*As seen in The Logbook.
With all-round views of Pucón including mountains, volcanoes and local lakes, Best Views Pucón Chile is aptly named. The main home, Gracias a la Vida, from Chile’s favourite folk song by Violeta Parra, was opened in 2005 while the cabañas were completed in 2012 and 2014 by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and her husband Robert. This beautiful accommodation of two houses not only boasts the best views imaginable but an inspiring back-story.
A world-class tourist destination, Pucón is located in the heart of southern Chile. An Eden paradise of Patagonia near the tip of the southern hemisphere offers dazzling winter sports activities on the magnificent Volcano Villarrica and plenty of summer activities.
The area boasts amazing trails for walking and horseback riding, and sparkling lakes and rushing rivers for fishermen, kayakers and rafters. If that isn’t enough, there are over twenty natural hot springs and many more crashing waterfalls across the majestic mountains and forests, promising an escape from stress like no other.
Pucón town also boasts an array of restaurants, cafes, seasonal art and music festivals, a casino, beach activities and an array of shopping from upscale to artisan markets.
And, for those lovers of picturesque postcard evenings: in the Chilean summer months tourists and locals can relax into the early hours of the morning at the popular sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Imagine yourself sipping cappuccinos or pisco sours while watching local street musicians, mimes and jugglers ply their talented trades.
Combining comfort with great surroundings, the two houses at Best Views, Amor del Lago (Love on The Lake) and Romance del Lago (Romance on The Lake), have been furnished with comfort and relaxation in mind. Each includes double-paned windows, excellent insulation, custom furnishings, woodstoves and water-heated radiators, and the kitchens are fully-equipped with modern amenities such as dishwashers and washer/dryers.
Judyth’s love of interior decorating with brilliant colours and indigenous handicrafts jumps out immediately. Amor and Romance’s furnishings are a combination of décor brought from and influenced by her travels through Egypt and the couple’s journey to Morocco and one of the rugs was found on their Berber village trek in the Atlas Mountains. These have been smoothly combined with indigenous Mapuche weavings. In total there are four bedrooms across the two houses: The Green and Blue Rooms in Amor and the Marrakech and Casablanca rooms in Romance.
Each house comes with one charming bathroom shared by both rooms. The Green and Marrakech Rooms have queen-sized beds, while Blue and Casablanca come with twins. The only smoking allowed on the property comes from the outdoor barbeque (quincho) or portable outdoor grill.
“And, in Romance we also have two hammocks for guests to repose while gazing at the lake with their favourite book and a refreshing glass of Chilean wine,” she adds.
THE ULLMANS. THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OF ADVENTURES SO FAR
The tale of how Judyth and Robert came to own and run Best Views Pucón Chile is as inspiring as the property itself. Today the couple spends their time between Pucón and their North American home, which is a remodelled fishing cabin on the beach in Langley, on Whidbey Island in Washington.
“Whidbey Island is a popular tourist destination famous for its escapee designer bunnies,” Judyth bubbles, “It suits our lifestyles perfectly as we are both naturopathic and homeopathic doctors and have been for the past 35 years.”
In fact, together they have authored nine books on the subject and travel, including The Savvy Traveller’s Guide to Homeopathy and Natural Medicine: How to Stay Healthy Wherever You Go! They have also travelled the world teaching at seminars in countries in Europe, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Charismatic, friendly, and curious, the pair of them are globetrotters to the core, and together they have visited over forty countries as hikers, spiritual seekers, and off-the-beaten-track adventurers. Judyth is fluent in French and Spanish, which has widened the scope and depth of their adventures and after three and a half decades of exploring, nothing seems likely to change. In fact, according to her, there is still so much more to see and do.
“Three years ago, to celebrate Bob’s 65th birthday, we hiked the 500 miles of the French Camino de Santiago de Compostela over 35 days,” she tells us, “And just two months ago, we walked 12 days of the Portuguese Camino from Porto to Santiago.” We love to meet and greet fascinating folks from all over the world. Plus, it always fuels our wanderlust, giving us new tips for amazing future travels!”
A FAIRY-TALE BEGINNING
Nevertheless, despite their extensive travels and adventures, even Judyth admits that the turn of events that led them to living only five hours north of Patagonia still seems improbably splendid.
Judyth reveals that this chapter of their lives began when she and Robert were perusing a British Columbian kayak magazine. There they saw the opportunity to go on a remarkable kayak trip in Patagonia with none other than Francisco del Valle. Francisco is the founder of Altue Adventures and pioneered ecotourism in Chile.
“It was a trip that definitely left an impression,” Judyth recalls, “There were five of us and we were able to paddle up the magnificent Patagonian fiords by day and sip pisco sours before dinner on the boat at night. It was a deeply immersive and engaging experience for us.”
She and Robert ended this leg of their journey with a couple of days in Dalcahue on Chiloe, with Francisco and his wife Yoyi. Here they took full advantage of the hospitality and discovered Chilean folkloric music groups of the area, especially Bordemar, which is still their favourite. They enjoyed various local delicacies and drink, all of which they soaked up like sponges.
Following their paddling odyssey, they headed to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, which at the time had fewer hikers than today and was populated by herds of guanaco and rhea. Then, they journeyed north through Bariloche, Argentina, the Seven Lakes and finally landed in Pucón Chile.
THE REAL ESTATE TOUR THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
More out of curiosity than logic, on the day after they arrived, the pair of them decided to go on a real estate tour of Pucón that same afternoon. It was to be a serendipitous turning point in both their lives.
Judyth says, “Call it curiosity or fate but the day ended at a beautiful home, complete with a tranquil Buddha, gracing a deck with a full-on view of Lake Villarrica behind it. We fell in love with that property and it just so happened to be for sale.”
However, not wanting to be too easily seduced, they flew back to the U.S. with a promise to not dwell on the photos for at least two weeks. But they were smitten, and two months later they returned and made an offer. Fortuitously, their offer was graciously turned down but were invited to stay at the house for a week while the owner went to Santiago. At this point their determination to find their own spot of paradise took on a life of its own.
“Each morning we headed out, knocked on doors, met the locals and scoped out views and prices,” Judyth says, “We were certain that we were meant to be in this area and that we would find what we wanted.”
It was on the very last day that they were presented with the most spectacular piece of land they had seen, a five-minute walk from the property that had originally wanted to buy and with even better views. It was, for lack of a better word, perfect.
BEST VIEWS PUCON CHILE
And, the rest is history, which the couple have often considered turning into their tenth book. Suffice it to say that they named their land Ayun Mapu which in the local Mapundungún language means, “The Land of Love”.
Today, everyone who visits is awed by the breath-taking views, tranquil ambience, colourful and tasteful décor, and the comforts of home. It is a point of pride for Judyth and Robert that their Chilean dream has captured the hearts of many travellers including those from North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South America.
Judyth explains that the moment where a guest experiences the all-surrounding views from the roof deck of their home, Gracias a la Vida, for the first time is one of her favourite experiences in the world. They are awed by the 360-degree full-on vista of the entire lake, up-close volcano, foothills of the Andes, and luscious forest and flowers.
“They all have the same look on their faces,” she says, “Tears come to their eyes and mine and they most often tell us, ‘Congratulations, it’s the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen!’”
According to Judyth, their dream and their business is very reliant on their special relationship with their caretakers, Nelson and Ana María Mellado. The local couple have been with them for nearly nine years and were married and employed as caretakers before they even turned twenty.
“They are like family to us and are not only essential to the full customer experience at Best Views but are an essential part of our story,” she says.
Together Nelson and Ana María take care of many important aspects of the business. Including the guests, the property’s organic garden, the arboretum of native flowers and trees, and the farm animals. This includes sheep, chickens, ducks, six cats, the resident Great Pyrenees puppy, named ‘Pire”, the visiting golden retrievers and Nelson’s horse, Cubanito, who has a mind of his own.
For the maintenance of their farmland, Judyth and Robert employ local maestros, “It is a huge challenge for expats and native Chileans alike to find qualified and responsible workers who will start and finish a job,” she laments, “Hence why we are so grateful for our team.”
For 4-5 months of every year, international farm volunteers are welcomed to garden and harvest the various produce, including the native maqui berries. These small purple berries are said to contain the highest content of antioxidants of any plant in the world.
Also, for the past two years they have welcomed bees, and have harvested 28 kilos each year of the most delicious, organic honey. These garden farms provide the perfect home for bees as they use no chemicals and enjoy a variety of flowers, trees, vegetables and fruit. The climate is also ideal for blueberries and raspberries, which they freeze for their own use.
WHAT GUESTS CAN EXPECT
Judyth personally messages guests as soon as they book and information on where to go is provided in detailed notebooks in English and Spanish. These highlight the various “must dos” for new and frequent visitors alike.
“We are on hand to provide that special hospitality for which we are famous,” Judyth says, “But we understand that many travellers come here to enjoy their time and their privacy with the views and the area. It is the kind of unique getaway you just want to savour and enjoy.”
ALLOW TIME FOR CHILE
Chile is about on quarter longer than the U.S. is wide, so it is always best to allow plenty of time. Especially if you are visiting from far away and may not come again, allow at least 3-4 weeks.
Judyth recommends that guests to Best Views Pucón, Chile book for a week or more to make the most of their stay without feeling rushed. The local history, culture and hospitality are as absorbing as the views from the cabañas, and seven nights are really the minimum amount of time to truly appreciate everything.
Credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere in the area, but some of the markets and smaller cafes still only accept cash, so bring a debit card to withdraw notes from one of the many secure ATMs if needed.
The closest airport is Temuco, an hour north of Pucón. You can pick up a rental car there but be aware that there is a toll booth (2500 Chilean pesos) heading from the airport south to Pucón.
Booking is available through major platforms, but for guests who book through www.bestviewspuconchile.com directly, there is a special gift. This includes a cache of local culinary treats, a personal tour of their land and for those staying a week or longer, a motor boat ride on Lake Villarrica.
“Every guest becomes part of the fairy tale life that we’ve been living,” Judyth says, “And we love the idea of featuring in the beginning chapters of someone else’s “life-changing” story.”
PRICE: $119/night www.bestviewspuconchile.com (additional $50 cleaning fee paid to the caretakers).
TELEPHONE: 001 (360) 221-7715 (email is best).
WEBSITE : www.bestviewspuconchile.com