and terribly underdone. The breads in the bread basket were also all white and undercooked. I guess they don’t believe in browning their bread products. The server was very busy but was friendly and reasonably efficient.
Pizza at Mesa Tropera (March 14, 2018)
Located on a pier with views of Volcano Osorno this casual but hip eatery has great pizza and beer as well as other offerings. Chicken and pesto pizza ordered without the cheese.
Diner at Casavaldes Restaurante and Marisquería (March 4, 2018)
An upscale seafood place that gets great reviews. I made a reservation by phone in the afternoon for the same evening and got a table for 2 at 8:30. When we arrived they did not have our reservation and they were full, but she scrambled and got us a table. I showed her the number I had called and she told me that was the land line and not the most reliable as anyone could answer it and they don’t always write it down. Be sure to call: 990793938.
The elegant but rustic dining room is divided into two areas with large picture windows looking over the lake. Tables near the window are better not just for the view but are also better situated in the room as the ones furthest from the window are in the walkway between the two dining rooms.
While other reviewers raved about the service, we found it distracted. They had a large party in the other room and we were left a long time before being offered a drink or anything other than the menu. We ended up ordering drinks, appetizers and mains all at the same time. Not terrible but in a more refined restaurant you like to sip your Pisco sour or martini while perusing the menu.
We started with local oysters. A mistake. I’m sure they were fresh but with a bitter aftertaste they just don’t compare to other oysters. Although they were much better with a dousing of lemon juice, I still wouldn’t order them again.
For mains we ordered the congrio. Cooked beautifully, Don was quite pleased. Preparations and sides are ordered separately. The asparagus was late in the season and a bit tough.
The sopa de mariscos was flavorful with lots of shellfish, not necessary large plump morsels but still well cooked and the yummy broth was divine soaked up by their rustic bread.
For dessert we tried their profiteroles which can be not very good at lesser restaurants. They did a great job with nice puff pastry and vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate sauce.
Despite our experience I would recommend this restaurant. The poor service may have been due to timing and our server as other tables seemed to be getting better all around service.
Puerto Varas to the Puerto Montt Airport
Located just 24 minutes from the Puerto Montt Airport via good back roads (V-590), Puerto Varas makes a good base before a morning flight. We arrived at 7:45 for a 9:40 flight which turned out to be way too early as returning the car was a breeze and there was no one in line for check-in or at security.