There's no shortage of bus companies traveling the Pan-American Highway (Ruta 5) from Santiago south to the Lake District. The buses, which are very comfortable, have assigned seating and aren't too crowded. Tickets may be purchased in advance. If you are traveling overnight, consider spending extra dough on a "cama" bus; the seats are wider, fold back like a bed, and therefore are much more comfortable.
Buses JAC. Balmaceda 1005, Temuco, Araucanía, 4780457. 45/299–3117; www.jac.cl.
Cruz del Sur. Bus Terminal, Av. Vicente Pérez Rosales 1609, Temuco, Araucanía, 4781200. 45/273--0310; www.busescruzdelsur.cl.
Turbus. Bus Terminal, Vicente Pérez Rosales 1609, Puerto Montt, Los Lagos. 45/220–1521; www.turbus.cl.