Seeing an active volcano was never on our to-do list. So imagine our surprise when Volcano Calbuco erupted while we were in Chile. Mark and I first heard about the volcano’s eruption from a video clip posted on Facebook the evening it happened. We started reading other news reports that indicated the volcano was in Southern Chile. Wait, we were in Southern Chile!

We frantically Google mapped the volcano and zoomed in until we saw it was right next to Puerto Montt–a city we were suppose to fly to in less than 48 hours. Puerto Montt was just 18 miles away from the volcano so chances were that our flight would be canceled. We went to bed hoping for better news the next day.

However, in the morning we heard about the second eruption. It really wasn’t looking good for us one day before our flight. Checking LAN airlines online, our flight was surprisingly still listed as “on time.” Maybe they knew something we didn’t. We chose to go on with our day doing some last-minute sightseeing, then in downtown Punta Arenas we happened to pass a LAN office.

LAN flight from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt

Through the windows we saw the LAN office was packed full of people. Most likely it was those who had their flights canceled that day because of the eruption. I worried about our own flight and thought maybe we should go in and ask, but we decided to continue with our sightseeing in the hopes that the crowd would diminish later in the day.

Returning that afternoon the line was much shorter, and waiting for only five minutes we got to speak with a LAN employee. We explained to the woman about our layover in Puerto Montt the next morning and asked if it was still good to go. She said if the flight was today, then no; if it was tomorrow, then it was ok. Apparently the winds were blowing the ashes northeast toward Argentina making the Puerto Montt airport on the west side clear for flights.

Although it remained calm and clear throughout the rest of the evening, I kept expecting they’d tell us the volcano erupted again and that we would be delayed when we arrived at the airport. But nothing of the sort happened. Everyone boarded the plane as usual and off we went!

Volcano Calbuco as seen from Puerto Montt airport

Two hours later we landed in Puerto Montt. My first view of the volcano was for a split second when I saw it out of the window as our aircraft pulled into our gate. Walking out of the plane and into the terminal, Mark and I clearly saw all of Volcano Calbuco in the distance with smoke and ash still rising from it. This was crazy! I couldn’t believe we were here.

With a nine-hour layover it was time to go into town to get a closer view! It was easily seen behind the tall buildings from the waterfront of Puerto Montt where our bus dropped us off. We enjoyed it from there, but also hiked higher to a hilltop to get another view of it. It was quite the unusual afternoon as we rested, watching a volcano before us blowing smoke.

I couldn’t help but hope it would erupt again while we were there so we could see it in all its glory. While another part of me, (a much bigger part), hoped it didn’t so we wouldn’t get stranded in Puerto Montt.

Volcano Calbuco from Puerto MonttBy sunset we were back by the waterfront and were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the volcano glowing with sunlit pink smoke above it. It looked like a surreal painting and made this our best layover yet.

On the way back to the airport I was worried again that something bad would happen…like an eruption right before take off or ash hitting our plane in the air. My fears luckily never came true as we flew safely out of there. It’s strange to think if our flight was a day or two earlier how it would’ve definitely delayed our schedule. If the flight had been booked later, we wouldn’t have had the rare opportunity to see Volcano Calbuco in action.

Some of the best things in life are the unexpected surprises.

Next stop: San Pedro de Atacama!

About The Author

Britnee traveled around the world with her husband on a shoestring budget for a year. A few of her favorite destinations include Scotland's Isle of Skye, Chile's Torres del Paine, Bolivia's Salt Flats and Nepal's Annapurna Circuit.

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