We were given the safety equipment before entering Rucapillán or ‘house of the devil’ in Mapudungun or Mapuche, an appropriate name for an active volcano. With helmets on our heads and flashlights in our hands we began the descent along irregular terrain and carefully down rather unsteady staircases. The helmets protected us from the sharp edges of the stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave.
‘There are still traces of the tragic 1971 eruption. A lava flow, 10 meters thick and 200 meters wide oozed from the crater towards Lake Calafquen destroying towns and killing cattle in its path. It was the worst tragedy in the area because of the number of casualties and the havoc it caused,’ our guide told us on one of our stops.
We soon discovered how the eruptions affected the underground ecosystem. The solidified lava, a mineral mass, was present at all times during our 45 meter descent. A strange feeling came over us as we became fully aware that we were inside a volcano that is not yet extinct.
Almost at the end of our excursion our guide asked us to turn off our flashlights and be perfectly silent. Not being able to see anyone at all, as it was pitch dark, was an absolutely extraordinary experience. Soon afterwards we walked out into bright daylight and felt we were somehow safe back on land.
We will not forget the House of the Volcanoes or the science that studies their behavior. The center at the site monitors volcanic activity and registers everything that goes on in Villarrica. It was reassuring to learn that despite magma fluctuations and the fumaroles, Pucón is well prepared to face any future eruption.
1 and a half hourDifficulty
intermediate / high
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Useful DataHow to get there
Take the Panamericana road from Pucón to Villarrica for 2 kilometers and turn left into the road to the ski resort for another 9 kilometers. Follow the road signs.Opening hours
check at the local Tourist Department as it changes during the year