We all love a good love story. Particularly ones about deep, eternal love that spans centuries, that even death itself couldn’t extinguish.
The site of such a tale can be found just a short drive from Chile’s capital city of Santiago.
Nestled in the alpine reaches of the Andes, the Portillo ski resort retains a well-deserved reputation as being one of the best ski resorts in the country and even the world. It was the first ski resort founded in South America, and to this day, skiers from all over the world head to this valley to carve their way down the slopes and luxuriate in the grandeur of the high Andes.
But one of the things that makes the resort a prized retreat is not only the sublime opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, but its location. Laying directly in front of the resort and flanked by mighty peaks is a stunning mountain lake of shimmery aquamarine. The lake, known as “Laguna del Inca” or “Lake of the Incas,” is a breathtaking sight in winter or summer – in summer, set against the bare slopes that race right down to the water’s edge, and in winter, surrounded by snow and ice. Day and night, the sheer surface holds a pristine mirror to the majestic peaks of the Andes.
But the lake is more than a pretty feature of the landscape. It hides an ancient Incan legend.
Long before the Spanish arrived and conquered Chile, back before the lake was the brilliant blue we see today, the valley was home to an Incan village. Since the Incans were known as the “children of the sun,” the high mountains were perfect for rituals and traditions honoring their heritage.
A prince and brave warrior named Illi Yupanqui lived in the valley, and as he was a prince, he was also known as the “son of the Sun.” A young, eligible man, he was in need of a wife.
He found exactly who he was looking for in Kora-Illé, a gorgeous princess with emerald eyes full of vibrant color and life. The two fell in love and believed themselves to be soul mates.
They were engaged to be married, and it was decided that the wedding ceremony would take place at the summit of one of the mountains surrounding the lake. The wedding party dutifully made the long trek to the heights, where the princess, bedecked with her wedding finery, stood ready.
In keeping with tradition, the princess needed to descend a steep slope with her entourage behind her. The path was treacherous, a narrow trail covered in loose, slippery stones precipitously routed on the edge of the mountain just above the void of the valley. But the princess forged ahead, ready to marry her prince.
Illi Yupanqui waited.
Suddenly, shouts rang out, echoing through the valley.
When Illi Yupanqui ran to discover the source of the noise, he saw to his horror that his bride-to-be had fallen from the path. Although he raced down the mountain to her side, it was too late.
Distraught over her sudden death, the Prince decreed that she would be laid to rest in the only place that matched her beauty: the lake on the valley floor.
Covered in a white sheet, Kora-Illé was confined to the depths of the lake. As she sank, the color of the water magically changed to match the crystalline blue of her eyes.
A different retelling of the story also has it that the princess fell during a royal hunt known as a “nascu.”
But whichever version you choose to believe, the prince forever mourned his lost love…even to this day.
On cold, full moon winter nights, when huddling by the fire with a hot beverage cradled in your hands after a day of leisure or sport…there! Can you hear it? Is that the wind howling throughout the valley? The gentle whisper of snow blowing off the high crags and peaks? Or could it possibly be the haunting wails of Illi Yupanqui, continuing to cry for the princess with the blue eyes, who rests for eternity at the bottom of the lake out there in the darkness? You decide.
Visit Ski Portillo during the summer skiing season and discover for yourself the mystery of the Laguna del Inca.