Puerto Montt is the last city in continental Chile before a series of islands and fjords take over. It is the jumping-off point to Chiloé, with its iconic wooden churches and the starting point for several cruises, including one to Puerto Natales, to access Chile’s Torres del Paine national park, and to the entire lakes region. It’s a lively port city, with most of the commerce taking place down by the water, and most people living further up its steep hills.
Puerto Montt is, as its name indicates, a functioning port. If you like the industrial side, there’s a long walk you can take to watch ships coming in and being loaded, and fishermen coming into town. But if, like most tourists, you’re looking for something tasty to eat, and a place to stay over before heading onto your next adventures. Puerto Montt is a good stopping point.
This is a fish market built up on a series of stilted houses (palafitos) a bit outside of the city. Many eateries jockey for your business, saying “Adelante” (please, come in), and “Desean almorzar?” (would you like to eat lunch?). Caldillo de congrio (conger eel soup) is a favorite, but anything on the menu is sure to be fresh. Lunch tends to be the big meal of the day. You can come to Angelmó for dinner, but fewer restaurants will be open.
Jumping off point to Puerto Varas
Puerto Varas is Puerto Montt’s touristy cousin, poised on the shores of Lago Llanquihue, and filled with charming German bakeries, where you can eat kuchen. Much of the lakes region tourism has take-off points at either Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas, and they are just minutes apart by bus.
Jumping off point to Chiloé
Chiloé is the largest island in the south of Chile, and, unless you take one of three weekly flights there, you’ll pass through Puerto Montt on your way there. It’s a bus, ferry and bus ride, or about three hours to Ancúd, the first city on Chiloé.
Jumping off point to take the Navimag
The Navimag is a service that’s part cruise and part hostel. It’s a converted cargo ship that’s been turned into a ship to cruise down the length of Chile through the fjords, to take you to Puerto Natales, deep in Patagonia. You can also take a different Navimag route down to the San Rafael Glacier, an out-and-back trip that takes four days, though you can stop in Coyhaique on the way back, if you like.
Jumping off point to Petrohué
Petrohué is a national park with a large waterfall and rapids that descend frothily into green water of the outflow of Lago Todos Santos. Many people visit Petrohué on their way to or from the lake, though it can be organized as a day trip from Puerto Montt, as well.
Traditional fair. From the second half of January until the end of February, this area is alive with small local fairs with traditional dance, crafts, music and food.
- Eileen Smith