Patagonia Roadtrip: Ruta de los Siete Lagos & Lanín National Park
It’s said that the Ruta de los Siete Lagos is one of the most stunning drives in Argentina, so needless to say we expected a lot of it. Most people drive it while heading up north from Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes or take a day tour from Bariloche. We had already done a short part of it upon entering Argentina from Chile, so therefore we decided to head the alternative way and first drive to Villa Traful along Ruta 237. This turned out to be a great alternative because there were almost no cars there and it was pretty different than the Ruta de los Siete Lagos. Much dryer than at the border area and way more adventurous. As we left Bariloche, the weather was pretty good (yet windy) however when we left the main road and took Ruta 234 west to Villa Traful, clouds started to pack above our heads and we knew we were going to be doing some interesting driving.
As we came close to Villa Traful, we first reached Lago Traful and along the way there were some pretty sweet viewpoints. However, when getting out of the car, make sure to hold onto your door because the wind over here can be relentless as we experienced ourselves. Even though the road to Villa Traful isn’t very long, it will take you quite a while as it is entirely unpaved. I’ve seen people driving it with regular cars that didn’t have high clearance, however I’d suggest to only do this if the road is in proper condition. Just after Villa Traful, there was a lot of water on the road due to recent rainfalls and families in regular cars had trouble getting through…
Villa Traful is a tiny town located on the shores of Lago Traful and although it seemed a bit sleepy, I’d really have loved to spend some time here, just exploring the area, go hiking, biking and that sort of stuff. This is definitely the road less traveled in Argentina so if you want to escape the crowds, forget about driving through touristy Villa la Angostura and take this road up north instead. Alternatively, if you don’t have a car, you can take a daytrip from Bariloche along the Circuito Grande, which is even more worth your time than a tour along Circuito Chico.
After a few hours of driving, we finally caught up with the Ruta de los Siete Lagos again and by now, it was pouring with rain. Most of the road was muddy, our car got covered in dirt (yay!) and there were no real viewpoints worth stopping at. I’m sure that the drive is generally very scenic but unfortunately, not when we were there. It was clear that everyone along the way just wanted to get to San Martin de los Andes as soon as possible, to be able to grab a coffee and get out of the soaking rain… I wish I could tell you more about our time on the Ruta de los Siete Lagos but I can’t because there was not much to see while we were there. It’s a good reason to come back here one day, although from the number of cars on the road, I guess maybe we’ll just skip it and keep on wondering forever what it would have been like in better weather.
Upon arrival in San Martin de los Andes the weather got okay again, so we decided to take another drive to Cascada Chachin. We weren’t sure if it’d be worth it, but in this kind of weather there didn’t seem a lot else to do and we didn’t want to spend our time in the hotel. By now, we had entered Parque Nacional Lanín and the road up to the Chachi Waterfalls eventually takes you to Paso Hua Hum and the Chilean border. If you plan on traveling onwards to Chile from here, make sure to check if the ferry across the lake still goes because upon arrival, it turned out they had taken it out of service for the rest of the season. The drive up to the falls was nice but not very scenic since we were mostly driving through the woods. It was quite an adventure though because at some points the road was only wide enough for one car and we were always kind of hoping that we’d not run into another car along the way. After just over an hour, we finally reached the falls and I was pleasantly surprised that there was actually a whole trail including signs leading up to them. The walk itself is pretty nice, not too long and since there was nobody else around, we had the trail all to ourselves. The waterfall isn’t the most spectacular (but in all honesty, nothing is after you’ve seen Iguazú) however it was a nice way to spend our afternoon doing something else than hiking for a change.
The next morning it was time for us to head over to Chile again. To get there, we first drove up to Junín de los Andes and passed right through Lanín NP again, this time through the northern section. The centerpiece of this park is the Lanín volcano and with a bit of luck, you can already see it from quite far away. Although it was a cloudy day, the volcano was out of the clouds most of the time which made the drive even more spectacular. It turned out a fresh layer of snow had fallen overnight which made it extra pretty and after some photostops and a quick visit to the visitors center right at the foot of the volcano, we crossed the border and arrived back into Chile…
Want to read more about our roadtrip through Patagonia? You may like these:
– Bariloche: Bucketlist or Tourist Trap?
– Hiking to Refugio Otto Meiling and sleeping between glaciers
– A roadtrip from Bariloche to Pampa Linda
Thank you for sharing!
Ik keek al uit na je blog hierover na het zien van je instagram foto’s! Een ding is zeker, je hebt mij hierbij overtuigd om eens een weekendje richting die regio te gaan. En die herfstkleuren: schitterend!
Leuk om te horen Stéphanie. De kleuren hier zijn inderdaad indrukwekkend, volgend jaar dus zeker een weekendje die kant op plannen!
When I tried to cross into Bariloche from Chile (back in 2005) the borders were closed due to the heavy snow so had to turn back up to Santiago and cross over to Mendoza…
That was the extent of my Patagonia travels (!) but we are planning a trip there next year as part of our Latin America travels. We just keep hearing how stunning it is.
Ohhh that’s too bad. The mountain pass is pretty high indeed so can imagine the snow must have been there … have never been to Mendoza but I heard it’s a pretty neat drive from Santiago, too. Have fun during your trip next sure, which I’m sure you will!
Lovely shots. Really inspires me to go there.
I hope you can make it one day!
I love a good road trip! I haven’t been to this part of the world yet, but I’ll be taking note of this place.
I hope you can make it there one day Aileen! It’s truly spectacular!
I love that photo of the car showing the grade of the hill lol. Super duper steep incline coming up. Looks like a great road trip though.
Haha we’ll I loved it too, and then later realized they just turned it around to make it look worse, the grade was actually just fine 😉
This is so high on our list you can’t believe it!
Thanks once again for your writing and pics.
Hope you will make it there one day Inma!
It looks like a beautiful destination! I hope to visit one day.
I hope you can visit one day!
It looks like the drive is definitely worth it. That rainbow is fantastic. I always love seeing the road signs in other countries, too. Some are just so funny.
Yeah, it was full of rainbows those weeks, so cool!
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I love these photos! Especially the one with the car skeleton and the rainbow. Looks like an amazing photo!
Love that rainbow shot with the rainbow perfectly framing the mountains! Your photos look so lush, like a jungle almost! Surprising scenery for Argentina 🙂 Amazing!
Yeah Argentina is different all the time, probably one of the most diverse countries I’ve ever been to!
Gorgeous! I can’t wait to get to this part of the world. How long would you advise you need to probably explore the area and do this trip?
It depends. We made a two week roadtrip but you can take much longer. There’s plenty to see and do, especially if the weather is good and if you’re into hiking. We did a full loop from Bariloche – San Martin – Pucon – Puerto Varas which is awesome!
Looks amazing. I prefer road trip any time to just flying to the destination. I had great road trip trough West Africa but looking at your post I see south America is defenitelly worth discovering same way!
Yep totally is. Driving is so much better than flying most of the time!