Trip Date 01/22/2018
Posted On 12/10/2018 17:38:45
Destinations | Cruises | South America | Chile | Norwegian Sun South America Cruise | Puerto Montt | Osorno Volcano | Petrohue Falls | DIY Shore Excursion from Puerto Montt
After a day at sea, we anchored in south central Chile near Puerto Montt, the gateway to the country's Lake District. After considerable research on the port city and this area of the country, we decided on a do it ourself shore excursion to see the natural beauty. We had a little bit of difficulty due to our language barrier, however our plan for the day worked out perfectly.
If you'll be cruising around South America and have a day in Puerto Montt, take a look at this post for some photos of the area. You'll also find all of the details on our day including pre-planning, the route that we took and a comparison to shore excursions offered by Norwegian Cruise Lines. With a group of four traveling together, our total cost for the day was less than $30.00 per person - an absolute bargain for all that we were able to see.
Background Information on Chile's Lake DistrictDuring our first day on the Norwegian Sun (a sea day), we had the opportunity to attend a presentation featuring guest lecturer Dr. James Kus. We learned a few facts about both the country of Chile as well as La Provincia de Llanquihue (the Lake District):
- The population of Chile is concentrated in the central part of the country. Both the far northern and far southern areas tend to have fewer people.
- Puerto Montt is the most populated city in southern Chile.
- The view of the Osorno Volcano is often compared to that of Mount Fuji. While the view can be fantastic at times, it can also be covered in clouds and fog just minutes later.
Renting a Car in Puerto MonttThe most difficult part of our entire excursion came before we even left home - reserving our rental car! After determining the location of the tender port at which we thought we would arrive, we began our search. While we did find some of the major rental car agencies that we are familiar with, their locations weren't convenient to the port area.
All things considered, Econorent (located at Antonio Varas No. 144) was the best option. The website, however, was only available in Spanish. With the help of Google Translate, we stumbled through the reservation process. We promptly received an email confirming our one day rental of a five seater sedan at a cost of $33,905 CLP (about $56.00 USD) including insurance. Although we usually avoid rental car insurance, the price was right for our peace of mind should something unexpected happen during our visit.
Planning for Puerto MonttWith our reservation for a rental car, we finalized our route for the day. Our research told us that the drive through the national park was gorgeous. Our goal was to see as much as we could while still allowing time to soak in the beauty and hopefully take some awesome photos as well. We narrowed down the options and set our hopes on seeing:
- Llanquihue Lake
- Osorno and Calcuco Volcanos
- Petrohue Waterfalls
- Green Lagoon near Petrohue Falls
- Todos Los Santos Lake
Arriving in Puerto Montt, ChileThanks to Julia for standing in line for tender tickets, the four of us boarded the first tender boat to transport passengers. As the Norwegian Sun had anchored earlier than anticipated, we were on our way to the shores of Puerto Montt by 7:45 AM, about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Everything was looking good for making it to the rental car agency for our 8:30 AM reservation.
After disembarking, Scott quickly got on the Uber app to request a ride to Econorent. At a total cost of $1.67 USD, our day was starting out on a very positive note. Scott completed the required paperwork for our rental car, we inspected the vehicle and we were ready to go - all before 9:00 AM!
Vicente Perez Rosales National ParkWith Scott at the wheel and Todd riding shotgun, we headed toward Parque National Vicente Perez Rosales. Shortly after a brief delay while we waited in line to pay the toll charge of $600 CLP ($1.00 USD), we made a quick stop at Mirador Lake Llanquihue. Before continuing further into Chile's oldest and largest park, we came upon a great view of Volcan Osorno (Osorno Volcano).
Petrohue FallsContinuing down the road, we came to a parking area filling up with cars and buses and we knew we had found the falls. After parking, we followed the crowd of people walking toward the entrance station to pay the $4,000 CLP per person entrance fee (about $7.50 USD). Following a very brief stop at the well advertised "free" bathrooms we easily found our way to Saltos del Rio Petrohue (Petrohue Falls). We soaked in the beauty of the waterfalls at one of the viewpoints from which we could see the bridge filled with tourists snapping photographs.
We convinced ourselves to leave our first viewpoint so as not to miss a more beautiful view which might lie ahead. We followed the sound of the water to the other viewpoints for more photos of the falls flowing over the dark colored volcanic rock and into the beautiful crystal clear river water.
After spending some time walking along the pathways and across the bridges to find the many viewpoints, it was easy to see why the natural beauty of Petrohue Falls is such a popular attraction. Although it was not easy to choose just one, our favorite view showcased both Petrohue Falls and the Osorno Volcano. The white snow on top of the volcano along with the white rapids contrasted beautifully with the lush green trees, blue river waters and black volcanic rock.
Before returning to our rental car, we came upon the starting point to one of the park's trails and decided to see some of the surrounding forest. Our hike took us along the trail to Arroyo Los Enamorados (Los Enamorados Creek) where we enjoyed some more beautiful views of the river as well as a watering hole.
After experiencing both the falls and a short hike through the forested area of Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, we decided that we were ready to make an escape from the huge flies hanging around the area. Once we were all back in the car, we picked up our drive in the same direction that we had been going. The paved road ended just beyond Petrohue Falls, but that didn't stop us. We continued forward on the gravel road to both La Maquena and La Ventana viewpoints. Both stops were very quick ones for us as the huge flies were even more aggressively swarming than at the falls. (We overheard a tour guide telling members of his group that the flies are attracted to dark colors - maybe that is why they would not leave my black sweater alone!)
Mirador El BosqueUpon leaving the viewpoints we backtracked, but before heading back to Puerto Montt, we veered off toward Mirador El Bosque for more views of the lake and volcano. I found a path immediately to the right of the viewpoint, and wandered off a short distance on my own. Although I didn't have the time to hike the path in its entirety, I did catch a glimpse of a wooden bridge crossing over a creek.
Osorno VolcanoScott continued expertly driving up the winding road from switchback to switchback until we were up close and personal with Volcan Osorno. We enjoyed fantastic lake views looking down on both Lake Llanquihue and Todos los Santos Lake from the base of the volcano.
We contemplated a round trip ride up the volcano on the ski lifts at a cost of $12,000 CLP (about $20.00 USD), however we were concerned about timing. In order to ensure that we'd have time for our drive, the walk back to the tender pier plus a little buffer for the unexpected, we loaded back into the car.
As we began our downward journey, we had an excellent view of the hairpin turns that Scott brilliantly navigated on the way up and would soon navigate on our descent.
German ChurchesSince we passed on the ride up the volcano, once we exited the park we realized that we were slightly ahead of our tentative schedule. On our way from the port into the park we had passed a number of German churches, so we took advantage of our extra time for a few more stops. During Dr. Kus' onboard lecture about the area, he mentioned both the churches that we would see as well as the relatively large German population in the area. Although we didn't have enough time for inside visits or even long stops, we did make brief photo stops at Capilla Santa Cruz, Capilla San Pedro Claver and Capilla San Miguel Los Riscos.
Returning to Puerto MonttFollowing the same route in reverse that we drove to get to the park, we made a final stop to fill the tank of our rental car as we neared the city. (Actually, we did make one wrong turn which delayed our return by a few minutes and forced us to pay an extra small toll charge.) We easily found the Econorent office where returning our vehicle was quick and painless. With enough time for a leisurely walk, we wandered through the Plaza de Armas and even had time for a quick visit to see the fish market before boarding a tender back to the ship.
The "WE Did It!" EvaluationDuring our cruise, Norwegian Cruise Lines offered two similar 7 1/2 hour long tours, each priced at $159.00 per person. In addition to seeing the park and waterfall, the Petrohue Falls, Puerto Varas & Frutillar tour included lunch in Puerto Varas and a museum visit in Frutillar. With a stop at La Burbuja included, the NCL Falls, Lakes & Volcano - Nature at its Best tour made a stop in Ensenada for lunch and in Puerto Varas for shopping at the handicraft market.
The total cost for our Uber ride, rental car, round trip tolls (including our one mistake toll) and fuel was just under $84.00 USD. After adding the $7.50 USD per person park entrance fee, the total that we spent for all four of us was less than $115.00 - significantly less than the cost for one person to join either of the cruise line offerings. Whether you choose to join a tour or explore on your own, escaping the port area to see some of the stunning natural beauty of Chile is a day well spent in the opinion of The Wordy Explorers.
Tips for a DIY Port Day in Puerto MonttHere's a few tips to help make sure that you enjoy your day and get the most out of your visit:
- Do a little research before leaving home to determine which optional views, hikes and sites appeal to you and your traveling companions;
- Once you have made a tentative itinerary, plan your route including time for transportation to and from your ship to the rental car agency. Allow time for the unexpected (larger than anticipated lines, wrong turns, street closures, etc.);
- Reserve your rental car in advance in order to save some time when picking up your car. Econorent located at Antonio Varas No. 144 was the best option for us, however there are likely other similar options;
- If you reside in the United States, consider applying for an International Driving Permit (which translates your identification information into 10 languages) for peace of mind;
- Download and have some familiarity with smartphone apps that will be helpful during your trip including Uber, Google Maps and Maps.me;
- Ensure that you have cash (Chilean Pesos) for toll charges; and
- Follow instructions found in your cruise line's daily information source so that you can be among the first to disembark your ship (i.e. wait in a certain location, line up early for tender tickets, etc.).
Puerto ChacabucoIf your cruise itinerary includes a stop at Puerto Chacabuco, don't miss our post titled A DIY Day Trip from Puerto Chacabuco to the Canyons, Mountains, Rivers and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region. You'll find ideas for another very inexpensive day trip from the less than stellar port city - this time on public transportation.
Cruise Ship Ports of CallWhen traveling by cruise ship, which of the following do you prefer ... and why:
- joining tours available for purchase through your cruise line;
- joining pre-arranged tours through operators other than your cruise line;
- finding a guide once you arrive at the port; or
- venturing off on your own?
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