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Villarrica Volcanic Caves

Mónica Pons Jorge González

The Villarrica is an astounding sight as it experiences continuous although safe activity and is crowned by a wisp of volcanic smoke.

Volcanic Caves in the Villarrica - Pucón

The volcano is clearly outlined in the sky on the road between Pucón and Villarrica. During the day it seems to be perpetually smoking a cigarette, at night it colors the sky light red reminding us it is always alive. Being able to walk in its lava caves, formed during eruptions long ago was awesome.

A transfer left us at the foot of the volcano where our guides met us and gave us a really interesting talk at the House of the Volcanoes. In a few minutes, before our eyes and beneath our feet, we witnessed a phenomenon which only vulcanology can decipher. We were given basic information about the composition of the deepest layers of the volcano and the minerals which constitute them. We also learned what happens inside it during an eruption and about the latest ones.

Volcanic Caves in the Villarrica - Pucón

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.

Volcanic Caves in the Villarrica - Pucón

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.

Volcanic Caves in the Villarrica - Pucón

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.

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Location

Caracteristics

Duration

1 and a half hour

Difficulty

intermediate / high

Useful Data

How 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


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