It seems placid enough now, but the eastern Lago Calafquén beach community of Coñaripe has seen its share of disruption—not from war or political violence, but from Volcán Villarrica, whose March 1964 eruption triggered a lahar (mud flow) that killed 22 people. It may owe those dazzling black-sand beaches to the volcano, but it’s paid a price for its proximity.
While Coñaripe is just 37 kilometers east of Panguipulli via Ruta 201, it gets most of its traffic from Villarrica, thanks to the smooth paved road between the two towns, and makes a better day trip than overnight.
From the corner of the main thoroughfare Beck de Ramberga and Los Olivillos, a scenic but narrow and bumpy road, open in summer only, crosses the Quetrupillán sector of Parque Nacional Villarrica to Termas de Palguín and Pucón.
While many Chileans take low-clearance vehicles on this hazardous route, even skilled drivers with high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles may find it challenging—not least because of others rounding blind curves in the opposite direction.
From Coñaripe, this road is also the gateway to the Termas Geométricas (Km 16, tel. 099/4425420, www.termasgeometricas.cl), a Zen-like hot-springs retreat that’s drawing raves for its 17 thermal pools, linked by wooden walkways in a lush sylvan setting. There’s also a café, but no accommodations; hours are 10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily in summer, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. daily the rest of the year. Admission costs US$16 for adults, half that for children. Alcohol is forbidden.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition