The further south you go in Chile, the greener it gets, until you find deep blue lakes reflecting snow-capped volcanoes and mountains, the slopes of which are carpeted with dense temperate rainforest.
In the north of the region, Pucón, a small town on Lake Villarrica, is very popular in the summer as a centre from which to go rafting, play golf, or try the quite easy ascent (4 hours) of Villarrica volcano. Near the Argentine border the Conguillio National Park, which surrounds the active and smoking Llaima volcano, has amazing lava flows, beautiful lakes, and monkey puzzle forests.
Renting a car is an excellent way to explore, and there is wonderful walking, riding and fishing. The spectacular crossing of the Andes into Argentina by lake and land is possible all year, although it is more likely to be clear in the summer (December to March).
The towns of Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, the former with its busy port and bustling market, and the latter with its picturesque Germanic feel and panoramic lake views, are the most usual bases for exploring the surrounding countryside.
From the Lake District it is a short ferry ride to the archipelago of Chiloé, composed of 30 islands with their brightly colored wooden houses, many churches and rich mythology. Ferries, either from here or from the mainland, form the first link of the southern highway or Carretera Austral.