The South of Argentina has fairy tale Alpine scenery, magical lakes and mountains and the best chocolate she has ever tasted. Judith Baker explores the Patagonian lakes.
It is like a scene from the Sound of Music. I am standing on a snowy hilltop with skies of cyan blue above me and only a few goats for company. In the distance, there are a few log cabins and somewhere below me glimmers a huge lake. Austria? No, Argentina.
The Seven Lakes Route
The vast landscapes of Patagonia are the perfect backdrop for a road trip, and the road best travelled takes you through the lovely Lake District region on the Ruta de Los Siete Lagos (‘the Seven Lakes Route’). It connects Villa La Angostura and San Martin de Los Andes in the province of Neuquén, taking in a number of other small picturesque towns and fabulous scenery on the way.
The road now forms part of the famous Route 40. We began our journey in Bariloche, which is a short flight from Buenos Aries, and picked up our hire car there. But we could have chosen a different route, driving for example from the North at San Martin de Los Andes towards the Southern Villa La Angostura. We pass through two national parks: Lanin and Nahuel Huapi, encountering the eponymous seven different lakes along the way: Nahuel Huapi, Espejo, Correntoso, Escondido, Villarino, Falkner and Machónico.
Although it is possible to make the Camino de Los Siete Lagos in a day, the area is so beautiful and the towns so unusual we stopped several times on the journey to stay in small comfortable hotels and drink in the atmosphere. Places worth a visit include the lively El Bolson and wishing to prolong our adventure we extended the trip to Esquel, home to the legendary Patagonian Express.
The seven lakes are of varying shades of blue and green, some surrounded by dense forest, others by waterfalls. Mountains rise dramatically around them. In some areas, there are campsites down by the lakes, with the opportunity for fishing and canoeing. Towns like San Martin de Los Andes have a busy beach and smart marina. There are a number of hikes from short walks to waterfalls to one-day hikes and multi-day treks.
Bariloche or San Carlos de Bariloche to give it its full name is the main tourist town in the region with a colourful tram that runs past the main square and a distinctive European feel. The area attracted Swiss, Austrian and German settlers with its fresh mountain air, snowy peaks and challenging hikes. Although Argentina is famous for its wines, there are a surprising number of small breweries in Patagonia and the craft beer bars in places like Bariloche add to its Germanic feel.
This area is famous for its chocolate and there are as many chocolatiers on the main street in Bariloche as you would find in Geneva and the quality products are in the same league. In Villa La Angostura the town seems to be in a permanent state of Christmas with Santa Claus statues and images in shops and squares all year round.
Twenty kilometres from Bariloche is the ski resort of Cerro Catedral, featuring a vertical drop of 1000 meters, close to 1500 skiable acres and 38 lifts. Catedral has a ski village where skiers and snowboarders walk over to the neighbouring microbrewery for the après-ski jollity. A more civilised experience is found at the Llao Llao hotel which opened in 1940 and recently underwent renovations. The hotel features an 18-hole golf course with 360-degree views of Nahuel Huapi National Park. In fact, many people (like us) visit the hotel just to get a glimpse of the stunning views and enjoy an elegant afternoon tea or meal at one of the restaurants.
Tell Me More About Exploring The Patagonia Lake District
Aerolineas Argentinas flies from Bueno Aries to Bariloche
There are a number of well-known car hire companies at Bariloche airport
Currency: The Argentine peso. Language: Spanish
Capital: Buenos Aries. Time: GMT -4
For more details on the Patagonia lake district, please visit Argentina Travel.