Over the crystal of ice that in winter covers this lake, on nights of the full moon one hears the cries of sorrow that break through the deep quiet. It is perhaps an enchantment that produces these sad sounds.

Legend has it that the cries are the soul of the Inca Illi Yunqui that wanders restlessly over the watery tomb of his beloved Princess Kora-Lle . The Princess fell to a tragic death during the celebration of a nascu , or Royal Hunt. The Inca, whose sadness disturbs the peace of these mountains, believed with the soul of a poet that no human tomb could be comparable to these deep waters. The Imperial Court looked sadly on the tiny body wrapped in white linen as it was lowered to the blue depths of the lake. From that moment on, the water turned emerald, dyed by the color of the Princess' lovely eyes that the son of the Sun, Illi Yunqui, could no longer awaken.

Chile's southern region of lakes and volcanoes is an expression of nature's inimitable aesthetic and startling exuberance. Between volcanic cataclysms, glacial sculpting, torrential rivers and massive temperate rainforests , this is very much a landscape in flux, modeling and remodeling itself before our eyes.

This area is home to one of the most remarkable indigenous cultures in the Americas, the Mapuches . For nearly three centuries, the Mapuches defended their homeland, La Araucania, from the Spanish conquistadors. Three centuries: such vigor! But that is the nature of the lake region.

Vigorous, yes; but safe and with a European elegance which is surprisingly familiar. As the Mapuches ceded their territory to the newly independent republic, European settlers flocked to this paradise of rich volcanic soils, ancient forests, and clear glacially formed lakes whose waters reflect the chain of active volcanoes along the eastern horizon.

These settlers cut and burned the massive tracts of temperate rainforest back into the mountains and built their towns throughout the central valley, in select ports along the wild Pacific coast, and upon the shores of myriad rivers and lakes. The pastoral landscape which characterizes the central valley in this region - broad undulant pastures, German-style farmhouses, quiet tidy lakeside pueblos - can be attributed largely to the industry and vision of these 19th century immigrants.

Volcanoes are one of the few things that every region of Chile has in common. Hundreds of these are active, and high levels of geothermal activity throughout the country also give rise to hundreds of hotsprings and geysers . Generally the highest peaks in any given region, volcanoes are the target of many mountaineering expeditions and provide unique terrain for many ski areas , especially in the south. Chile's Pacific Islands are also of volcanic origin. For more information on Chile's geology .