If you’re looking for a good way to start the new year, I think driving 400 km of lakes and beautiful valleys is an idea!
So after desperately looking for a car to rent on the afternoon of 31st December (apparently all the cars in Bariloche wre already rented that day), we found the last one. So we had our new year’s eve dinner without any cares!
The next day, after collecting the car, we started our route to
You can start the Seven Lakes’ Road from Bariloche or from San Martin de los Andes.
You need at least one whole day for this excursion. You can see some of the most wonderful lakes and forests in the region and the most beautiful places.
Keep in mind that lodge facilities vary according to the season. It is important before you start the trip to ask in Villa La Angostura or San Martin de los Andes if you want to spend the night inside the park.
We started from Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes (about 191 km, with just 50 of unpaved road).
Take the Ruta231 to Villa La Angostura. (It can be misleading as you’ll find Ruta40 milestones on your way, but don’t worry it’s just an indication that you’re along a road which is part of the Ruta40). You’re travelling in the Nahuel Huapi National Park.
After about 11 km you’ll find Ruta234. Take it or you will arrive in Chile in just about 60 km!
Before to leave the paved road you’ll find the Espejo and the Correntoso lakes. You can also exit from the route for a few km to meet the Espejo chico, but as it’s off the road, it’s not considered as part of the official 7 lakes route (like other lakes you’ll find on the way).
Rio Pichi Traful and the north branch of Traful lake:
At kilometer 130 you’ll find the Pitchi Traful river on your left and a guardaparque cabin on the right. If you leave the main road and follow the lateral one, you’ll arrive to the north arm of Traful lake (2 km through a narrow road) in a very nice camp. If you want just to have a rest by the lake, ask at the entrance: the owners are very nice and they will allow you to reach the lake. They can also provide very good (and massive) sandwiches! We had lunch there.
This is a splendid site for camping and for fishing!
After coming back on the main unpaved road and crossing the bridge over the river, there is a parking area for leaving the car. A 5 km steep walk through the forest starts there to the Escondido lake.
Back on the paved road you find Villarino and Falkner lakes, separated by an isthmus.
You can see Villarino lake from above, then go down to the shore of the Falkner lake where you can find various services depending on the season (many people camp by this lake) and at times herds with gouchos invading the road! We found many people swimming, having bbqs and enjoying a very sunny bank holiday!
At the 141 km you have a viewpoint where you can enjoy the view of the Villananco waterfall and you leave the Rio Negro province to enter into the Neuquén province and the Lanin National Park.
Before to reach the Machonico lake, take the left turn in front of the guardiaparque cabin to the small Hermoso lake (about 2 km off the main road). Really worth it: this was my favourite lake (even if not one of the acknowledged 7 lakes), it’s surrounded by forest with a beautiful beach sheltered from the wind. Actually all the area around the lake is a private property (you’ll meet an estancia before to reach the lake). But the owners let the people reach the lake and enjoy this hidden amazing place.
The road goes to Lake Machonico, which you can see from above by the mirador. You also admire from here the Pill Pill valley, inhabitated by the indigenous people of the area, the Mapuche.
And finally you arrive at Lacar lake and San Martin de los Andes. Have some rest at the beach, even if it’s very populated during holidays!
Now you can choose 3 different ways to come back:
– (192 km) going back from the same road through Villa La Angostura
– (204 km) going back till El Portezuelo, just a bit before the Espejo chico. You find another almost unpaved road toward Villa Traful, mostly along the Traful lake. The road will meet the ruta40 (confluencia point) which will take you back to Bariloche.
– (263 km) a completely different road heading north of San Martin, toward Junin de los Andes and La Rinconada. This will take you into an incredible journey through Embalse de Alicurà and Valle Enacantado. You will arrive to confluencia, then in Bariloche following the Ruta40.
Even if the last route is the longest, the traveling time doesn’t change so much as this is the only road completely paved from the beginning to the end.
We choose to explore the new road and we were not disappointed at all!
Valle Encantado is a valley situated on the banks of the Limay river (very crystal and clear water). It’s an arid area surrounded by volcanic rock formations and hills eroded by wind and rain shaped like figures (“dedo de Dios” is the most famous formation), cathedral spiers or castles.
It’s a very enchanted place, full of peace and in the late afternoon light is very suggestive!
And now you’re just about 60 km from Bariloche. Keep on driving on the Ruta40.
Travel time: from 11.00am to 6.00pm