Hot Springs Outside of Town -- All the volcanic activity in the region means there's plenty of baños termales, or hot springs, that range from rustic rock pools to full-service spas with massage and saunas. Nothing beats a soothing soak after a long day packed with adventure. Also, like the Cañi Reserve, the hot springs make for a good rainy-day excursion. Apart from those listed below, you might consider nearby Termas de Quimey Co (31km/19 miles from Pucón; www.termasquimeyco.com), which opened in 2008, and the more rustic Termas Los Pozones (Road to Huife, 34km/21 miles from Pucón; no phone), which is open 24 hours and popular with the younger crowd that wants to keep the party going after a night in Pucón's discos.
Parque Nacional Huerquehue
Smaller than its rivals Conguillío and Villarrica, though no less attractive, Parque Nacional Huerquehue boasts the best short-haul hike in the area, the Sendero Los Lagos. This 12,500-hectare (30,875-acre) park opens as a steeply walled amphitheater draped in matted greenery and crowned by a forest of lanky araucaria trees. There are a handful of lakes here; the first you come upon is Lago Tinquilco, which is hemmed in by steep forested slopes. At the shore, you'll find a tiny, ramshackle village with homes built by German colonists in the early 1900s. A few residents offer cheap accommodations, but the best place to spend the night is in a campground near the entrance or at the Refugio Tinquilco.
There's a self-guided trail called Ñirrico that is a quick 400m (1,312-ft.) walk, but if you're up for a vigorous hike, don't miss the spectacular Tres Lagos trail that begins at the northern tip of Lake Tinquilco. The path first passes the Salto Nido de Aguila waterfall, then winds through a forest of towering beech, climbing to a lookout point with a beautiful view of Lago Tinquilco and the Villarrica volcano. From here, the trail begins zigzagging up and up through groves of billowy ferns and more tall trees until finally (2-3 hr. later) arriving at the beautiful, araucaria-ringed Lago Chico, where you can take a cool dip. A relatively flat trail from here continues on to the nearby Verde and Toro lakes. Bring plenty of food and water, and come prepared with rain gear if the weather looks dubious.
On your way to or from the park, you can make a detour to the Ojos de Caburga, where two aqua-colored waterfalls crash into the tiny Laguna Azul. There are a few picnic tables here, and you can take a dip if the weather's nice. The turn-off point is about 15km (9 1/4 miles) from Pucón.
Getting There & Basics -- The park is 35km (22 miles) from Pucón. Buses JAC has daily service to the park (several times per day, depending on the season), and most tour companies offer minivan transportation and will arrange to pick you up later, should you decide to spend the night. If you're driving your own car, head out of Pucón on O'Higgins toward Lago Caburga, until you see the sign for Huerquehue that branches off to the right. From here it's a rutted dirt road that can be difficult to manage when muddy. Conaf charges $8 (£5.30) for adults and $4 (£2.70) for kids to enter; camping is $20 (£13); it's open daily from 8:30am to 6pm.
Where to Stay -- Conaf has a campground near Lago Tinquilco and charges $28 (£19) per site, for a maximum of six people. The best option for a roof over your head is the attractive, barn-shaped Refugio Tinquilco (tel. 9/539-2728; www.tinquilco.cl), a spacious lodge with bunks for $14 (£9.30) per person (you'll need your own sleeping bag), and regular rooms with bedding for $40 (£27) double. They also have a good restaurant and offer full pension for an additional $9 (£6).
Parque Nacional Villarrica
This gem of a park is home to three volcanoes: the show-stealer Villarrica, Quetrupillán, and Lanín. It's quite a large park, stretching 61,000 hectares (150,670 acres) to the Argentine border and that country's Parque Nacional Lanín, and is blanketed with a thick virgin forest of araucaria, evergreen, and deciduous beech. A bounty of activities is available year-round, including skiing and climbing to the crater of the volcano, hiking, horseback riding, bird-watching, and more.
The park has three sectors. Most visitors to the park head to Sector Rucapillán (the Mapuche's name for Volcán Villarrica, meaning House of the Devil). Volcán Villarrica is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, having erupted 59 times from the 16th century until now. There are two trails here, the 15km (9.25-mile) Sendero Challupén that winds through lava fields and araucaria, and the 5km (3-mile) Sendero El Glaciar Pichilancahue, which takes visitors through native forest to a glacier. The park ranger booth at the entrance can point out how to get to the trail heads. You'll also find the interesting Cuevas Volcánicas in this sector. Ancient, viscous lava that flowed from the volcano created underground tunnels, 400m (1,312 ft.) of which have been strung with lights and fitted with walkways that allow you to tour their dark, dripping interiors. Visitors are provided with a hard hat; the cave's humid, cold air requires that you bring warm clothing, regardless of the season. There are also exhibits describing volcanism and bilingual tours. It's open daily from 10am to 8:30pm during the summer, and from 10am to 6:30pm during the winter; admission is a steep $6 (£4) for adults and $3 (£2) for children (tel. 45/442002). Camping costs $18 (£12).
The second sector, Quetrupillán, is home to wilder, thicker vegetation and a multiple-day backpacking trail that wanders through virgin forest and past the Termas de Palguín (which is also accessible by road), a rustic hot springs. Here you'll also find several waterfalls, including the crashing Salto el León. There's a horse stable that offers trips around the area. There is also an excellent day hike and the region's best thermal baths here. Finally, the third sector, Puesco, is accessed by Rte. 119 south of Curarrehue. There's a Conaf (park service) post and several hikes through the park's wildest terrain, including pine forests, lakes, and rugged mountains.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.