As you travel the winding roads of the Lake District, the snowcapped shoulders of volcanoes emerge, mysteriously disappear, then materialize again, peeping through trees or towering above broad valleys. You might be tempted to belt out "The hills are alive…," but this is southern Chile, not Austria. With densely forested national parks, a dozen large lakes, vastly improved hotels and restaurants, and easy access to roads and public transportation, Chile's Lake District has come pretty close to perfecting tourism. It’s great for adventure travel and outdoor sports, but also has outstanding local cuisine, especially seafood, and a rich cultural past.
The Lake District is the historic homeland of Chile's indigenous Mapuche people, who revolted against the early Spanish colonists in 1598, driving them from the region. The Mapuche kept foreigners away for nearly three centuries. Though small pockets of the Lake District were controlled by Chile after it won its independence in 1818, most viewed the forbidding region south of the Río Bío Bío as a separate country.
Eventually, an 1881 treaty ended the Mapuche control over the territory, and in the middle of the 18th century Santiago began to recruit waves of German, Austrian, and Swiss immigrants to settle the so-called empty territory. The Lake District quickly took on the Bavarian-Tyrolean sheen that is still evident today.