PUYEHUE, CHILE - The road leading to the Termas de Puyehue Resort cuts through an enchanting forest where the smell of wood and wet earth mingles with the aromas of fresh bread and tortillas being baked on open fires on the side of the road by the natives who inhabit this fairytale area of southern Chile.
Chileans know Puyehue well. It’s their dream to visit this town — it borders Argentina and is framed by mighty volcanic peaks — to soak up the soothing, steaming-hotsprings that push to the surface here.
My dream of visiting Puyehue started in my youth, when family and friends would return from the Osorno Province outpost and talk about the calming waters of Lake Puyehue and the plush resorts set amidst lush vegetation and the Andes.
The resorts harness the hotsprings for the enjoyment of their guests, of which I was about to become one.
My skin tingled with excitement as my husband Ignacio guided the rental car we picked up in Osorno — the nearest big city to Puyehue — closer to the entrance of the resort, arguably one of the finest properties in all of South America.
Puyehue Resort is located in the hills of Puyehue National Park, a nature sanctuary comprised of 17,000 hectares of some of the most stunning landscape in Chile. It’s so beautiful here that the park was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The resort does not look out of place amidst the natural splendour. Built of local wood, stone and volcanic rock, the resort blends in perfectly with its surroundings and looks like it’s been a part of the park since the beginning of time.
The rustic exterior masks the resort’s plush interior — an oasis of luxury featuring well-appointed rooms, overstuffed armchairs that invite guests to curl up in white bath robes with a glass of Chilean wine and look out through large picture windows on the natural brilliance.
It didn’t take us long to get into the spirit of resort — the motto here is: Relax, Recover and Revitalize.
Left: The resort’s surrounding landscape is breathtaking. Right: The resort offers several thermal baths and pools.
So, first we “relaxed” by enjoying a light lunch on the covered terrace of the resort’s fine international restaurant, where views of Puyehue Lake and far-off volcanoes were real eye candy treats.
Healthy eating is promoted at the 138-room resort so salads and seafood dishes are always well prepared and well presented.
Then we ‘revitalized” ourselves with an invigarating excursion into the forest — a oxygenating walk the resort promotes that takes you to a point that gives you Kodak-moment views of Puyehue Lake, streams and waterfalls scattered about the property.
To reach the summit we followed a footpath that snaked through ancient trees like the arrayan (Chilean myrtle), cinnamon and ulmos, from which flows the creamy, rich vitamin-filled honey that so many resort visitors crave.
We filled our nostrils with the scents of the forest, the sweet smell of cinnamon was especially pleasant.
It was time to “recover.
”The hot springs awaited.
The Spanish were the first to discover a “miraculous fountain” at the foot of the Andes Mountains near Osorno when they arrived in Chile centuries ago and claimed the soothing waters cured a variety of diseases.
From those humble beginnings, a vibrant hotspring industry surfaced.
The resort has three pools (roofed, semi-roofed and outdoor), with temperatures ranging from 22C to 41C. Each is fed by 77C degree water that flows directly from the surrounding volcanos.
The water is rich in calcium, magnesium and lithium, and is recommended for people suffering with from hypertension, fluid retention, chronic diseases, stress and depression.
The covered pool is the most impressive. A glass enclosure and collection of tropical trees and plants gave it a greenhouse feel.
The semi-covered Olympic-sized pool and its lower temperature is a favourite with romantics, who like to swim at night under a billion-star blanket.
The outdoor pool, with its kids area, bubble beds, waterfall and upstream jets is preferred by families and those interested in tanning.
To enhance the benefits of the thermal water, we started with a cold shower; then dipped into the 37C indoor pool for 20 minutes. Afterwards, we refreshed ourselves in the cold pool — only then did we use the hot tub, for 10 minutes, before enjoying another cold shower.
After a 20-minute break, we repeated the process. And, of course, drank plenty of mineral water and tea to compensate the fluid loss.
If you are not a hot spring lover, you can also choose between the 40 different treatments the resort’s world-class spa offers.
Its holistic treatments combine the use of water, mud baths and massage.
Other treatments include Thai, hot stone and jet massage, the latter used for weight reduction, stress and detoxification.
By this time, our bodies were well on the road to recovery.
However, all this well-being works up your appetite. Time to visit to resort’s seafood restaurant where we washed down samples of tuna timbale and fine salmon with glasses of Chilean wine. Our entrée, a round pie filled with spinach, ricotta, goat cheese, roasted tomatoes and olives and called a “Puyehue Volcano” as the culinary highlight of our stay at Termas de Puyehue Resort.
A sweet parfait with fresh fruit and mango that came swimming in raspberry sauce was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
The soothing sounds of the forest lulled us to sleep as our first day at Termas de Puyehue Resort came to a close.
Our bodies had recovered, relaxed and revitalized because we had “rewarded” oursleves with a visit to Chile’s Termas de Puyehue Resort.