Jim’s Accessibility Comments:
Our Princess cruise ship anchored in Puerto Montt, Chile and we decided to take a tour over to Puerto Varas, the Petrohue River and the Lake District.
Puerto Montt is located about half way down the Chilean coast, and it is stunning as you arrive on the cruise ship with the mountains bordering the shoreline. It’s an anchorage port so ship Tenders are needed to access the Puerto Montt pier. The port is very scenic and it’s a spectacular Tender craft ride over to the pier.
You catch the tour buses and vans directly from the pier. The actual town is about 3/4 of a mile from the pier along a very scenic waterfront. It’s an easy walk or roll into town along the beautiful shoreline with views over the snow capped Andes Mountains. I saw no accessible transit into town. The town itself is an old port city of about 130,000 with a town square, a few festive activities and local shopping opportunities. It’s also the setting where in 1987 Pope John Paul 11 offered a mass, which is commemorated with a huge cross on the mountain top.
We traveled in a small tour group to the Lake District which travels through Puerto Varas. It’s a beautiful drive, and in total, it’s about 90 minutes to Vicente Perez Rosales National Park along the Petrohue River. We made a brief stop at one of the largest lakes in Chile, Lake Llanquihue, to take pictures of the lake and snow capped Osorno Volcano and a sister volcano which erupted in 2015, and pictures of the Llamas.
The Visitor Center at Petrohue River Falls is very nice, modern, very spacious and wheelchair accessible although there are multiple steps to the actual falls. The falls were actually closed during our visit resulting from 2015 volcano. There is a large wheelchair accessible restroom with a wide door opening at the Visitor Center but it’s hidden and not available to the general public. Go to the Turis Tour desk and ask. If you’re adventurous talk to the Turis Tour people about traversing the Andes. It’s about 12 hours using 3 different ferries. There are no accessible ferry ramps or door openings but rather they will pick you up and set you into the ferries. No accessible restroom on these ferries.
Our tour also stopped in Puerto Varas (called the “City of Roses”), which is a beautiful beach resort town of 35,000. It’s considered the gateway to Chile’s beautiful Patagonia area. There’s a fun arts and crafts area (with great prices) just off the main market square, which had a few musicians playing local songs during our lunch break. We loved Puerto Varas. It was charming.
If I can back up for a moment, when arriving in Puerto Montt at the pier there’s a fury of activity with several private tour companies trying to get your attention. Although the fast talking organizers (who spoke a little English) said the tours and vehicles were accessible (“no problem”), the buses and vans are not wheelchair accessible.
The vans were relatively new, air conditioned and quite nice – just not accessible. They had to pick me up from the wheelchair and throw me into the van at each stop. If I were to do this again, I’d just be firm and ask for a sedan or taxi where the transfer to the vehicle is easier on everyone.
Also, plan your day carefully as the only wheelchair accessible restroom I found during our 6-hour excursion was at the Petrohue River Falls Visitor Center.
As a side note, if you’re looking for an accessible hotel in Puerto Montt, I’d suggest your call the Holiday Inn. It’s located in the large, relatively new Ripley shopping complex with the twin towers. I only drove by this hotel and did not enter, but I was told it occupies several floors. It’s right off the downtown square and situated on the waterfront in a very level area with fabulous views.
If you’re looking for an accessible hotel in Puerto Varas, I’d suggest you call the Radisson. Again, I only drove by this hotel and did not enter, but it looks relatively new and is situated in the heart of the downtown area on the waterfront in a very level area. It’s located across the street from the casino.
Overall, although the transport was not very accessible, the visit to Puerto Varas, the Lake District and the National Park with views of the snow capped mountains, and northern Patagonia was fabulous! You will have a great time!