Villarrica, also known as Rucapillán, is an active stratovolcano that is located in Chile and is protected within Villarrica National Park. This volcano is one of five known volcanoes to have a lava lake within its crater and it often produces strombolian eruptions that contain lava flows and incandescent pyroclasts. It is one of three volcanoes that occur along the Gastre Fault Zone, along with the less active Quetrupillán and Lanín volcanoes. During the Valdivia Interglacial, it experienced a collapse that formed a large caldera, gaining a smaller caldera 13,700 years ago following another eruption. This volcano also features caves and twenty-six scoria cones.

Villarrica is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, with eruptions recorded as far back as 1558, although records are sometimes questionable. There have been sixty-five eruptions since that time, two of which occurred in the twentieth century. The 1964 eruption destroyed half of the structures in the town of Coñaripe, which was later rebuilt in a different area. The 1971 eruption was extremely dangerous, affecting many cities including Pichaye, Minetué, Molco, and Villarrica and fifteen people reported dead due to the eruption.

The top of Villarrica holds glaciers that experience varying degrees of ablation and is constantly covered in snow. This snow allows a ski resort to open during the winter months along the northern side of the volcano. Guided tours and helicopter flights over the crater are also offered to visitors, although these are sometimes canceled due to cloud cover or volcanic activity.

Image Caption: View of Villarrica Lake and the eponymous volcano. Credit: Dario Alpern/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)