My name is Jacynthe Boudreau, but people call me Jass.
I am a WTW Accessibility Ambassador, and I helped map accessible Puerto Varas, in southern Chile.
I’m Canadian, Québécoise to be more specific, but I’ve been living in Puerto Varas, Chile for 16 years now.
I have a passion for adventure tourism. I worked first as a guide, and in 2015, I started my own company: Jass Puerto Varas, mainly focused on sea kayaking and hiking, with a special concern for inclusivity in Región de los Lagos, southern Chile.
My first student projects were related to accessibility and inclusive activities.
First I was an entertainer in a senior center, and then I was a summer camp instructor for children. Then, I had the opportunity to work in France doing accessibility evaluations for different service providers.
While working for a sea kayaking company on the North Coast of Canada, I had the opportunity to lead a 10-day expedition with young people undergoing different cancer treatments.
That’s when I became passionate about therapeutic tourism, outdoor activities that we transformed into accessible experiences (despite the many architectural and urban barriers that may exist).
In 2015 I was contacted by the Belgian NGO U-Turn, who conducts intensive expeditions with participants with reduced mobility in different countries around the world. They were not looking for accessible trails, they were looking to push the limits. They did a 17-day expedition camping trip with 14 people with different physical limitations in Región de Los Lagos.
Since then, accessible projects chase me and I chase them!
Since 2016, I have also been teaching an inclusive tourism course at San Sebastian University for students of Ecotourism and Expedition Management Engineering.
In 2018, Wheel The World contacted me to help them with the logistics of the Cochamo Valley expedition, taking care of the kayaking part of the Reloncavi estuary. They then asked us to take care of the maintenance, rental and on-site logistics of the use of their wheelchairs available in Puerto Varas.
Accessible Puerto Varas is an incredible destination for nature, fresh air and for outdoor sports lovers.
Here are some useful tips for a trip in Puerto Varas Chile:
Transportation in Accessible Puerto Varas
There are not many official accessible transportation, but there is the option of having a transport with enough space to carry a wheelchair of different sizes using a removable telescopic ramp with a van or a minivan by removing a row of chairs from the car. Wheel the World can help you organize transportation, contact them here.
Getting Around Accessible Puerto Varas
Downtown Puerto Varas has an accessible urban design since 2019, with the presence of foot-pedestrian tracks and ramps connecting sidewalks and streets with standard measures. But keep in mind that still many businesses, stores and restaurants have barriers such as steps and door widths that impede autonomous access for a person in a wheelchair.
To walk in the small parks of the city or in the outskirts of the city center, it is recommended to use a more robust all-terrain wheelchair such as the Joëlette or the Grit available through Wheel The World and to be accompanied by at least 1 assistant because the access ramps have slopes outside the standards or because certain terrains are difficult for a standard city wheelchair.
Attractions in Accessible Puerto Varas
At this park, you can enjoy a one and a half hour hike to get a perfect view of Lake Llanquihue as well as the Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes from one of the highest points in the town of Las Rosas. Using a trail with a progressive ascent to the main viewpoint.
Outside the center and the waterfront of Puerto Varas, there are many slopes and sometimes broken sidewalks, so it is helpful to be accompanied by someone.
Visiting Petrohue Waterfalls
They were restored and became accessible in 2019.
A 0.6 km and 0.9 km trail.
Access: $3.000Clp for Chilean, $6.000Clp for foreigners
The Green Lagoon
Accessible short trail of 0.18 kms. bordering a beautiful lagoon where you can do bird watching and reach the Llanquihue Lake with a view of the Calbuco volcano. Free access.
Kayak Tours with Jass Puerto Varas & Wheel the World
Half day kayaking Laguna La Poza
At only 15 kms from Puerto Varas is situated “Laguna Poza”. Here we will navigate 5 kms on a thin channel that begins as 25 meters wide and slowly narrows to a thin tunnel surrounded by weeping willows and other native trees. This tunnel is only accessible by canoes or kayaks and will lead us to the ¨hidden lagune¨. Ideal site for bird watching, with opportunities to see birds such as Kingfishers, various herons and regional raptors. An easy-going tour highly recommendable for families or first kayaking experience. We return by the same channel to Lake Llanquihue.
Duration of navigation: 2h00- 2h30.
Full day kayaking on the Reloncavi Fjord
We will navigate on the fjord between the villages of Ralun and Cochamo (or vice versa) for 18 kms. On our way, we will be able to observe Yates volcano and snow-covered mountains. It is likely that we will see dolphins and sea lions, main habitants of the fjord, and we will certainly have the opportunity to see several pelagic birds in migration such as terns, pelicans and petrels. During lunch time, we will stop at a farm where a friendly local family will share the magic of their sustainable lifestyle. From our kayaks, we will visit Cochamo, whose economy depends on salmon and mussel industries.
Average navigation time: 4 hours
Trekking Osorno Volcano- “Paso Desolación Trail”
Follow the main roads going along Lake Llanquihue and reach 600 meters in elevation heading to the base of Osorno Volcano where our hike begins. Begin with a light rise of 400m while circumventing the Volcano and head down towards Todos Los Santos lakes. During our 12 kms walk, we will have spectacular sights of the volcanoes Tronador and Puntiagudo, the snow-covered summits of the Cordillera of the Andes, and the emerald waters of the lake. The name of this path ¨Paso Desolacion¨ or “Desolation Path” refers to the low vegetation of lichens and shrubs (due mainly to altitude) that allows us to maintain a 360 degree panorama during the majority of the walk.
Trail duration: 14 km average 6h.
Difficulty level: moderate to difficult
Where to Eat in Accessible Puerto Varas
There are few restaurants that are completely accessible.
But yes, there are good options of partially accessible restaurants or cafes having sometimes the existence of steps that prevent the entrance to the place in an autonomous way or not having accessible toilets.
Terraces and food trucks are a really good option.
I would strongly recommend you to call beforehand the restaurant or café that you want to visit to find out if they have accessible restrooms, since public places are making inclusive modifications lately.
Lodging in Accessible Puerto Varas
Some of the accommodations that offer accessible rooms are:
Hotel Radisson and Park in by Radisson
Contact Wheel the World here to book accessible accommodation in Puerto Varas!
Puerto Varas still has a long way to go to be considered an accessible destination, but its infrastructure is improving rapidly and there is a willingness to welcome tourists with reduced mobility.
If you have any concerns about planning an accessible itinerary, I would love to help you! Wheel the World can also assist you with booking accessible accommodations and activities, by contacting them here.