Patagonia, July 22 2014

The Road of the Seven Lakes

This is a special article on one of the most beautiful journeys around the country: the Seven Lakes' road. Nature slowly comes back to life, flowers show up as a miracle that has remained hidden under the snow, the forest wakes up filled with colors and the sound of singing birds. All that beauty is there, waiting for you, framed by a road that joins Villa La Angostura with San Martin de Los Andes

Lago EscondidoYou can start the Seven Lakes' road either from Bariloche or from San Martin de Los Andes. It goes through all the places situated between Villa La Angostura and San Martin de Los Andes, thus you can also take other starting points for your trip. The one we are going to describe now begins at Villa La Angostura and gives you the chance to visit two national parks: Nahuel Huapi and Lanin. You shouldn't miss this trip, some of the most wonderful lakes and forests in the region and the most secluded places are awaiting you.

There are 184 km from Bariloche to San Martin de Los Andes, only 40 of which are still riprap, the rest are already asphalted. You will need at least one entire day to take this excursion, or better yet, two or three days, if possible. You can find lodging either at Villa La Angostura or San Martin de Los Andes and, during the summer season, hostels and campings function inside the National Park. If you plan to take the trip in only one day, it is better to take this road up to San Martin de Los Andes and go back through Junin de Los Andes and Alicura (routes 234, 40 and 237). It's 260 km in all, but they are completely paved.

The journey

From Vila La Angostura you take national route 231 to Portezuelo. Eleven kilometers later you change to route 234. As you approach the village, the Nahuel Huapi Lake becomes visible, and also two other lakes: the Correntoso (Swift) Lake, ideal for salmon-fishing, and the Espejo (Mirror), which was given this name because of its clear waters, and which has a beautiful panoramic viewpoint and also a camping area with benches and tables where bonfire making is allowed. The road goes on - this is the most solitary part of the journey - skirting part of the Pichi Traful river, until you get to Traful. The slopes surrounding this path are densely populated with coihue and colihue cane forests. At kilometer 130 you get to the forest ranger's cabin and there is a lateral road that leads to the north arm of Traful Lake. It goes 2 kilometers through a narrow path that ends at the lake's side at the mouth of Pichi Traful river. This is a splendid site to camp.

The route goes on, and after crossing the bridge over the river, it goes up a steep slope through the forest. Five kilometers later a small lake, the Escondido (Hidden) Lake, lies to the left of the road. It is worth parking the car here to appreciate the beauty of this area.

At this point the road goes into the valleys of lakes Villarino and Falkner, separated from one another by a narrow isthmus. These are two of the most beautiful lakes along the trip. The road allows us to see the lake from above, then it goes down along the isthmus and crosses the river by the same name. At this place we find Lake Villarino's Inn, a fishers' inn, which provides varied services according to the season. From this point on there is one km of good places to camp on the Lake Falkner's side.
The road goes through a wide valley where you will find, at kilometer 141, to your left, the breathtaking Vullinaco waterfall. There's a parking place here, and it is worth making a stop to admire the place. Shortly afterwards you arrive to National Park Lanin's entrance. It is a wide log arcade which separates both national parks. As far as km 149 the wide valley of Lake Hermoso (Beautiful) opens up in front of the traveller's eyes. A gendarmerie control regulates the cordilleran paths between Traful and Hua Hum.

History of the place: Park Diana reserve

The Lake Hermoso Valley was first populated in the '40s by German families who opened an inn and a sawmill. Red deers coming from Collunco Ranch entered through this inn and they began to gradually occupy the Cordilleran valleys, thus starting the activity of high hunting in this region. In the mid '60s, these lands were bought by an Austrian industry man, by the name Vogel, who loved high hunting and at the end of that decade turned the area into a gigantic hunting place which he called Park Diana's Zoological Reserve. Time went by and Vogel, being very hard up, had to sell his property, and so today, this reserve is a private property with restricted access, exclusive residence and a hunting place.

We continue our journey ...

You go on for another two km from the gendarmerie post and get to Lake Hermoso's shore, the most beautiful of this journey's lakes: it is a small lake, surrounded by forest and with a beach that faces west, very sunny and sheltered from the wind. There's a camping place, a storehouse, some vacational houses and a pathway which goes along the southern side of the lake. The road goes on up to Lake Machonico, where the landscape is drier. As you go on toward San Martin de Los Andes the road slowly goes up along Culebra (Snake) Creek. It is worth sticking out your head to look left as you cross the bridge over Hermoso River, to admire the narrow steep gorge through which the creek flows.
Later on the road goes down the wide Pil Pil river valley, which has been long inhabited by natives called mapuche. A romantic landscape of hills and forest surrounds you.

San Martín de los Andes Close to San Martin de Los Andes, at km 171, there's a detour that takes you to Ski Center Chapelco. Further on another detour on the left leads to summer cottage Quina Quina. Finally, as you draw near the end of our journey, you see Catritre Beach on the left and the beginning of Lake Lacar southern shore, along which you go on until you get to San Martin de Los Andes, through Costanera Avenue.

How to get to San Martin de Los Andes?

By car from Buenos Aires: take National route 5 up to Santa Rosa, La Pampa, route 35 up to General Acha, La Pampa, State Route 20 until Colonia 25 de Mayo, and national routes 151 up to Neuquen, Neuquen, 237 up to Collon Cura, 40 until La Rinconada and 234 going through Junin de Los Andes up to San Martin de Los Andes. Distance: 1,650 km.
By plane: Chapelco Airport, Aviador Carlos Campos, 20 km away.
Airway companies: Aerolineas Argentinas, SW. There are different fares according to how far in advance you buy the ticket.
By bus:
Buses: via Bariloche, TAC, Albus, Cantenario, El Valle.

How to get to Bariloche?

By car from Buenos Aires: national routes 5, 35, 153, 143, state route 20 (La Pampa), national routes 151, 22, 237. Distance: 1,650 km.
By plane: Bariloche International Airport, 13 km.
Airway companies: Aerolineas Argentinas, SW.
There are different fares according to how far in advance you buy the ticket.
By bus:
Buses: El Valle, via Bariloche, El Canario, TAC, La Union del Sud, Chevallier, La Estrella.

Where to stay on the Seven Lakes' road?

Lodging:
Hosteria Cullen Co: Correntoso Lake, Tel: 02944-494377
Hosteria Lago Villarino: Falkner Lake, route 234. Tel: 02972-425274
Posada Quinen: national route 234, km 65.5. Tel: 02972-425455.
Complejo Lago Espejo Resort: Espejo Lake place. Crossroads of routes 231 and 234. Tel: 02944-494583.
Cabañas de Alicia: Route 7 lakes, near Villa La Angostura. Tel: 02944-494474.

Campings:
Correntoso: National route 231, left margin.
Espejo Chico Lake: National route 234, right margin.

Places to camp:
Hermoso Lake: Seven Lakes route,
Falkner Lake: route 234, left margin
Free camp area: Las Taguas area, Hermoso river, by the forest ranger's house.

Keep in mind that lodging facilities vary according to the season. It is important to ask in Villa La Angostura or San Martin de los Andes before you start the trip.

Also remember that this is a National Park area, preserve nature, take special precautions when lighting fires, do not throw lit cigarette butts and whenever in doubt, ask the forest ranger.


English version by Gabriela Cánovas Translation Services





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