Port of Puerto Montt
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You'll still experience Germanic influence today: Don't miss munching "kuchen," a German-influenced fruit flan, accompanied by the local German-style beer, Kunstmann. But what Puerto Montt is really all about is recreation -- lots of it. Though the small, mostly industrial city lacks the urban energy of Santiago to the north and the pristine beauty of the Tierra del Fuego region to the south, Puerto Montt -- at the southernmost end of Chile's Lake District -- is set among lakes, fjords and rivers, and nestled at the foot of snow-capped mountains.
After cruising up the coast from Punta Arenas, or down the coast from Valparaiso, a day enjoying the outdoor opportunities in and around Puerto Montt is just what most cruisers crave. Take your pick: hike up the perfectly symmetrical Osorno Volcano, try your hand at flyfishing, go whitewater rafting, waterski on Lake Llanquihue, try a zipline canopy tour, kayak along a river, paddle a canoe across a lake or ride a bicycle.
If you've come to Puerto Montt seeking less active pursuits, you can also have a lazy day with a lakeside picnic on a Pacific Ocean beach in the area, shop for local products and crafts at the artisan market, or try on leather boots in the shops.
Top Puerto Montt Itineraries
Zaandam33-day Panama Canal Inca & S. America DiscoveryFort Lauderdale , Aruba, Fuerte Amador , Fuerte Amador , Lima, Lima, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia , Stanley, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santos , Rio de JaneiroNow
Viking Sun46 Night West Indies,Amazon & South AmericaSan Juan, San Juan, Barbados, Santarem, Manaus, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Stanley, Stanley, Ushuaia , Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, Santiago , SantiagoNow
Silver Cloud Expedition25 Night Expedition CruiseLima, Split, Santiago , Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Buenos AiresNow
Seven Seas Mariner66 Night World CruiseMiami, Curacao, Santa Marta, Cartagena , Lima, Lima, Santiago , Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia , Punta del Este, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Punta del Este, Santos , Ilha Grande, Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, Manaus, Santarem, St. Lucia, St. Kitts , MiamiNow
Seven Seas Mariner36 Night South America CruiseMiami, Curacao, Santa Marta, Cartagena , Lima, Lima, Santiago , Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia , Punta del Este, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Buenos AiresNow
Where You're Docked
Puerto Montt is a tender port for larger cruise ships, but the ride isn't that long. The "tenders" are large, locally run, flat-bottomed boats that take you through an inlet to a small dock near the Puerto Angelmo fishing cove.
Smaller cruise ships can dock at the Public Dock inside Canal Tenglo.
Editor's note: If you look at a map of Chile, Puerto Montt almost looks as though it's landlocked in the middle of the country. Well, not quite, but it isn't on the Pacific Ocean, either. The city itself is at the edge of a huge estuary, Seno de Reloncavi, with a very narrow mouth to the ocean.
There are a few kiosk-type shops directly beyond the docking area and some international telephones. If you are choosing to explore Puerto Montt itself or have plans that do not include a ship excursion, you can walk right from the dock into the city, where you'll find grocery stores, cafes and the craft market stalls for souvenirs. If you are taking a shore excursion arranged by the cruiseline, the buses line up at the parking lot adjacent to the dock.
Good to Know
Chile's Lake District is rainy to begin with, but the summer season, when the cruise ships call, is also the wettest season in the area. The city itself, because of the way it's situated in the mountain crevasse, is also very windy. No matter: Just take appropriate clothing, be prepared and you're bound to enjoy your day.
If your chosen activity gets rained out, there are plenty of shopping and lunching opportunities in Puerto Montt and in the lakeside resort town of Puerto Varas, just a 15-minute taxi drive away, or the seaside town of Playa Pelluco, also very close.
If you're visiting the town or going to the German village Frutillar or lakeside city of Puerto Varas, you can walk or grab a cab for a reasonable price. The best way to see the area on your own, however, is to rent a car for the day; all of the major U.S. rental firms (Hertz, Budget, Avis) have an office in downtown Puerto Montt and the rates are quite reasonable. The Pan American Highway and the roads to most of the main tourist attractions are well maintained (they're privately owned, so tolls are the norm. Plan on paying about $10 or $12 for a full day of sightseeing).
There are two types of taxis, "colectivos" and private. A "colectivo" works like a mini-bus, following a fixed route and picking up passengers -- up to four -- along the way. They are identified by their colors, either solid yellow or solid black, are extremely inexpensive and indicate their general route via a rooftop sign. A regular taxi is yellow with a black roof, will take you where you want to go and works on a meter (also quite inexpensive).
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the Chilean peso (one U.S. dollar is equal to about 650 pesos). Most banks will not exchange money, and no banks in Chile will deal with traveler's checks. There are several ATM's throughout the city (including just outside the banks), and several casas de cambio (exchange centers) where, for a small fee, you can exchange U.S. dollars for pesos and cash traveler's checks. The artisans in the booths along Feria Artesanal Angelmo, near the tender dock, accept U.S. dollars, although the items are priced in pesos (i.e. if an item is priced at 1,100 pesos, you can pay $2 USD.)
Spanish, mostly, but there are a great many people in the region who also speak "Mapudungun," the language of the indigenous Mapuchu peoples, clusters of which are found throughout the Lake District. Tour operators, the occasional banker and hotel front desk personnel might speak English, but it's a rare occurrence.
Food and Drink
Take your pick ... seafood or meats, upscale or diner, German or Chilean. Puerto Montt has variety aplenty, and all of it in this area is reasonably priced. You can dine at a swank "yacht club" (minus the yachts but overlooking the water), or you can join the working class as they break for delicious fish stew or a plate of mussels in the stalls near the artisan's market. The German and Austrian influence in the region also means you can choose schnitzel or wurst from any number of spots in Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas or Fruitillar. Here are our favorites:
Local Favorite: Club de Yates (Phone: 56-65-284000) This waterfront restaurant (not really a yacht club) is open for lunch between noon and 4 p.m. and features an extensive menu of meats, seafoods, salads and soups, plus a fabulous list of Chilean wines to sample. It's truly gourmet food and atmosphere at a very reasonable price. There's a second one located in Puerto Varas, too, for those who are spending the day there.
Luxe Lunch: Gran Hotel don Vicente. Located along the waterfront in the city, this newly renovated chalet-style hotel's restaurant offers an extensive seafood buffet lunch for around $12 U.S. Only the outside is Bavarian; inside it's pure Chilean hospitality.
At the Market: Feria Artesenal Angelmo. Mixed in among the artisan's stalls are "kitchens" serving crabs, mussels, clams and other fresh seafood plucked up from the central seafood market just across the road. This is where the dockworkers and other laborers stop for lunch, rubbing shoulders with the tourists who are enjoying a non-touristy, authentic and cheap meal. Hours vary.
Woven items, knitted sweaters and leather goods (including hats, ponchos and boots) are the must-buy items here. In fact, the artisan market in Puerto Montt is the best place in all of Chile to get a bargain on these goods.
Fine Chilean wines or the national alcoholic drink, the Pisco sour, which tastes like a cross between a daiquiri and a margarita (Pisco is a brandy made from the skin of white grapes).