Pucón, the famed Chilean adventure Mecca, sits regal on a vast lake above Patagonia, on the border of Chile’s wild Southern reaches. With temperate, warm summer weather: volcano climbing, rafting, horse riding, fishing and hiking abound.
Yet you don’t have to be an adrenaline seeking volcano-climber to enjoy Pucón. There are breathtaking drives that finish with easy walks around hidden lakes (Lake Quillelhue has dramatic volcano views), while fishing in local rivers is also a very relaxing experience. Alternatively you can just wallow in warm volcanic waters all day long- not too taxing- and the stunning Termas Geometricas is the summit of thermal bathing.
Every summer (December to mid-March) the small town erupts with 140,000 adventure-seeking visitors so bars, restaurants and tour centers flow along the main streets to accommodate this annual pilgrimage, and the hot springs are more crowded. Autumn (Late March- mid June) is a balmy time to visit Pucón, as the streets and trails become quieter with the change of season. One of Chile’s most active volcanoes, Volcano Villarrica bears down over the streets of Pucón, smoking quietly and covered in snow. The region is scattered with lakes and the incredible high white cones of the volcanoes, and deciduous trees make up the local flora- in abundance- while the turning autumn leaves are a stunning orange and gold.
In the minds of many, Pucón’s perfection is the plethora of natural hot springs in such close proximity to the town. Hard days hiking or sore from the pony trek? Tired after a long lunch? Go immerse yourself in the health-giving waters of the many Termas pools. Some are rustic (Pozones), the more sophisticated offer spa treatments (Huife, Puyehue) some have mud baths, most are open late, some are open 24 hours (Pozones).
Termas Geometricas is located nearer to the town of Villarrica than Pucón, but its beauty makes it well worth the longer trip, and a whole afternoon or evening can be passed happily there, candles come out at dusk.
The hot springs are all open year round, particularly useful for warming up during the chillier fall and winter, when Pucón feels more like a ski resort than a hot summer destination. The town’s shops and houses, constructed from timber with attractive chunky wooden facades, give the settlement a distinct “mountain town’’ feel and its visitors the urge to reach for a thick woolen sweater.
At Termas Geometricas the bather feels just as immersed in this nature as any hearty hiker. It’s the perfect cheat, and a truly ethereal experience. You climb your way up a maze of wooden walkways through an ever-narrowing ravine filled with lush forest and steam. Off the raised red wooden paths are 17 separate pools, all at staggered heights and different geometric sizes, flowing with hot thermal volcanic water at varying natural temperatures.
At the very top of the ravine walkway a waterfall smashes down- you can jump under if you are brave enough.
Lower down, a smaller icy waterfall cascades into a plunge pool, again for the brave alone to benefit from. Many of the pools at Geometricas are built into the ravine so one side is actually cliff, covered in moss and ferns jungle style. These steaming forest baths seem a prehistoric setting, as if dinosaurs may arrive at any minute.
Esteemed Chilean architect German del Sol, who built the baths with strong primitive geometric elements in mind, says he wanted to bring culture and nature together in the previously inaccessible ravine. He explains how the geometry of his design emphasizes what is natural and yet this geometry also serves to separate his designs from nature- it is a beautiful contrast.
Bathers can find small hidden pools further up the ravine where they may bath alone, or else frequent the larger lower pools with "good company and plenty of space to share or contemplate the wild natural surroundings," writes del Sol on Geometrica’s website.
Be warned they only take cash for the CP$8,000 (US$14) per person entry fee plus towel. The grounds also boast a small lodge with a fireplace, warm refreshments and deli sandwiches. Try the pumpkin soup and a hot chocolate.
Pucón has something for everyone, natural beauty, adventure and the therapeutic waters of its thermal baths. There is something thrilling about living in such close proximity to an active volcano. Just walking down the street can give even the hardened adrenaline junkie a bit of a buzz. Or simply feel the energy of the volcanic waters creep into your bones as you wallow.