The Sound of Music

Enjoy a taste of German culture and a view of volcanoes in this musical town on the shores of Chile’s second largest lake.

Text: Rodrigo Barría   |   photos: María José Catalán   |   map: Manuel Córdova  @thechumbeques




Theater & Culture


1. Teatro del Lago

When the first German colonists arrived in the mid-19th century, they brought with them a passion for music. The performing arts have been an intrinsic part of life in Frutillar ever since, and music serves as an expression of the local cultural identity. A recent example of the town’s theatrical heritage are the Semanas Musicales, when locals open their homes to visiting artists who come from throughout the country and around the world to take part in the famous concerts.

But it was the Schiess family who truly gave the music of Frutillar a gala air. In 2010, they inaugurated the Teatro del Lago, an impressive, US$44 million, 100,000-plus-square-foot building with a wooden façade and a copper roof. It floats on the lake, like a cross between a pier and a boat about to depart. Attending a performance in the 1,178-seat Espacio Tronador is a truly moving experience: the cavernous hall is rendered to achieve visual and acoustic perfection. Each year, the theater hosts more than 200 artistic and educational activities, and as I explored the building, each venue appeared more perfect than the last: the amphitheater, with its enormous windows open to the surrounding waters and volcanoes that provide tremendous natural scenery; the educational areas where children learn to sing and play instruments; the impeccable dressing rooms; the creative daycare center; and even the public bathrooms with sinks set in huge tree trunks. Every day at noon, free tours allow visitors to discover the theater and enjoy a snack at the Café CapPuccini, dine at the trattoria or pick up a souvenir at the T-Arte gift shop.

Avenida Philippi 451



2. Casa Richter

An old German mansion on the Frutillar esplanade is now home to the Escuela de las Artes del Teatro del Lago. In this vibrant green building, children learn ballet, music, singing and even how to draw cartoons. The students come from Frutillar and the surrounding areas; some of them live several hours away. At Casa Richter, melodies fill the air, the music never stops, and the disciplined artistic enthusiasm of the nearly 250 youngsters more than justifies the institution’s décor: instead of busts of famous musicians, you’ll find gigantic musical notes.

Avenida Philippi 451



3. Museo Colonial Alemán

This seven-acre park recreates the life of the German colonists who settled here in the mid-19th century. The buildings include a windmill and a blacksmith’s shop, but a country manor house is the main attraction. Situated at the highest part of the park, it showcases the lifestyle of the era. The photographs of the early German immigrants hanging on the walls seemed to silently whisper their pride in what Frutillar has become.

Avenida Vicente Pérez Rosales (no address number)



Lodging & Dining



4. Hotel Ayacara

On the shores of Lago Llanquihue, this old manor house now routinely awes those lucky enough to sit down for breakfast in the dining room with a view of the enormous lake and the Osorno volcano looming in the background. The construction dates back to 1820 and features just eight rooms. Beds with down comforters, heating to keep guests warm in the winter, a pleasant staff, home-style meals and energizing showers make this hotel one of the best lodging options in Frutillar.

Avenida Philippi 1215




5. Duendes del Lago

A perfect place to seek shelter from the rain, Duendes del Lago is a cozy tearoom with large gnomes scattered amid the tables. The manor house opened as a café in 2009, and since then, owner Ximena Schott has lavished guests with preparations that recall the pastry-rich history of the German colonists. Innovative creations include “el volcán,” a large cup of hot chocolate served with a couple of scoops of ice cream. Looking for a different kind of coffee? Try the blackberry or orange mochaccino.

Avenida Philippi on the corner of O’Higgins




6. Se Cocina

One of Frutillar’s most innovative and intriguing culinary spots, this restaurant mixes an avant-garde spirit with the love of forgotten flavors and ingredients. At Se Cocina, the dishes incorporate fresh ingredients from the on-site gardens, and great care is lavished on the ambiance. The result is a lovely establishment featuring just seven tables in the style of a country house, with recipes written on the walls and an open kitchen. What should you order? The plateada, pot roast cooked in a wood-burning oven, with caramelized squash puree, or the hake a la putanesca with quinoa risotto.

Camino Totoral, km 2, Fundo Santa Clara




7. Emporio Melí

This place on the lakeshore combines the best features of a bakery, emporium and restaurant. You can buy various types of cheese, ham, bread, mustard and salt. Or take a seat at one of the few tables, under a breadbasket lampshade, in view of the open kitchen, and choose from a menu packed with first-rate dishes. Try the salmon filet with polenta or the smoked trout ravioli.

Camino Punta Larga, km 1



Golf & Excursions



8. Patagonia Virgin Frutillar

This ambitious real-estate development includes lots, houses, apartments, a pier, two hotels and a spectacular 18-hole golf course designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. The Patagonia Virgin Golf Club will be fully up and running by the end of the year, and it won’t just be the most beautiful in Chile, but perhaps in all of South America. The design is interspersed between native forests, with greens featuring views of imposing snow-capped volcanoes.

Camino Punta Larga 1890



9. Expeditions

This company oversees the best excursions and adventure tourism in the areas surrounding Frutillar. The most popular expeditions are the horseback rides (two to four hours), which explore the beautiful local ecosystems. Other alternatives include city tours, bike rides and walks designed to take in plants and birds on a perfect route for photography enthusiasts. All the tours can be customized, and one of the best options is to add a spit-roast lamb cookout to the itinerary.

Avenida Philippi 989


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