Awash in rivers, mountains, forests, gorges, and its namesake lakes, this part of the country is one of Chile's outdoors capitals. Outfitters traditionally are concentrated in the northern resort town of Pucón and the southern Puerto Varas, but companies up and down this 400-km-long (240-mile-long) swath of Chile can rent you equipment or guide your excursions.

The increasing popularity of such excursions means that everybody wants a slice of the adventure pie. Quality varies widely, especially in everybody's-an-outfitter destinations such as Pucón or Puerto Varas. Ask questions about safety and guide-to-client ratios. (A few unscrupulous businesses might take 20 climbers up the Villarrica Volcano with a single guide.) Also, be brutally frank with yourself about your own capabilities: Are you really in shape for rappelling? Or is bird-watching more your style? This is nature at its best and sometimes most powerful.

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