Pucón's location by a lake and volcano, along with its relatively stable climate, especially in summer, make it a popular destination for tourists. It offers a variety of sports and adventure/recreational activities for tourists, including water skiing, snow skiing, backpacking, white water rafting and kayaking, horse back riding, natural hot springs, zip line rides, skydiving and guided ascents of Villarrica volcano.
Pucón was established in 1883 as a fort in the aftermath of the Occupation of Araucanía when the Chilean state subdued the native population of Araucanía Region. It was a strategically advantageous spot because of its location at entrance of the Trancura Valley, where the Argentinean army had once pursued a group of Mapuches through Mamuil Malal Pass during the Conquest of the Desert.
The first hotel in Pucón was the Gudenschwager, established in 1923, but it was in 1934 with the establishment of Gran Hotel Pucón that tourism became a popular activity in the area. In 1940 the first road between Villarrica and Pucón was built and in the 1970s the road to Caburgua Lake was finished.
According to the 2002 census carried out by the Chilean National Statistics Institute, Pucón spans an area of 1,248.5 km2 (482 sq mi) and has 21,107 inhabitants (10,705 men and 10,402 women). Of these, 13,837 (65.6%) lived in urban areas and 7,270 (34.4%) in rural areas. The population grew by 47% (6,751 persons) between the 1992 and 2002 censuses.
Pucón is a major centre of adventure tourism in Chile, attracting national and foreigner visitors alike. Due to its striking natural surroundings which include volcanoes, lakes, waterfalls, nature reserves and hot springs, Pucón attracts tourism all year round. During the summer, popular tourist activities include hiking, rafting, horseback riding, bird watching, fishing, canopy trails, and canyoning. In winter and spring, it is possible to go skiing or snowboarding on the slopes of Villarrica volcano or visit one of the several thermal baths scattered around the nearby Valdivian temperate rain forest. These activities are easily arranged from the city itself, which harbours several tourist offices and travel agencies. Despite its relatively small urban area, accommodation infrastructure in Pucón is well developed, ranging from backpacker hostels to luxury hotels. Chilean and international cuisine can be found in one of the several city restaurants. More recently, Pucón has become a major destination for second home investments and amenity migration.