Lanin Volcano – Lakes Huechulaufquen and Paimún
A full day tour to visit two beautiful lakes, escorted all the way by the imposing silhouette of Lanin Volcano with its always snowcapped summit.
The route that leads from San Martín de los Andes, passing through Junín de los Andes and along the Huechulafquen to reach the shore of Paimún is one of the most authentic of the lakes region. Still safe from mass tourism, that route hosts an active Mapuche community that is responsible for most camping sites and markets and access to renowned sites for fly fishing. Also, it is the starting point for trekking trails with a wide range of difficulties.
The total journey is 112 km. (one way). The first 50, until just beyond Junin de los Andes, are paved, on Route 40. Then, just before crossing the bridge over the river Chimehuin you have to turn left to Provincial Route 61, gravel, leading to Huechulafquen lake .
The road is very picturesque, winding along the river, among forests in gallery.
About 17 km. after the turnoff you get to the nascents of the river Chimehuin, a paradise for fly fishermen who come from around the world to practice this sport here.
From this point, the road continues along the northern shore of Lake Huechulafquen, with beautiful views of this veritable sea of fresh water on the left and the imposing Lanin volcano on the right. Each bend gives a new panoramic point. Drive slowly and don’t miss the photos!
At this point it begins the Lanin National Park and little later you will find a modern visitor center, with information about the natural area to visit.
The route continues, becoming a bit more narrow and winding. Towards the lakeshore there are several areas of organized and rustic camping, also places selling crafts and food, some teahouses and places to eat. Cañicul Bay, Raquithue, Dos Bahías, Puerto Canoa and Piedra Mala are some of them. Most are run by members of the Mapuche community of the place.
In Puerto Canoa there are some tourist services, three inns, a catamaran that offers lake excursions (in summer) and a natural interpretation trail “El Bosque”.
A little later you get to La Union, where the Huechulaufquen lake meets the Paimún. There is a beautiful chapel with a somewhat strange architecture for the place and very well decorated.
Continuing along the road two kilometers you will reach the area Piedra Mala, from where you have the first view of the lake Paimún. Also you have the departing point of the path to Cascada El Saltillo, a walk well worth it. From this waterfall of about 7 meters high in the Andean forest, you have a beautiful view of the Huechulaufquen, Epulaufquen and Paimún lakes, the latter not visible from the coast. The peculiarity is that the visitor can be placed behind the waterfall and get this view through the curtain of falling water. Actually, something unique.