Drive for TWO WEEKS alongside the Andes, cruising through small towns, national parks and Patagonian ranches. A once in a lifetime road trip.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||San Martin de los Andes Airport/ Esquel Airport.|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.|
|PRICING||Prices shown for a double room per person. If you are a group or need something different please consult.|
This Patagonia Andes road trip itinerary begins at the city of San Martin de los Andes, or just San Martín, like the locals like to call it. This 40 thousand inhabitants big town, is perfectly located for those planning to start a road trip around patagonia or just looking for a destination to spend a few days in a mountain landscape destination as many argentinians do and that is why you shall find summer residences, hotels with swimming pools or even apartments for rent with fully equipped kitchens.
Much of our competition would begin their itineraries in San Carlos de Bariloche, northern gateway to Patagonia and largest city in the area, but to us that is a strategic mistake and as we encourage our travelers to spend more time in small towns, mountain villages and rural areas, San Martin seems like the best recommended airport for the beginning of your Journey.
Our set itinerary is meant to give you a deep cultural immersion in a linear itinerary so you don’t drive twice thru the same town, road or even airport. Of course, picking up and dropping off a vehicle in different places has its value but at ASD we are true believers that overall the quality of the experience is the most important.
Upon arrival to San Martin you will be collecting your rented vehicle, getting geared up and acquainted with your route and needs that might come up during the next two to three weeks. Extra gear such as water containers, electrical adaptors for chargers or even extra layers are usually purchased here by our clients.
San Martín de los Andes has a cozy downtown with many small shops already displaying much of the souvenirs and cuisine you shall find for the next few days, patagonian Lamb, trout, wild boar and with regards to handicrafts, those made of sheep, wool and local woods. Some local artisans also specialize in pottery and work with semi-precious stones.
Besides touring around town, a visit to Lanin National Park to see as close as possible, the perfectly cone shaped Volcano that separates Chile from Argentina might be among the best things to do out of town. There are a few trails to be done at the park if you wish to stretch your legs, but also fantastic viewpoints and picnic areas that can be accessed by car. You can visit the northern side of the Mountain from Huechulafquen Lake, at 80km away from town or the south face, at the Tromen border pass, about 100km away. Also, around San Martin you can explore Lolog Lake, only 12km from town with stunning views of the Andes, go take a hike at Chapelco Ski Resort area or even get on a rented kayak or book a boat tour on the Lacar Lake, right on the shore of town.
Today we will embark on one of the best road trips in the world, the Seven Lakes Route. Running the length of Argentina (for about 5000 km) in South America is the famous Ruta 40 (national road number 40), one of the longest and most famous roads in the world. Ruta 40 starts in the very south of Argentina, passing right through Argentine Patagonia, crossing the wine region of Mendoza before continuing on north to the border with Bolivia. This day trip is a 108-kilometre section of Ruta 40 in the west of the country, referred to as the Route of the Seven Lakes for obvious geographical reasons. Touted as one of the most scenic drives in Argentina, this winding paved lake-and-mountain road between the pretty lakeside towns of Villa La Angostura and San Martín de los Andes is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, where trails, lake shores, and picnic areas will tempt you to stop in every one of the lake sides.
Among the hikes on the way, Nvinco Waterfall trail may be among the most attractive but also most popular on the road. It’s a 2 hour (both ways) easy trail, with the opportunity to get deeper into the cold jungle known as the Valdivian Temperate Forest, with native bamboo, colorful flowers and huge epiphyte hanging plants.
Once Correntoso Lake has left our eastern side of the road and we start to see Nahuel Huapi Lake to our right, we have arrived at our next destination, Villa La Angostura.A lthough you probably haven’t noticed, you have earned some altitude during the long drive. Villa La Angostura downtown is at 790 m (2,590 ft), not significant to the body in terms of altitude but you will feel the strong sun and also the cooler nights.
An upscale mountain village on the south shore of the Nahuel Huapi Lake, Villa La Angostura is a cozy town with multiple opportunities for short hikes, like Inacayal Waterfall, Camino viejo from Correntoso to Lake Espejo, or longer trails (12km each way) like the one connecting to the Arrayanes National Park (trip that can also be done on a rented bike or on a boat tour).
Small, yet fanzy restaurants, local hidden breweries, chocolate shops at a town that goes to sleep early and mostly is occupied by residents of big summer houses or nice boutique hotels. With a population of 20.000 inhabitants during the summer this can be double due to visitors.
San Carlos de Bariloche, or just Bariloche, as the locals refer to it, is very well known for both summer and winter mountain activities. With the largest ski surface in South America, Bariloche is famous for skiers that look for a destination with a wide range of accommodation and extra activities, but also Bariloche is known for summer mountain climbing, hiking, biking, river rafting, kayaking and fly fishing.
With almost 150 thousand inhabitants though… it’s not very appealing to the traveler seeking solitude, Argentina’s Aspen as many foreign visitors have referred to, will be our largest town on the itinerary and is a good oportunity to see the historical side of Patagonia with the central european inmigrants that arrived during the second half of the 1800, specially Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Only 82 km away from Villa La Angostura, you will circle the whole Nahuel Huapi Lake until arriving this vibrant city immersed into a National Park, the Nahuel Huapi National Park. The idea is to stay out of town in the country side, so traffic and city noise doesn’t interrupt that amazing feeling we have had since we arrived 4 days ago to Patagonia. Not too far and not to close to town, to allow you to get a chance to go downtown and try more of the culinary specialties of norther patagonia.
Bariloche has a chocolate shop in every corner of downtown, some with great history behind the settlement of families that came with a dream and a specific knowledge that turned into a vital aspect of the city. We recommend a walking city tour of the german inheritage of Bariloche, the visit to Llao Llao Municipal Park and Peninsula and also getting out of town for 30′ and visiting cozy “Swiss Colony” a trendy, artistic neighborhood with eclectic restaurants and bars.
Of course, doing a trail is mandatory and using the Cable Car at Otto Hill may be a great way to get you started uphill, but if you prefer you can go further from town towards Cerro Lopez, Cerro Catedral or even Ventisquero Negro to see upclose the Tronador Mountain.
Today we leave the most populated patagonia and start going towards the less visited by the international tourism, first stop will be El Bolson, 120km away from Bariloche and a place that is visited from the big city since here is where they host the largest artisan handicraft fair in the region. Most visitors come as far as here, south, but we will continue for a few more days!
The drive to el Bolson has magnificent views and as you drive next to lakes and mountain cliffs you can only imagine how this connection was 20 years ago before pavement arrived, 50 years ago before there were any real roads or more… 100 years ago when the first settlers arrived to open land and settle.
El Bolson, originally an agricultural settlement where wheat, berries and alfalfa were the main introduction, some settlers had brought with them also something else, that would make el Bolson the National Capital of Hops of Argentina, hosting an annual Hops Celebration. If you visit in between November and February you will have the opportunity to see the plantations around town and at any other time of the year, of course you will have the chance to try many different beers.
El Bolson is located into a deep valley that has to the East the magnificent Piltriquitrón and to the West the Andes, where over 30 different trails await the adventurous, and range from easy to difficult, going from 1.5 hours to 5 days. The Piltriquitrón Mount can be hiked all the way to the top but can be accessed by car already up to a stunning viewpoint where local artisans have made wood carving statues that can be visited daily.
If hiking is not what you wish to do today or weather is not on our side, Lago Puelo National Park is a great place to visit and even do a boat tour all the way to the border with Chile. If you wish to go further with your car, Epuyen Lake, at Puerto Patriada would be a great place to drive to, going next to a fantastic, unique, man made, maze, at El Hoyo.
From El Bolson we will continue to drive through the romantic National Route number 40 for about 120 km until reaching Villa Lago Rivadavia. On the way we will leave road 40 and take the road number 71 which keeps a parallel line to the Andes. On the way we will pass by Cholila town, National Capital of Asado (Barbecue) due to the famous cattle raised in the nearby valleys that have been awarded several times with prizes at the annual national cattle competitions. Among the first cattle ranches in this region, was the one owned by Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, whose home replica serves at a museum, next to the road before arriving to Cholila.
If you are into native inhabitants, before taking road 71, instead of taking that detour, continue on road number 40 south and you will arrive at the most important interpretative museum regarding native Tehuelche etnia at Leleque Museum, one of the best rated activities in Trip Advisor for the region.
From Cholila, 14 km on a gravel road will take you to Villa Lago Rivadavia, an incipient town of fly fishing fanatics, gauchos that work in the nearby ranches and a few touristic suppliers like your accommodation. Walking next to the river is mandatory and if feeling more active, hiking towards La Momia mount is also a possibility. Trying a locally brewed beer and watching the sunset on the andes while the Upland Geese and Buff Necked Ibis fly over your heads, feel the wind from the west right on your faces.
Today we enter the fifth national park on the itinerary, UNESCO World Heritage, Los Alerces National Park, continuing road 71 only 4km away from Villa Lago Rivadavia. We will drive for 70km before arriving at our lodging, a traditional lodge at this unique landscape that inhabits the second oldest tree in our planet, the Alerce.
Before and after our accommodation are several trails with different difficulties and also the opportunity to rent a kayak or a stand up paddle and cruise the beautiful lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains. If you wish to get further into the park and see a “Alerces forrest”, which is on the western side of the lakes, you can also take a boat trip towards the west. Reservations can be made for this or the next day, but might be needed due to the small size of the boat.
Today we will dry the 75 km that separate us from Esquel city, the final destination of our itinerary, but before arriving we have the opportunity to see the remaining areas of the park and go on another hike, paddle or just drive and settle down at a rocky beach and overlook the andes with a picnic.
Esquel is a small town to the east of the Andes Mountains. It’s known for being the southernmost stop on La Trochita, a narrow-gauge steam train that once ran for more than 400km through Patagonia. This train still runs, although only for visitors and for only 20km. Top ranked on the trip advisor activities in Esquel, riding this train is a time travel experience with fantastic views on the way.
Another excellent activity in the proximity of Esquel, an agricultural town with a more simple yet as pretty ambience as El Bolson is visiting another agricultural and cattle raising town, 30km away, one of the few but important welsh settlements in Patagonia, Trevelin.
Trevelin has a museum, an old Mill, winery and even a tulip plantation. Visiting Trevelin, trying a traditional welsh dish with patagonian ingredients is a great way to end this trip thru Patagonia, a land of courageous settlers.
We will stay at a Fishing Lodge right on a Lake where trouts and salmon will jump off the water displaying their ability and agility. The challenge to practice or learn fly fishing is one of the many activities that the locals do and why not give it a try. Also people come from all around the world to fish, which can be done from shore and on floating boats as well.
If fishing is not “your thing”, kayaking or paddling on a “SUP” board is also a great way to discover the many hidden places this Patagonian Lakes have yet to be discovered.
Besides the water activities, getting on a horse or hiking is also a great way to achieve some altitude and have fantastic views of the Andes and maybe, if the wind is on your side, you might spot the largest continental flying bird, the Andean Condor.
At these latitudes, the Huemul and the Pudu, two species of the smallest deers of the world, native to this area, can be spotted with unique luck.
Only 20km away from Esquel is the local airport from where an early 2 hour flight will connect you with Buenos Aires, or you can take one of our two extensions, to the East or to the South.