Sep 2, 2015|
Last updated on October 17th, 2020 at 11:44 am
Driving the Route of the Seven Lakes “Grand Circuit” in Patagonia.
The Swiss-Chalet-style town of San Carlos de Bariloche is a picturesque town nestled along the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Bariloche is a premier ski town in the winter, and an outdoor wonderland in the summer, making it stunningly beautiful year-round. Here you will enjoy the backdrop of crystal blue waters and jagged mountain peaks throughout the region. If you are thinking about visiting Bariloche, I highly recommend taking a day to drive the Route of Seven Lakes Grand Circuit (Ruta de los Siete Lagos.)
This is a 248km round-trip drive that follows a windy road past four of the seven magnificent lakes, charming towns, green forests, tundras, and even a waterfall. This is perfect for the independent traveler that is looking to experience the area with their own set of wheels! While the actual route of seven lakes is used to join the two cities of Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes in one direction, you can make it a return day trip, seeing the most beautiful sections by following the “grand circuit.” Although the distance is relatively short, an entire day is required to complete the circuit. So relax and take some time to soak it all in and enjoy the beauty.
Starting in Bariloche, you will first pass by Lake Nahuel Huapi. As you exit the town, you will drive alongside the lake. Here you will have a clear view of snowcapped mountain peaks, along with the calm, sparkling water – eventually seeing the town itself as you begin on route 231. Looking across the lake you will find un-obscured mountains and distant glaciers, as well as deep green forests. If you are looking for swimming, Lake Nahuel Huapi is your best bet, but keep in mind the water frigid year-round.
Villa la Angostura
About 1/3 of the way along the Route of the Seven Lakes Grand Circuit, you will reach a picturesque lakeside town called Villa la Angostura – this is a great opportunity to stop for lunch or a coffee. Browse through the charming array of cafes, gardens, and shops. Villa la Angostura is also a base for many activities in the area including hiking and watersports in the summer. As you continue along, from Villa la Angostura, you will pass over the Correntoso River, a favored fisherman’s spot which joins Lake Correntoso to the northern corner of Lake Nahuel Huapi – the largest lake in the area.
Passing the turnoff which heads towards Osorno, Chile you will catch the first of several viewpoints overlooking Lake Espejo (Lake Mirror, in English) – named because of the way the still waters reflect the mountains. Stop at any one of the viewpoints to admire some of the most spectacular views on the Route of Seven Lakes drive. Shortly after, you will pass the northern region of Lake Correntoso. Here is where the road diverts. If you wish to continue along the Route of Seven Lakes, follow this road towards San Martin de Los Andes.
However, if you only have a day, loopback towards Bariloche through the dense forest that gives way to the calming Lake Traful. Stop to see the odd waterfall, lakeside park, or even the sandy beach in the western corner of the lake. Here is where the scenery begins to change; from jagged mountaintops to drier, grassy tundras which run as far as you can see. The change in landscape is plain to see as you follow the River Trufal and stop at grassy spots along the way – there are plenty of great picnic spots here for a break!
As you approach the Confluencia, where the River Traful and River Limay converge, turn back towards Bariloche for the last leg. Drive along the River Limay, which links back up with Lake Nahuel Huapi towards Bariloche. Drive through the Valle Encantado and admire the strange rock formations that line the River. Return to Bariloche in time for sunset and a rewarding craft beer at one of the breweries, or to rest up in your lakeside hotel by the fire in the cooler months.
Travel Tip: The best time to drive the Route of the Seven Lakes Grand Circuit is during the Southern Hemisphere’s spring and summer months. The weather is warmer, drier, and more predictable than the cooler months. If you are interested in driving the Route of Seven Lakes, we can reserve a car for you and arrange accommodations, transportation before and after, tours, and more.
The Route of Seven Lakes drive is a perfect starting point for any trip to South America. Explore more of northern and southern Patagonia for more outdoor adventures or take a tour of Chile. Don’t fancy driving yourself? SouthAmerica.travel offers guided tours of the grand circuit by bus or private guide.
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