Puerto Montt is the capital of Chile’s Los Lagos region, and serves as one of the major entry points to the Chilean Lake District and Chiloé island, as well as cruises through the Llanquihue Archipelago to the epic landscapes of Chile's northern fjords. It’s set in a spectacular location on the Reloncaví Sound, fringed with richly forested mountains, but the city itself is very much a working port: most travellers quickly transit the city to make the short hop to the pretty adventure hub of Puerto Varas, a quick 30 minute drive away, or to Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park to climb Osorno volcano.
The city’s no-frills atmosphere is underlined by the fact that it was levelled by an earthquake in 1960, almost completely destroying the alpine architecture beloved by the German colonists who founded the town in 1853. The Catedral de Puerto Montt, built in alerce wood with a copper dome three years after the town was established, is the city’s oldest building.
The city is built on Mapuche territory, but human habitation here stretches back farther than almost anywhere in the whole of the Americas. At nearby Monte Verde, archaeological remains including hearths, butchered animal remains and even a human footprint were uncovered in 1975 dating back around 18,500 years – a discovery that pushed back the earliest arrival of people on the South American continent by 1000 years.
Puerto Montt’s Tepual airport (code PMC) is just 16km west of the town and is served by both LAN and Sky Airlines. From here you can fly to Santiago in just two hours, or south to Punta Arenas to access Torres del Paine National Park.
If you want to take the scenic route to Torres del Paine, Puerto Montt is also the departure port for the four day/three night Navimag ferry to Puerto Natales, sailing through Chile’s spectacular fjords.
There are no direct ferries from here to Chiloé island. Instead, you must drive 62km south on the mainland to Pargua to catch the car ferry to Chacao. Allow around three hours to transit from Puerto Montt to Ancud on Chiloé, including the 30 minute ferry ride.
If you’re driving, the coastal road south from the port is considered to be the starting point for Chile’s famous Carretera Austral.
Map of Puerto Montt