Patagonia is a huge, diverse wilderness encompassing 300,000 square miles of southern Argentina and is home to one of the country’s most scenic road trips. La Ruta de los Siete Lagos or ‘Seven Lakes Route,’ spanning 108km of famous Ruta 40, provides the opportunity to view the immense landscape and spectacular beauty of the area. It is best enjoyed by private car, giving travelers the freedom to explore the beautiful post-glacial valleys, pristine waters and rugged trekking of national parks, Lanin and Nahuel Huapi, both which are covered on the journey.
The route mapped in this article runs north to south, connecting popular tourist towns of the region, San Martín de los Andes with Villa La Angostura via RN40 ex 234 and 231. The direct route is 108km, not including the diversion to Villa Traful.
Lago Nahuel Huapi
San Martín de los Andes
Nestled between the clear lake shore of Lago Lácar and a mountainous backdrop, San Martín de los Andes is a small but bustling alpine town, well equipped for those seeking adventure in the wild surrounds or simply looking for lakeside rest and relaxation. It is possible to arrange car hire in San Martín de los Andes and two large service stations are also located here for refueling and vehicle maintenance.
San Martín accommodation options are plentiful, from the popular and well-located camp ground on RN234 – which runs through town — to four-star hotels. A short drive from the town center, Rucaleufu Cabins is an excellent mid-range option. These rustic cabins are found amidst a beautiful forest setting, a creek runs right through the grounds and super helpful staff even prepare a delicious asado onsite for visitors each Friday night.
For those starting the drive early, the cozy Pasteleria Pan y Chocolate is well worth a visit. While most of the town is still sleeping, Pan y Chocolate serves up coffee and all the sustenance required before hitting the road, including piping hot egg and pancetta English muffins, fresh croissants and scones with cream.
The Journey Begins
The drive begins alongside Lago Lácar in San Martín de los Andes, following RN234 and winds up the mountainside. Stop at Pil Pil mirador, 5km along, to snap some photos taking in the panoramic view of Lago Lácar and San Martín de los Andes. While on most of this route drivers need to be aware of wildlife on the road, here drivers will want to be careful of runners, pounding the roadside close to vehicles while using headphones.
Thirty-one km from San Martín de los Andes you’ll reach Lago Machónico. The wide mirador (lookout point) here is another opportunity to appreciate the deep blue waters of the lake from above.
Six km further along RN234 take the detour to the right for Lago Hermoso, another 4km along unpaved road off the RN234. Largo Hermoso’s pebbly shoreline along crystal waters makes it perfect for kayaking, a popular activity here. For those not equipped with their own, kayak tours of the lake are possible. Arrangements should be made prior to arrival.
After returning from Lago Hermosa to RN234, the next stop is Lago Falkner, 13km south. Reaching Largo Faulker, you’ve crossed the boundary from Lanin National Park and entered Nahuel Huapi National Park. For camping enthusiasts, Largo Falkner is a well-equipped place to pitch a tent or park a campervan. Organized campsites have access to bathrooms, hot water, fire pits, tables and benches.
The 20-meter waterfall, Cascada Vullignanco, can be seen from the roadside just before Lago Falkner and visitors can safely pull over to the side of the road here for a closer view and photo opportunity.
A little further along RN234 lies Lago Falkner’s smaller neighbor, Lago Villarino. The lake is a hot spot for fishing enthusiasts but before casting a line out, ensure permits are in order. These can be obtained from tourist offices, YPF stations or campsites.
Continuing south-west on RN234, after about three km the Seven Lake’s Route’s ‘eighth lake,’ the appropriately named Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake) is spotted off to the right. Onward another 25km, take the left turn off for Lago Traful on RP65. Follow RP65 along the lakeshore another 22km to arrive at the small and simple town of Villa Traful on Lake Traful.
The town is a peaceful choice for an overnight stay and Villa Traful accommodation options range from hotels to abundant campsites. Activities here include the Mirador del Viento, providing a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding hills. A tour of Bosque Sumergido is also popular option, a forest of between 50 and 60 specimens of cypress submerged 30 meters below the surface of Lago Traful.
Lago Espejo Chico
From Lago Traful, head west via RP65 for 22km, take left turn back onto RN234 and travel a further 8km along to reach Lago Espejo Chico. On this route, out the window to the left, the clear waters of Largo Correntoso run alongside the road. The beach inlet of Lago Espejo Chico closest to the R234 is the perfect place to stop for a spot of sunbathing before continuing. For those keen to take in the atmosphere a little longer, affordable camping at Lago Espejo Chico includes showers, hot water, fire pits, and picnic tables. A cafe can also be found onsite.
Leaving Lago Espejo Chico, turn right back onto RN234, traveling for another 28km to cross over the stunning Lago Correntoso. From this point, you can take the turnoff to the left leading to the beach and volcanic sands of Lake Correntoso. Again, camping facilities are available at the lake and for those keen on outdoor adventure, water sports including kayaking and canoeing are possible.
The surprisingly short, surging Rio Correntoso, reaches a maximum of only 300 meters depending on lake height and connects Lago Correntoso to its immense neighbor, Lago Nahuel Huapi. Built in the early 1900s and once the hub of La Angostura, iconic Correntoso Lake and River Hotel is today still serving Patagonian visitors and sits above the river on the Nahuel Huapi side, offering one of the finest vistas in Northern Patagonia.
Villa La Angostura
The final destination on the Seven Lakes Route is Villa La Angostura, situated on the northwest shore of Nahuel Huapi along RN231. The town, named angostura after the type of narrow land upon which it sits, was developed in the 1930’s to encourage travelers to the region. Today, Villa La Angostura is a thriving tourist hub and for outdoor adventurers, the ideal place to call home for a few nights while exploring the area. Boat, canoe or kayak the seemingly endless shores of Nahuel Huapi, visit the one of a kind Arrayanes Forest, home to 650-year-old Arrayán trees up or trek through Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes.
Villa La Angostura also boasts some of the most upmarket resorts of the lakes region, an outstanding microbrewery Australis Cerveceria Artesanal and numerous gastronomic options.
Restaurants range from the popular Cook Pizza Menu for affordable pizza and empanadas, to Mirador Social Club for those looking to splash some cash in order to enjoy an amazing view. Arrive just before sunset and watch the sun dip below the lake with a glass of wine in hand — the perfect end to Patagonia’s most unforgettable road trip.
– Elesha Piper
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• Accommodation & Camping
–Rucaleufu Cabins, El Oasis 220 San Martín de los Andes
-Pasteleria Pan y Chocolate, Judge Del Valle 876 , San Martín de los Andes
–Mirador Social Club, Ruta 40 – Km 2119,8
-Australis Cerveceria Artesanal Patagonica, Avenida Arrayanes 2490, Villa La Angostura
• Outdoor Activities