Patagonia, or Chile's Lake District region, is a vast, sparsely populated, beautiful region of mountains, snow capped volcanoes and lakes that is best visited during the months of October to April as the weather is likely to be less unpredictable. It's a huge region, and a popular area for a few nights on most vacations to Chile. Patagonia can be very crowded in the peak tourism season of January to February, when prices often rise. There are various regions that can be visited - we'll mention each as we travel South from Temuco.
Temuco & around
Temuco is a university city, which also has an airport (there are flights to Santiago and various other points in Southern Chile). No need to hang around in town - best to travel out of town to the countryside. There are various hot spring resorts, waterfalls and beautiful mountain scenery in nearby Caracautin. Visit Longquimay Volcano if you want to witness a volcanic eruption (nothing life threatening). Los Arenales ski resort is also nearby. Travel 80km East of Temuco to find one of Chile's most popular National Parks - the Parque Nacional Conguillio. Here too is an active volcano (Llaima Volcano), in addition to wonderful lakes, forests and much birdlife. If you seek adventure tours in Chile, try climbing the Llaima Volcano. It is possible to travel overland from Temuco to Argentina's Lake District.
If you do stay in the town of Temuco, the best hotel is the 5 star Terraverde. Better to head out of town though - consider Termas de Tolhuaca (use of hot springs & horseback riding tours available) or the charming La Baita in Conguillo National Park. None are genuine luxury hotels - travel further South for better options.
Villarica & Pucon
Villarica and Pucon, small resort towns set on one of Chile's most beautiful lakes - Villarica lake, are two of the most upmarket regions of Chile's Lake District. Villarica is a peaceful small town while Pucon is a slightly busier resort. The beautiful landscape is dominated by the nearby Villarica Volcano, and the area is great for hiking, horseback riding and whitewater rafting. There's luxury hotels in both - consider the 5 star spa hotel Villarica Park Lake, or the chalet style Antumalal in Pucon, or the nearby Termas de Conaripe which has nearby attached hot springs.
To travel to Pucon there are flights with both Lan Chile and Sky to Santiago, or it's 90 minutes overland to Temuco, from where one can fly onwards to a range of other destinations further South.
Puerto Varas & the Southern Lakes of Chile
Here too is one of the most beautiful regions of Chile's Lake District. Puerto Montt has an airport with flights to various destinations throughout Chile. The town is not especially pretty - best to travel for 40 minutes to nearby Puerto Varas, a popular and pretty lakeside resort. The landscape is dominated by the towering Osorno Volcano (which can be climbed), and the area offers good outdoor activities such as hiking and horseback riding. Frutillar is an equally attractive lake side town to use as a base to explore. There is an outstandinfgly beautiful full day lake crossing from Puerto Montt to Bariloche in Argentina's Lake District.
For upmarket hotels (again, none can really be considered luxury), consider Ayacara Hotel, Hosteria El Arroyo or Casona del 32 in Frutillar, or Cabanas del Lago or Licarayen hotel in Puerto Varas.
Chiloe is often skipped out on vacations to Chile's Lake District - this is a mistake. Although it is possible to visit on a full days tour from Puerto Varas, Puerto Montt or nearby, it's really worth spending a couple of nights. Chiloe is a beautiful island, with a rich history and culture influenced by the Welsh and indigenous groups. The forested, mountainous island has some beautiful architecture, churches, fascinating local customs and crafts and numerous picturesque fishing villages.