Geographically, the Chilean territory is located in one of the greatest areas of volcanic & seismic activities in the whole world.
The Pacific Ring of Fire, close to the Andes mountain range, carved by water, ice and volcanoes. With more than 2.000 volcanoes and 90 potentially active, Chile has one of the largest volcanic chains in the world. Indeed, great historical eruptions, such as the eruption of the Calbuco Volcano in 2015, have had regional and global consequences.
In this article, you will learn more about the most active volcanoes located in the beautiful Lake & Volcano District.
The Lake and Volcano District
From Santiago de Chile to Puerto Montt (the gateway to Patagonia), we find a wide variety of landscapes with lands covered with forests of araucarias and dotted with lagoons, rivers or lakes. Moreover, here and there, we can admire the active volcanoes of Chile’s Lake & Volcano District. They are the perfect spot for nature lovers to enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling & skiing.
Kütralkura Geopark – Lonquimay Volcano
The Lonquimay volcano is located 130 kilometers north-east of Temuco city, in the Araucanía Region. It is part of Chile’s first Geopark. The UNESCO highlighted Kütralkura Global Geopark as one of the most active volcanisms in the world. Indeed, it is geologically located in the heart of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Surrounded by the magical landscape of Southern Chile, the Lonquimay volcano becomes more attractive as it enters the Andes Mountain Range. In the horizon, we can admire the other volcanoes around, like Tolhuaca, Callaqui, and Copahue (northbound) and Llaima, Sierra Nevada, Villarrica and Lanín (southbound).
During autumn season, the native tree leaves show their golden colors and the snows slowly covers the volcano, which makes the area remarkably beautiful.
In winter, the area is fully covered by snow, in addition to the endemic araucaria tree forests that also get covered by a white coat. This makes it possible to enjoy winter sports at Corralco Ski Resort, located on the slopes of Lonquimay volcano.
During spring and summer, the thaw radically changes the appearance and color of the volcano. Due to the solidified lava constitution, it takes a reddish color, leaving only the eternal ice on top.
Moreover, the massive summit of Lonquimay does not only allow us to the natural beauties around, such as the lagoons, rivers, volcanoes, etc. It also gives us the chance to see a tremendous crater, of more than 800-meters long (one of the largest of Chile’s southern volcanoes), completely covered by a glacier.
Regarding its volcanic activity, the Lonquimay became particularly well known for the events that happened during Christmas in 1988. During an eruption that lasted approximately one year, it sculpted a small crater near the north slope. As a result, the “Christmas Crater” was born. Located in the lower part of the Lonquimay, it is possible to visit it with a guide, as it is still active.
Conguillío National Park – Llaima Volcano
From Temuco city, the Llaima volcano already makes itself noticeable with its two visible peaks. Located 80 kilometers from this city, it is part of the eastern landscape. Also, the Llaima occupies a large part of the Conguillío National Park where it stands out as the highest summit.
The presence of “Los Paraguas”, a small ski resort located on its western flank makes it the perfect place to visit during winter. Thank to this, it helps in being the most visited volcano in southern Chile. Surrounded by araucarias forests and by beautiful mountain lakes, the Llaima and surroundings give us the opportunity to enjoy wonderful landscapes.
Historically, it is one of the most active volcanoes in South America, and one of the largest in the southern Andes. The western, south-western and eastern flanks possess more than 29 km2 of glaciers. Shape-wise, it is an almost-perfect cone, although it consists of two peaks and about 40 cones of adventitious slag. The northern summit exhibits a crater of 350-meters wide, and more than 300 meters in depth. Between 1994 and 2009, the open crater presented an active fumarole with gas emission and water vapor, but nowdays the main crater is blocked by layers of ice and lava (from 2008 and 2009 eruption). Lastly, the southern summit has remains of a small cone made of slag nested in a blocked crater of about 200 meters.
Regarding the volcanic activity of the Llaima, the historical record includes 48 eruption between 1640 and 2009. During these events, lava flows, lahar formation, pyroclastic projection and occasionally the generation of pyroclastic flows occurred. Finally, the last eruptive cycle began in May 2007, with a weak ash emission. A moderate strombolian eruption followed with lahar generation in January 2008, culminating in April 2009 with a vigorous strombolian eruption.
Villarrica National Park – Villarrica Volcano
The Villarrica or Ruka Pillan is an active volcano with the largest historical record of eruptions in Chile, and even South America. Geographically, it is located at the south of the Villarrica Lake, and at the north of the Calafquén Lake. It is a stratovolcano located on a volcanic chain aligning it with the Quetrupillán and Lanín volcanoes.
At the top, we find an open crater of 200 meters of diameter. Generally with continuous fumarole and a quasi-permanent lava lake, whose surface has variable height depending on the moon. Moreover, an important glacier covers the Villarrica, and extends for 30 km2.
The volcanic activity of Villarrica began about 650,000 years ago. Throughout the years, it has developed explosive and effusive eruptions, with the emission of magmatic material essentially. As product of the explosive post-glacial activity, voluminous pyroclastic flows and formation of boilers were generated mainly 13,900 and 3,900 years ago. Lastly, since 1558, there have been about 49 eruptions, mainly of an effusive nature.
The impressive last eruption happened in 2015
The last explosive eruption was recorded on March 3, 2015. It generated a lava source almost 2 km high above the crater. In addition, an almost 12-kilometer tall column of tefra remained held for almost 19 minutes. It was pretty scary !!
Besides being the most active volcano, the Villarrica is undoubtedly the main natural attraction in Southern Chile. Indeed, the ski center located at the base of the volcano (1,400 meters) is the perfect spot for summer skiing and snowboarding.
As a matter of fact, Pucón Ski Center is one of the most beautiful in Southern Chile. In fact, it has a certified ski/ boardercross run for skiing and snowboarding, with international teams coming in for “summer trainning”. The ski resort offers 9 lifts, and 20 runs for all types of levels. Also, it is a great place for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, specially if you decide to climb up the crater of Villarrica volcano.
In spring and summer, the base of the Villarrica volcano is perfect for climbing and hiking activities. Through the endemic araucaria and nothofagus tree forests, the hiking trails in the area are infinite. However, the most impressive hike to do is certainly the one that takes us to the open-crater. From there, the view is breath-taking and allows us to see the different volcanoes, lakes, lagoons around, and the unmissable Andes as landscape.
Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park – Osorno Volcano
The Osorno volcano is located approximately 50 km from the quaint city of Puerto Varas, between the Llanquihue and Todos Los Santos Lakes. It belongs to the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park.
It is in this area where volcanism has been, along with tectonic processes and glaciers, the main factors that shaped the Andes mountain range. In fact, the Osorno is a stratovolcano that belongs to the Southern Volcanic Zone of the Andes. It forms a transverse volcanic chain along with La Picada, Puntiagudo and Cordón Cenizos volcanoes. Like the Llaima and Lonquimay volcanoes, the summit of the Osorno is covered by a glacier.
The volcanic activity of the Osorno began some 200,000 years ago, building itself as a stratovolcano immersed in the ice field dominating the landscape during the so-called Santa María glacial period. The post-glacial eruptive activity is characterized both by the occurrence of eruptions from the central crater, and by the activity of parasitic centers located on the flanks.
Historically, the eruptive activity of the Osorno volcano has been characterized essentially by episodes of low explosivity. As of now, the faint fumarole since the beginning of the 20th century under the ice of the summit seems to have attenuated.
Last, but not least, the Osorno volcano is the highlight of our top bike tours in Chile’s Lake & Volcano District. Indeed, besides getting to cycle your way towards the Petrohue falls, you have the chance to challenge yourself and climb the road to Osorno volcano as it is South America’s steepest climb.
In Amity, we are blessed to operate our top travel experiences in the beautiful Lake and Volcano District. Together with our friendly team of expert guides, you can explore the best volcanic attractions of southern Chile. Either by hiking, skiing or cycling, the visit of the most active volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire is a must-do when traveling to Chile.