My friends know that I am a hot springs addict, so it is normal for me to drive almost 200 km in order to visit the best of the region. And this, I was told, is Huife, close to the Villarica lake and volcano. So off I set with my swimsuit, flip flops and towels in my pack, in my little white rental car, Chilean pop music accompanying me all the way on the radio.(more…)
Upon getting to the Villarica lake there was no sign of a snow-topped volcano. The clouds were hanging so low, I barely made out that there was a lake! But driving from the town of Villarica to the town of Pucón (pop. approx. 20.000) along the lake, I could make out that it must be a beautiful area in the Spring and Summer – beaches on one side, hiking up the hills on the other. Lots summer cabins for rent and many hotels. One of the most famous, the Hotel Antumalal, directly on the lake shore, was even visited by Queen Elizabeth II in the sixties. The town of Pucón has an alpine look to it. Lots of rustic-style wooden buildings along the main thoroughfare, with summer tourism and outdoor activities being main sources of income: River rafting, fishing, horse-riding, hiking up the Villarica volcano, into the hills and in the national parks of Villarica and Huerquehue, abseiling – and dipping into the many hot springs of the area. It is actually possible to ski or snowboard the volcano during the day and enjoy a a relaxing hot spring in the evening.
From Pucón it is “only” another 35 km to Huife, on ever smaller serpentine roads. The valley kept getting narrower and I started hearing a mountain river. Then I saw the sign “Hotel and Termas Huife“. It was about 2 p.m. and I was the first visitor on this wintry weekday. At 12.000 pesos (about 16 Euro), I found the entrance fee expensive for the use of four pools. Especially, as I later found out, that practically everything else is charged extra. A 60-minute massage cost 22.000 (approx. 30 Euro), which was reasonable, but the quality, in all honesty, was very mediocre. The open-air pools themselves were warm and inviting, considering the 4 degree temperature of the air. There is only one sauna in the spa center (extra charge). The thermal water, rich in sodium, bicarbonates and potasium, comes out at 64 degrees Celsius and is cooled down to between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius for the pools.
It is the location, however, that makes Huife special: at the end of a valley, in the middle of a natural forest, it offers comfortable (and heated!) accommodations, the pools, spa facilities, two restaurants and, in the warmer months, horse-back riding, hiking, etc.
Was I happy to have gone? Yes, it was fine, but I would only come back if I stayed in Pucón for a vacation. The 2.5 hour drive back to Temuco in the middle of a rainy evening was a drag, Chilean pop-music non-withstanding.