Argentina’s Lake District is a beautiful area of glacial lakes, emerald forests and extinct snow-capped volcanoes. Often compared to the picture-perfect scenery of Switzerland because of its clean, crisp air, abundance of flowers and glittering waters and by the chalet-style architecture established by the early German and Swiss settlers, this region nonetheless has very distinct flavour that is all its own.
The two main centres are San Martin de los Andes in the north and San Carlos de Bariloche in the south. Either is an ideal base from which to explore the abundance of pristine national parks throughout this area although Bariloche with its Alpine feel is the better known town with a wider range of accommodation options. Beautifully situated on the southern shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi it is right in the middle of the national park of the same name.
To the immediate south of Bariloche there are tremendous hikes up giant Mount Tronador; there are also many great cycle routes around the area. For a more relaxed approach from Bariloche you may want to take a chairlift ride to soak up panoramic views of lakes and volcanoes stretching as far as the eye can see, or simply unwind and hunt out the best chocolate shops in town! In the Austral winter the town becomes a popular ski resort – Cerro Catedral is arguably the best resort in South America and also makes a great base for hiking in summer.
Bariloche is well set-up for tourism with lots of hotels and restaurants in the town centre and even more appealing places along the shore of the lake towards Llao Llao, where Argentina’s most famous hotel enjoys a spectacular setting. This is also the starting point for the picturesque three lakes crossing to Puerto Montt in Chile.
San Martin de los Andes is a charming town nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by steep mountains on the edge of Lago Lacar. It is a good centre for exploring southern parts of the Parque Nacional Lanin and lakes Lolog and Lacar, where there are beaches for relaxing and good opportunities for water sports, mountain biking and trekking.