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Hike to the Top of Volcán Villarica

Refugio Villarrica, Chile


Elevation Gain

4747.4 ft

Route Type



Added by Alex Mason

Rising 2,847 meters above sea level, Volcán Villarica is one of Chile's most active volcanoes. During the high season, 200 adrenaline thirsty people climb it every day.

Upon arrival in Pucón, Volcán Villarica is an over powering presence, a permanent, snow covered background, showing off the way it reflects the sunset and hiding when the weather is bad. 

The first three days that I was in Pucón, it was cloudy and raining and the volcano was covered by low hanging clouds.  The day that the clouds cleared I was full definition shocked to see just how much of the sky was filled by its outline.  It is so active that fumes rising from the top are constantly visible.

It is impossible and prohibited to climb the Volcano without the proper equipment.  I joined a tour group from Sierra Nevada, a team of extremely experienced, multi-lingual, and high energy guides who make the climb not only possible, but fun.

We met at the agency in downtown Pucón at 6am and were given backpacks with our gear, including a jacket, snow pants, boots, a sled (yes, you sled all they way down), crampons, gloves, gas mask, and an ice pick.

Our group of eleven plus four guides packed into the van and drove the half hour to the base of the Volcano where we were gifted by the early morning colors spreading over the clouds and the land below, outlining the giant shadow of Villarica.  At this point you have the option of paying an extra 10,000 CLP to take a ski lift up the first 400 meters in elevation, saving approximately 1 hour of walking.  Or, you can do what I and four others did and walk (go big or go home, right?).

Don't be fooled, you will not be alone on this climb, especially during the high season (South American summer).  We were an unbreaking line of dozens of tour groups climbing like ants up an ant hill.

We climbed steadily up rock and snow for four hours, breaking every 45 minutes or so for food, water, and to reapply sunscreen.

Just below the crater we left our large backpacks, took our cameras, ice picks, and gas masks, and climbed the last 20 minutes to the top.  It was incredible, it is alive, and we were lucky enough to see quite a bit of volcanic action.  There was one eruption big enough to shower us with a bit of warm magma. 

Even though seeing a real live volcano in action was amazing, my favorite part of the whole day was when we put on our snow gear and sled/surfed the entire way down the volcano, first through snow, controlling our speed with our ice picks, and then through ash.

We ended the day back in the agency drinking beer with our guides. 

Tour price: 80,000 CLP (high season)

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