Puerto Montt is a port city and commune in southern Chile, located at the northern end of the Reloncaví Sound in the Llanquihue Province, Los Lagos Region, 1,055 km to the south of the capital, Santiago. The commune spans an area of 1673 sqkm and has a population of 245,902 in 2017. It is bounded by the communes of Puerto Varas to the north, Cochamó to the east and southeast, Calbuco to the southwest and Maullín and Los Muermos to the west.
Founded as late as 1853 during the German colonization of southern Chile, Puerto Montt soon outgrew older neighboring cities due to its strategic position at the southern end of the Chilean Central Valley being a gateway city into Chiloé Archipelago, Llanquihue and Nahuel Huapi lakes and Western Patagonia.
Puerto Montt has gained renown and grown significantly due to the rise of Chile as the second largest salmon producer of the world during the 1990s and 2000s. However, the Chilean salmon aquaculture crisis of the late 2000s resulted at least temporarily in severe unemployment and exposed weaknesses in the local economy. The city's cultural heritage mixes elements of Chiloé culture with German heritage although the city has attracted a significant number of newcomers from all over Chile in the last 30 years due to employment opportunities.
Originally, the site was covered by thick forest and was called Melipulli (which means "four hills" in Mapudungun). It was selected as an entrance to Lake Llanquihue when its proximity to the open sea was discovered. The expedition was entrusted to Bernardo Philippi, a German naturalist and cartographer, but after his death in 1851, Vicente Perez Rosales took over his duties, and by the end of September started to chop trees at Reloncaví sound using local woodsman coming from Huar, Maillen, Huelmo and Calbuco Mainly. By December, after the forest was cut down, the area was burned to clear the land in anticipation of completing the settlement plan. The city itself was founded on February 12, 1853, after government-sponsored immigration from Germany that began in 1848 populated the region and integrated it politically to the rest of the country. It was named after Manuel Montt, President of Chile between 1851 and 1861, who set in motion the German immigration.
In 1912 the city was connected by train to Santiago, making it an important point of entry into Chilean Patagonia and augmenting its commercial development. By 1950 it had a population of 27,500, and the city was rapidly urbanizing. However, the 1960 Valdivia earthquake destroyed much of Puerto Montt, collapsing the port and the train station along with many building and houses. Eventually the city recovered, becoming once again an important urban centre as well as a port of national interest.