Arriving In Patagonia With Food On My Mind

After leaving Santiago, Chile we headed south to the northern part of the Chilean Patagonia. Patagonia spans across Chile and Argentina with the Andes being part of the continental divide. I also learned that Patagonia means the land of big feet, actually it was the name given to the region because the natives in the area were said to be very tall and had big feet, “pata grandes“, “patagones“. There are lots of interesting facts about the area. For example, how the Andes have the tallest volcano reaching 6000+ meters! According to our guide, 15% of the worlds volcanos are in the Andes, they host multiple glaciers (I saw two!) and are the longest mountain range in the world. Pretty impressive but all I know is flying over the Andes is simply breathtaking…

The Andes Mountains

We had an early flight to Puerto Montt and immediately headed to the beautiful Petrohue Falls for a brisk hike and quick photos. Every where you look in the Patagonia area is a photo opportunity. It’s early Spring and the land, despite the 40 degree drop in temperature from Santiago, is lush and green.

petrohue river

The falls aren’t tall but they are beautiful and powerful…the sounds alone will put you in a trance. That’s volcanic rock there by the way. If you decide to go,  make sure to stay for at least a hour or two so you can take your time discovering the various trails.

Petrohue falls

Just watch where you’re going since the national park is huge and was told one can easily get lost. There’s a little cafe near the falls if you want to stop for snacks and coffee as well as a retail shop selling handmade crafts, wool sweaters and socks. Perfect for the unprepared travelers like myself who decide to walk the trail with comfy shoes but no socks! It was freezing out so those wool socks where my saving grace! We hit the road again for our hotel in Puerto Varas for a very scenic ride. That’s the Osorno volcano in the distance, the clouds covering its peak!

road to Puerto Varas

We were famished so stopped at the Fogon seafood restaurant for some amazing seafood!

Fogon sign

They immediately served us salmon and trout ceviche and warm homemade rolls on the house which we gobbled up in no time. This Patagonia local beer was pretty good too!

Austral Patagonia beer

Next was the a Corvina fish stew…I was in heaven! It arrived piping hot with huge tender pieces of fish, too much for me to finish. The light broth had stewed tomatoes, onions, mixed herbs and a hint of chilies whose flavor I can still remember. It’s the kind of comfort food you need after a chilly, busy day.

Chilean Sea Bass stew

The King Crabs were pretty amazing too but I don’t think I’d be able to finish a dinner this size! They also have this creamy, spicy mashed potatoes to make things interesting.

king crab dinner

Look at the size of these babies!!

King Crabs

After that meal we didn’t even bother with dessert or coffee, it was straight to the hotel to relax before our next adventure. We stayed at the Cabanas del Lago, a certified “green” hotel right by the lake. I loved this place! Great service and comfortable rooms, free Wi-Fi, heated swimming pool, cozy and romantic bar and lounge area overlooking lake Llanquihue, the staff was super friendly and of course our hotel room view did help!

Cabanas del Lago Hotel room view

I couldn’t end the day without a few sweet treats so ventured into town looking for desserts and local spices. After poking around a bit I found a spice blend very popular in Chilean Patagonia, Merken, a typical Mapuche spice! Mapuches being the original natives of the area.

Merken spices

Merken is a hot spice blend made using smoked chile peppers, similar to a smokey, hot paprika and blended with salt and other spices for more flavor. You can sprinkle it on anything and of course, I found a chocolate shop using it in their truffles. So delicious!

Merken truffles

Puerto Varas has quite a few chocolate confectioners due to the Swiss and German who migrated to the area in the early 19th century. You’ll see those influences in the architecture, signage, pubs and foods. A very fascinating place!

Mudolph Chocolates

After that huge lunch earlier I opted for a light snack and coffee at Cassis Cafe, the best coffee in Chile is served there! Seriously, I’m picky about my coffee and usually go for dark roasts and all the coffee I tried tasted like either Nescafe or some watered down version of coffee but Cassis has the real deal. The perfect ending to a perfect day!

Be sure to return for my four part series on my adventures in Chile and Argentina. Next up, crossing the Andes in route to Bariloche, Argentina! Llao llao!