Lago Todos los Santos, Chile

Discover Lago Todos los Santos, an often overlooked lake nestled in one of Chile’s oldest national parks. Larry Rohter of the New York Times describes his unforgettable experiences there that will make you want to jump on the next plane!

EVEN now, nearly four years after I first stood on its shores, Lago Todos los Santos, abutting the foothills of the Andes in southern Chile, sometimes invades my dreams. More than once, I have awakened with images of the lake’s constantly shifting colors and the snow-capped volcanoes and sweet-smelling forests that ring it still vivid in my head.

Lago Todos los Santos, Chile. Photo from NY Times.

I first spotted Lago Todos los Santos, shaped like a long, crooked finger, from the flanks ofOsorno, an 8,700-foot high volcano that overlooks the lake’s western end, on Dec. 10, 2006. I was then The New York Times bureau chief in Brazil, and had convinced my wife that we should take a short trip and trade the heat and clamor of Rio de Janeirofor Chile’s Lake District and its refreshing coolness.

My inclination was to descend and explore it immediately; within hours, though, the death of Gen. Augusto Pinochet was announced, which obligated me to return to Santiago to cover his funeral. But in March 2007, returning from a reporting trip to the Falkland Islands, I was booked on a flight that stopped in Puerto Montt, the city closest to Lago Todos los Santos, and decided to get off and try my luck again.

I went purely out of curiosity, with no plan other than to traverse the lake. The only practical way to get from Petrohué, on the western shore, to Peulla, at the other end, near the border with Argentina, is via ferry. Over the course of the two-hour trip, I watched as Osorno loomed and then faded into the distance, to be replaced on the horizon by the Pontiagudo volcano, whose name, “sharp-pointed” in Spanish, derives from the glacial wear on its peak. Less than 40 miles to the east, I knew, just past Peulla, stood a third volcano: El Tronador, whose very name, “The Thunderer,” inspired respect.

Lago Todos los Santos, Chile