Have you ever wondered what it feels like to climb Chile’s most active volcano ? Find out why this experience is truly unique and a must-do excursion if you plan to visit Pucón!
Without a doubt, you’ve definitely heard about the incredible diversity of landscape inside the Chilean territory. If you like going on adventures in nature, Chile should appear on your next travel destinations list. Thirsty for thrilling and unique excursions ? Then climbing the Villarrica, Chile’s most active volcano, is for you!
Description and last eruption
The Villarrica Volcano (2.847 meters), or Ruka Pillañ in Mapundungún, is a Chilean stratovolcano located in the southern section of the Western Andes. It is situated at the limit of the Araucanía Region and Los Ríos Region, between the Villarrica and Calafquén Lakes. The slopes of the volcano are divided between the cities of Villarrica (North-West), Pucón (North-East) and Coñaripe (South). Finally, it is one of the most beautiful volcanoes of Chile because of it is perfectly cone-shaped, in addition to have a snow-coated summit all year long.
Currently, it is administered by the CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal or National Forest Corporation). The volcano and surroundings form the Villarrica National Park which is a protected area.
With an open crater of 200-meter of diameter, where at the bottom lies a permanent magma lake with a varying depth of 50 and 100 meters. The level of the lava constantly goes up or down. This lake always presents an intense fumerole, frequently accompanied by a weak eruptive activity.
Since 1558, there have been at least 90 volcanic eruptions registered. The most recent happened on March 3rd of 2015 at about 3:00 am. The most energetic phase lasted approximately 55 minutes, characterized by an eruptive column that reached between six and eight kilometers in height. Vertically from the crater, the emission of lava reached up to 1,5-kilometer high.
Following the eruption, the Villarrica National Park around the volcano was closed until the end of the year. As of today, the ski center opens for the ski season every year, along with the organized excursions to the top.
The Villarrica Volcano or Ruka Pillañ in the Mapuche’s cosmovision
In the Mapuche’s native language, Mapudungun, the Villarrica Volcano is named Ruka Pillañ, which means “House of the ancients’ spirits”. For them, the volcano is inhabited by the main spirit of nature who owns it. It is a kind of spirit from of the hills and volcanoes. Alongside this tutelary presence, there would inhabit some other minor spirits in relation to nature, but extremely powerful.
In other words, the Villarrica and its inhabitants take a very special place in the Mapuche’s cosmovision. The simbolism is clear: associated with the good, in opposition with the Llaima volcano that they associate with the bad. As a result, the propitious Rucapillan inspires beneficial dreams and “good weather”, whereas the Llaima transmits bad omens.
Finally, the Villarrica is symbolically related to a group of other elements associated with the positive. For example the colors violet and green, the Moon, the stars in general, the South and the East.
Ascent to Villarrica Volcano’s open crater
If your next travel destination is Chile, you definitely have to add the visit of Pucón and the excursion to the top of Villarrica Volcano. Not only the amazing 360° panoramic view will blow your mind, but you will feel the unique sensation to step on Chile’s most active volcano.
As this activity requires optimal conditions, the hike mostly depends on the weather. A clear sky and a minimum wind are the required conditions for the hike to be safe. During this excursion, 3 professional mountain guides and assistant will accompany the ascent, along with a mountain gear. This includes: gloves, helmets, snow pants, mountain boots, crampons, ice axe, and mountain bag.
The ascent is available almost all year long, but the level of difficulty mostly depends on the season. In summer, the hike is easier for the snow only covers the crater, thus making the climb accessible to every hiker. In winter, the snow fully covers the Villarrica volcano and the hike gets more difficult. It usually requires a good physical health since hiking on snow during 6 hours can be exhausting, but definitely worth the effort.
Usually in Amity, we set the departing hour early in the morning. At 6:30, we gather with our mountain guides and leave towards the ski center. Once arrived, we put on our mountain gear, and then the ascent begins.
In summer, we use the ski lift, in order to gain approximately 1 hour of walking. Then begins the hike, which lasts roughly 4 to 6 hours depending on the group’s walking pace. All along the climb, the view is mind blowing as the summit gets closer. Before reaching the open crater, we’ll take a pause to enjoy the view, relax, and get to refill energy with a picnic lunch.
At around 1 pm, we reach the summit which is the ultimate reward of the hike. A stunning view over 8 different volcanoes, 6 lakes and the valley surrounding the volcano awaits you. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to observe some lava flows depending on the magma lake’s level.
After then, we begin the descent. It basically consists in sliding down the volcano. In winter, enjoy skiing down the slopes of the volcano which is truly an incredible to live for every ski lover!
If you’re interested in climbing the Villarrica volcano, we highly suggest you to take a look at our hiking tours.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want a tailor-made trip in the Lake and Volcano including the climbing of Chile’s most active volcano!
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