One of the highlights of my time spent in Chile was scaling Mount Villarrica, an impressive volcano located near the village of Pucon. Villarrica volcano is one of only five volcanoes in the world that are known to have an active lava lake within its crater, which makes it a must for anyone travelling through Chile.
Ideally you have to start the hike in the early hours of the morning in order to make the most of the experience. The 4am start is extremely worthwhile as you spend the first couple of hours starting your climb up in the dark, with the only natural light coming from the snow and the plumes of orange smoke coming from the volcano.
At the start the climb looks a little daunting, but once you get into your stride the ascent isn’t as challenging as it first seems. However it still remains a fairly difficult climb to the top. The hardest part comes as it gets closer to midday, as the slope gets steeper and the snow gradually becomes slushier under foot due to the heat from the sun.
Although if the sun is out then it suggests you have the perfect weather conditions to make the most of the stunning views you encounter as you make your way up to the summit. Looking over Villarrica National Park you get great views of neighbouring volcanoes Quetrupillan and Lanin as they sit majestically alongside Villarrica in Chile’s picturesque Central Valley.
At the summit of the volcano you get some sensational views of the surrounding area, as small towns collect in between an abundance of mountains, volcanoes and spacious valleys. At 2800m high you can see for miles as you look past the numerous clouds that are dotted along the skyline.
Once at the top you then get the opportunity to walk into and around the outer crater of the volcano. First it is the smell of the sulphur that hits you, then it is the heat radiating from the lava and then finally you peer over the edge to witness first-hand the impressive sight of the lava bubbling away. With the loud noises being produced from the volcano combining with all the other aspects that get your senses twitching, you soon get an appreciation for the amount of power and potential destruction that this volcano possesses.
The next stage of this trip involves the descent, which is typically done in true South American style. Rather than the predictable and boring way of walking back down it is much quicker to slide your way to the bottom on a sledge (more of a plastic plate than a sledge). The speed you travel down can make it a bit scary at times but how many people can say they have sledged down a volcano? It truly is a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed. Besides you slide down the volcano in stages, so you are never continuously sliding down for too long.
The whole day is an unforgettable experience and should definitely not be missed if you find yourself travelling through one of South America’s finest countries, Chile. There is then the opportunity at the end of the day to soak your aching limbs in the nearby hot springs, is there a better way to end your days adventures?