Activities in the Lake District
The playground for many Argentines, this area of Argentina caters for both winter and summer activities equally well.
Bariloche and the lake district must be one of the most verdant and interesting areas of Argentina, with its many lakes, pine covered forests and hidden valleys. This range of topography adds much to the area and allows it to cater to swimming and sailing in the summer and skiing in the winter. It is for this reason that is it, far and away, the destination most visited by the Argentines themselves for a break from it all. Below we have rustled up a few of the most popular trips to whet your appetite.
The Andean Lake crossing is a scenic voyage from Chile to Argentina (or vice versa). This spectacular crossing of the Andes mountain range takes you through lakes and mountain passes from Puerto Montt to Puerto Varas and then on to Bariloche. The Lake Crossing navigates across three different lakes: Nahule Huapi, Frias and Todos los Santos.
Option 1 - 1 Day Lake Crossing (Puerto Montt in Chile to Bariloche in Argentina)
We depart Puerto Montt early in the morning and head towards Puerto Varas. We then border Lake Llanquihue as we enjoy the scenery with the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes emerging majestically into sight. We enter the Vicente Perez National Park where we visit the Petrohue Falls with volcanic rocks in a variety of shapes covered by green emerald waters.
From Petrohue we sail to Peulla, navigating the Todos los Santos Lake. Weather permitting: we continue enjoying fantastic vistas of the Osorno and Puntiagudo Volcanoes and Mt. Tronador. Once we arrive at Puella, an ecological village, we will stop for lunch (not included) before we continue by bus to Puerto Frias. We clear customs and cross the Andean Mountains at 979m. At Puerto Frias we embark and navigate the Frias Lake up to Puerto Alegre. From here we are transferred to Puerto Blest for our last navigation across the Nahuel Hupai to Puerto Panuelo in the charming Llao Llao district in Bariloche. Bariloche offers incredible scenery, and boasts international level resorts, restaurants, outdoor activities and shops. The lake crossing ends at guests’ hotel.
Option 2 – 2 Day Lake Crossing (Puerto Varas in Chile to Bariloche in Argentina)
Day 1 – Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas – Petrohue – Peulla
We depart Puerto Varas and border Lake Llanquihue as we enjoy the scenery with the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes emerging majestically into sight. We enter the Vicente Perez National Park where we visit the Petrohue Falls with volcanic rocks in a variety of shapes covered by green emerald waters. There will be free time to explore Petrohue.
From Petrohue we sail to Peulla, navigating the Todos los Santos Lake. Weather permitting: we continue enjoying fantastic vistas of the Osorno and Puntiagudo Volcanoes and Mt. Tronador. Once we arrive at Puella, an ecological village, we settle at the hotel where we will overnight. Free time to have lunch and enjoy Peulla, a paradise for nature lovers.
Day 2 – Peulla – Puerto Blest – Bariloche
In the afternoon we depart by bus to Puerto Frias. We clear customs and cross the Andean Mountains at 979m. At Puerto Frias we embark and navigate the Frias Lake up to Puerto Alegre. From here we are transferred to Puerto Blest for our last navigation across the Nahuel Hupai to Puerto Panuelo in the charming Llao Llao district in Bariloche. Bariloche offers incredible scenery, and boasts international level resorts, restaurants, outdoor activities and shops. The lake crossing ends at guests’ hotel.
Season: All year round
Los Arrayanes National Park was created in 1971 as an independent National Park (within the Nahuel Huapi National Park) to protect the world’s best stand of myrtle woodland, the Bosque de los Arrayanes (Myrtle forest).
The forest is located at the far tip of the Peninsular Quetrihue, a narrow necked peninsular that juts out into the Lago Nauhuel Huapi from the Villa La Angostura. The peninsular is covered with the dense forests of coihue, radla, and uncommon species such as palo santo with rich, glossy foliage and an ashy grey bark.
The arrayan (Myrceuguella apiculata, also known as Quetri) is a slow growing tree that is characterized by its flaky, cinnamon coloured, paper like bark and amazing trunks. Its leaves are dark green, small and rounded. It can reach heights of up to 15m and lives for three hundred years (although some specimens here may be as much as 600 hundred years old), and it only grows close to cool water. In summer it flowers in dainty white blossoms, with edible bluey-black berries maturing in autumn.
Myrtle forests are extremely rare; they can only be sound in this area, and neighbouring Chile, and in Japan. The name Arrayan derives from the Hebrew “rayag”, meaning “to smell”, owing to the fragrance of its bark.
The famous forest can be reached by hiking (2 hours) or cycling (1 hour and 15 mins) a trail from Villa la Angostura (12kms away), or by boat from Villa la Angostura or Bariloche. The rumour that Walt Disney took his inspiration for the forest scenes in Bambi from this enchanted woodland is not true (he actually took it from photographs of birch forests in Maine), but that doesn’t much matter, as it certainly feels that way: walk around the 600 meter boardwalk at your leisure whilst the contorted corkscrew trunks creak against each other in the breeze and the light plays like a French impressionist’s dream, and you’ll see why!
Discover the natural beauty present in the main sights and attractions in Bariloche, the Lake District. This is an ideal short tour for the arrival or departure day that enables guests to get a first broad look into Bariloche, its surroundings, lakes and history.
Get ready to feel and enjoy one of the main attractions in the region: the forest. We shall walk for about 40 minutes on even terrain at a slow pace that will allow us to sense the sounds and odors present in this unique environment. A professional guide and nature interpreter will lead the way as we hear the typical sounds of the forest, such as the singing of the chucao or the constant pecking of a woodpecker bird. A musician might surprise us along the way as we walk through the trees.
After our walk through the woods, we will enjoy lunch at local Restaurant. One of our options is Boliche Viejo, a Parrilla meters away from the Limay River side. It offers a special 1900 ambience… it can even claim that Butch Cassidy and his gang were there when it was merely a shop selling ammo! It is said that El Boliche Viejo is the place that Butch Cassidy of the Cool Gang used to hang out and interact with the local gauchos.
Once we finish lunch, we start our way back to the hotel.
The Lanin National Park is located alongside the Argentine border with Chile, in the southwest of the Province of Neuquen. It was created in 1937 to preserve the Andean forest of northern Patagonia. The Park covers an area of 412,000 hectares that circle the now extinct Lanin volcano, which rises to an altitude of 3,777m and displays a snow-covered peak all year round. In the native Mapuche language, Lanin means “lifeless rock”. The park, with its 24 beautiful lakes, is a preferred destination for mountain climbers, fishers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Cultural resources – Within the National Park numerous signs allow visitors to piece together the life of the region’s original inhabitants. Cave paintings and ancient burial sites are among the key elements that have been used to recreate the life of these early dwellers. They gathered fruit fro the monkey-puzzle trees and hunted deer and ostriches. Their tools were made of stone, bones and clay.
At present there are seven native communities living in the area. They are Curruhuinca, Cayun, Canicul, Raquithue, Aigo, Norquinco and Lefiman, who add up to 100 families in all. The National Parks Administration has established a link with the Mapuche community to work together to protect their cultural heritage.
Natural resources – The northern area of the National Park, between the Norquinco and Huechulafquen lakes is dominated by the araucaria, the monkey puzzle tree (known as pehuen or araucaria), that is an evergreen conifer endemic to the temperate rainforests of Argentina along the eastern slopes of the Andes. The species is officially protected in Argentina and genetically different from the national tree of Chile. The colihue canes grow abundantly as do the tall Lenga trees, which are now grown commercially for its wood which produces fine furniture.
Fauna – There are two mammals in danger of extinction which are protected in this National Park. They are the “Pudu|, a small deer, and the “huilin”, an otter that only lives on the Chilean side of the park. The Park’s numerous lakes are home to a wide variety of ducks. The most picturesque of these is possibly what is known as “pato de torrents”. It swims against the water current hunting insects and turning stones with its beak. The lakes also attract many birds and consequently bird watchers! Salmon that was introduced as a fishing attraction has displaced the native fish, mainly a type of trout and other lake fish.
Suggestions for taking care of the Park:
Visitors are informed that because the National Park is a protected area the following rules must be observed:
- return with the rubbish that you generated inside the park, do not bury it and please only camp in designated areas.
- Do not make ditches
- Use of containers for personal hygiene, to wash clothes etc. Do not use the rivers or lake areas.
- if making a fire then take the utmost care to do so away from potentially ignitable tinder
Wild water, clear and clean, beautiful nature and wild forest with special kinds of birds and plants – a wild ride with an experienced guide taking you through the cascading rapids. An exciting experience which anyone can take part in, you just have to be prepared to get some unexpected showers. Dressed in protective jackets and life-vests you’re safe and can enjoy the fun ride. If the weather in nice you will enjoy lunch at a stop at a riverbank.
We leave the hotel in the morning and drive south towards the magnificent scenery of the Lake District passing lakes Gutierrez, Mascardi, Guillelmo and Lake Steffen. Upon arrival preparations are made and after a brief safety talk given by the head guide we are ready to go down the Rio Manso. The descent begins surrounded by mountains and local vegetation.
The Manso River begins in Tronador Mt. glacier and flows in a winding course of over 100kms across the Andean Range till it flows out into the Pacific ocean. Surrounded by high peaks and verdant forest, the raft drifts downstream while we watch the rich flaura and fauna of the National Park; coihue, cypress, anbow, and brown trout. This section of the river is beautiful and challenging.
The canyon is covered with lush vegetation and has the best white water rafting in the region. Then…get ready to hit the Velvet Box & Ozone Hole rapids! A stop is planned at a sandy beach where the guides will prepare lunch for the group. In the summer months the sun allows a swim in the crystal water pools the river forms. After this the ride becomes more exciting as the rafts reach the lower valley of the Rio Manso where after a quick snack the group will drive back to Bariloche.
The Seven Lakes Road (Camino de los Siete Lagos) is the popular name given to the Provincial Route Nr 234 between San Martin del los Andes and Villa la Angostura in the Province of Neuquen. The 107 km road traverses the Lanin and Nahuel Huapi National Parks across beautiful scenic landscapes providing access to the seven lakes that give this road its name. This road is arguably one of the most scenic in the country if not the continent and so for those that have the freedom of their own vehicle, it is a must do on a visit to the area.
The seven lakes in question are the Macar, the Maconico, the Falkner, the Villarino, the Escondido, the Espejo and the Correntoso. Often considered as the eighth on the rouet, the Nahuel Huapi is by far the most impressive, with glacial waters that are such a deep cobalt blue that they seem to glow.
The trip will begin in Junin de los Andes, the site of some of Argentina’s best fly fishing. The tip if the Lanin Volcano in the near distance towers above the area’s other mountains watching over all of the spectacular Andes and water vistas. The road towards the south takes us to the neighbouring San Martin de los Andes leaving big rocks and boulders behind as the mountains become higher, covered with lush green vegetation. Nestled between Mount Chapelco and the banks of the Lago Lacar, this town is a mountain gem.
Heading north from San Martin, a winding road leads us to Catrire Beach and further on to the Quila Quina summer villa set in the heart of the lands of the Curruhuinca Mapuche community. At km 171 there is a detour that leads up to the Chapelco Ski Cantre. Back on the main road further on we reach Lago Machonico and then Lago Hermosa, a small lake surrounded by forests, with a sunny beach that provides good shelter from the wind. The Lago Hermosa valley comes to an end where the Lanin and Nahuel Huapi National Park meet.
At km43 we slow down to observe the lovely Vulinaco cascade that comes into sight on the right. This cascade falls 35 meters, spilt into two by a huge rock. The road continues to the valleys of lakes Villarino and Falkner, separated from one another by a narrow isthmus, make sure to look back as the road climbs and uncovers a stunning view. Lake Falkner is watched over by stark black rock spires that sit at the lake’s midpoint, a good stop for photos.
Shortly after leaving the Falkner and Villarino behindm the small Lago Escondido lies to the right of the road with green emerald waters that can be seen only through a thick stand of trees. The next lake that comes across the road is the Espejo which was given its name because of its clear waters, still and glassy, casting a vivid and clear reflection of the mountains behind it in the distance. The road reaches provincial rout 231 in the outskirts of Villa la Angostura. Towards the right lies the border between Argentina and Chile. Turning left the road continues past the small lake Correntoso and the shortest river in the world to finally reach the Nahuel Huapi and the picturesque town of Villa la Angostura.
Pick up at your hotel and transfer to Lopez Bay, distance 30 km/18 miles northwest from Bariloche city, driving along the Nahuel Huapi lake shoreline. The kayak guides will give you a briefing about basic kayaking skills and safety instructions before launching the kayaks. You'll also be provided with all the necessary sea kayaking equipment such us: life vest, spray skirt, dry bags, etc. Once in the water you will start paddling at the foot of Mount López, and then a short, narrow and calm river that connects to Lake Moreno. During the paddle you will see the Llao Llao park and, circumnavigate “De los Clavos” Island, explore calm bays and take some breaks for photographing the wildlife or the spectacular landscapes. Or just relax your mind as you paddle through this patagonian paradise, surrounded by the Andes. After paddling for around 2 hours in crystal clear water, you will stop for a picnic lunch on a secluded beach. After lunch you will continue kayaking for a couple of hours more, exploring the lake. The vehicle will be waiting for you after the tour, and will take you back to the hotel via the Punto Panorámico viewpoint for the classic Bariloche photo.
After picking up you and the other bikers at their hotels, the adventure starts with a 1.5 hour, beautiful drive south along the shores of Lakes Gutiérrez, Mascardi and Guillelmo. Then you head west along a gravel road up to the first bridge over the Manso River, whose crystal clear waters with green and blue shades actually flow west towards the Pacific. After preparing the mountain bikes, you pedal over the hanging bridge and start to ride through the Manso valley along the banks of the river. Crossing fields, you have lovely views of the neighbouring mountains, such as the Mounts Bastión and Ventisqueros. The river is always on your left as you cycle across streams and over small bridges to discover the wilds of Patagonia, with its spectacular waterfalls, solitary prairies and a myriad of flora. Halfway through the trip, there is a well earned stop for a homemade picnic on the river bank. After a short break, a relatively flat single track takes you to the last stage of the trip, which is steeper and rougher. There is a second hanging bridge across the Manso River, where the impressive emerald waters, its rapids and a magnificent sandy beach make it the ideal setting to relax before boarding the vehicle and heading back to the city of Bariloche.