On a clear day, you will be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of Volcán Villarrica smouldering in the distance long before the bus pulls into PUCÓN, 25km from Villarrica. This small mountain town has firmly established itself as a top backpacker destination in the last decade. Each November–April season brings scores of hikers, climbers, whitewater enthusiasts and mountain bikers looking to climb Volcán Villarrica, brave the Río Trancura rapids or hike in the remote forested corners of the nearby Parque Nacional Huerquehue.

A day outdoors is usually followed by eating, drinking and partying in the town’s restaurants and bars, or by a soak in the many surrounding thermal springs. The place gets particularly busy in January and February when Chilean students join forces with international backpackers.

Pucón’s wide, tree-lined streets are arranged in a compact grid, with most tour companies, supermarkets, banks and bars located along bustling Avenida O’Higgins, which bisects the town, with restaurants and guesthouses scattered nearby. O’Higgins ends by La Poza, a black-sand beach on the dazzling blue Lago Villarrica, while at the northern end of Calle Lincoyán you’ll find Playa Grande, with a multitude of pedalos, jet skis and rowing boats for rent.

Ample amounts of volcanic activity mean that there are more commercialized hot springs around Pucón than in any other town in Chile. The facilities on offer vary, but the alleged health-giving properties of the waters are just about the same: bathing in them can benefit arthritis, nervous ailments and mental fatigue. Getting to some of the termaswithout your own car is difficult, though various companies in Pucón run tours to several of the hot springs below. The termas are mainly divided into two river valleys, the Río Liucura and the Río Trancura. Here are three of the best, arranged in order of proximity to Pucón.

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