Located just off the Panamericana, LAGO LLANQUIHUE is an immense inland sea of 870 square kilometres, a backdrop for one of the icons of the Lake District, the Mount Fuji-like Volcán Osorno (2661m), in all its stunning, symmetrical perfection, surrounded by gently rolling pastures. The little towns and villages around Lago Llanquihue have a shared German heritage, but differ greatly in character. Puerto Varas, at the lake’s southernmost point, is a bustling adventure tourism centre to rival Pucón. Frutillar, on the lake’s western shore, is a summer holiday resort beloved by Chileans, while Puerto Octay, to the north, is a neat little Bavarian-looking town. By the time you come to the village of Ensenada, on the far eastern shore of the lake, forest has overtaken dairy fields and the land begins to rise as you enter the foothills of the Andes. This forest extends to the border, and is protected by the Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales. The national park is a favourite scenic route into Argentina via the magical green waters of Lago Todos Los Santos.
South of Ensenada the road winds its way down through isolated country to the placid calm of Chile’s northernmost fjord, a branch of the Estuario de Reloncaví. Here you can horse-trek into South America’s oldest rainforest – the famous alerce groves found in the valleys above the village of Cochamó.