The beginning of the southern adventureJanine Gates ▼ | September 8, 2009
Puerto Montt is the beginning of the fantastic land of fjords, canals, islands, volcanoes wrapped in snow, rich fields, green hills and the magic of Southern Chile. On 12th February 1853 don Vicente Perez Rosales, together with German immigrants who had come to the area of Llanquihue, founded the city of Puerto Montt. So, it has not been created by "Gods inspired with divine signs", but in this case Gods weren't necessary.
The city grew very fast as the centre of the colonized territory and at the arrival of the railway in 1912, it became a central point on the way to Chiloe and Magallanes. In 1979 Puerto Montt became capital of the X Region of the Lakes, and today its populations reaches 110.000 inhabitants. The cultivation of salmon in more than 30 factories has produced an important growth since 1985, and today Puerto Angelmo, a small port near the city, is the starting point for the fishing production in the area. Puerto Montt was destroyed and then rebuilt after the earthquake in 1960.
It is interesting that Puerto Montt is an all-season destination. Of course, you should be prepared for rain season and cooler temperature during the winter but it is not Amazonia or Arctic, so you will be fine in any time of year. When in the city you may enjoy its architecture and culture but the main reason for your visit is to see the beauty around it.
Tours of Puerto Montt include visits to the national parks, cruises, fishing and other outdoor sports. The well-known and spectacularly beautiful year-round Cruce de Lagos are warmly recommended: from Puerto Montt to Bariloche, Argentina, crossing Todo los Santos Lake in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park by luxury catamaran, then by bus through an Andean pass, and then back to the water on two Argentinian lakes. This is a two-day trip and one not to be missed. You may enjoy three day cruises through the fjords to Puerto Natales, and there are also shorter cruises to Laguna San Rafael, and ferries to Puerto Chacabuco/Coyhaique.
Tour Parque Nacional Alerce Andino, protecting national forests, Parque Nacional Hornopirén for skiing on the volcano of the same name, and of course, a visit to Parque Nacional Chiloe. Chiloe Island is the largest island in South America and it offers varying attractions to the visitor: the scenery of course, sports such as sea kayaking, walking, fishing, plus a rich mythology of legends and sea monsters, buildings on stilts at water's edge, called palafitos, and colourful wooden churches.
If you like shopping you can find a fine selection of woollen wear, basketry, wood, leather, shell, and metal works in the Feria Artesanal, handcraft markets, of Angelmo, the fishing port. Try the seafood restaurants and the local foods, it would be shame not to taste local food. In the city the main attraction is the Municipal Museum Juan Pablo II. No wonder because all South America is deeply religious. The church bears the Pope's name because he visited Puerto Montt in 1987 and the following year the museum was opened. It possesses a variety of objects of different nature: old pictures of the city, pieces mapuches and chilotas, a section of weapons and sailing very interesting, mythological beings' figures carved in wood, etc.
The square and the Cathedral, the oldest building in the city, reconstructed in 1963 after the earthquake of 1960 are central spots of the city. From Puerto de Angelmo the ferries and ships begins their journey to Puerto Natales, lagoon San Rafael, Aisen, and Thermal baths of Puyuhuapi. Beside the port there is a market of fish and shellfish where sellers are nor selfish. It is a remarkable building with local products of the sea - a true spirit of Chile. On the coast of the channel Tenglo are the cooking places where you can enjoy some marine delights or a typical plate known as "curanto".
Puerto Montt is not for those deeply involved in the internet, it is the starting place if you love wild nature, canals, sea and volcanoes. And one remark for the end: the vast majority of tourist who come here will come again. That's the best recommendation of them all. ■