The 7 Lakes Route in the south of the country combines some of Argentina's most beautiful natural sights with tranquil lakes, snow-capped volcanoes, ancient forests and pristine national parks.
Thanks to its course through the Lakes District of Patagonia, the route between San Martín de los Andes and San Carlos de Bariloche in the south of Argentina received the picturesque nickname "7 Lakes Route" (Ruta de Los Siete Lagos).
With the Lanín and Nahuel Huapi National Parks, the nearly 200-kilometer Ruta 231 leads through beautiful lakescapes, pristine forests and snow-capped volcanic peaks. The dreamlike route is one of our top 10 sights of Argentina.
The Ruta de Los Siete Lagos, contrary to its name, passes not only 7 but about 40 lakes, but it was named after the 7 largest and most important ones. From north to south, these are Lácar, Machónico, Falkner, Villarino, Escondido, Correntoso and Espejo. Branches from the main route also lead to the lakes Meliquina, Hermoso, Traful and Espejo Chico.
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PICTURES: Ruta de los Siete Lagos (7 Lakes Route)
Best time to travel the 7 Lakes Route in Argentina
The Argentine summer, from December to February, is the best time to visit the Lakes District and its national parks. With average temperatures of 20°C, it is warmest around this time and also the driest. Even daily highs of 30°C and more are possible during these months, making the crystal clear lakes especially tempting for a dip in the cool water.
Increased precipitation can be expected from May to October and snowfall at any time until August.
On the road on the 7 Lakes Route
In the north of Patagonia, the journey along the 200km long Ruta de Los Siete Lagos is still comparatively pleasant. The further south you venture (generally only possible in summer from November to March), the more barren and windy the landscape becomes. There are hardly any paved roads here and a full tank of gas as well as windshield protection and an intact spare tire are a must in this lonely area!
Many of the lakes along the Ruta de Los Siete Lagos are fed by glaciers and are characterized by their crystal clear water. The pristine surface of the water reflects the surroundings, which makes for incomparable vacation photos, especially at Lago Espejo (significantly, "Mirror Lake").
Accommodation on the 7 Lakes Route
The shores of the lakes range from fine volcanic sand to rugged rock, with walking trails for picnicking, hiking and mountain biking.
Especially around the lakes , campsites, posadas and lodges offer accommodation. Ideally, all accommodations are booked in advance, because the opening hours vary depending on the season.
The most comfortable way to travel (especially recommended for those who are visiting the area for the first time) is in a guided tour group. If you only want to go from San Martin de los Andes to Villa La Angostura, you can do it in one day (travel time including several stops is about 10 hours).
Stages and places of interest on the Ruta de Los Siete Lagos
The start of the 7 Lakes Route is in San Martin de los Andes at the 55 square kilometer Lago Lácar on the border with Chile. Here starts the Ruta 231, which leads over 130 kilometers to Villa La Angostura at Lake Nahuel Huapi.
The route runs through a breathtaking scenery between lake and mountain. Guanacos, nandus, pampas hares and sheep are often the only companions to be seen along this fascinating route.
From the viewpoint Pil-Pil, which belongs to the indigenous Mapuche tribe, the whole splendor of the Argentine lake district opens up. At about kilometer 140, amidst lush vegetation, the 35-meter-high Vullinaco waterfall rushes over a rocky edge, in front of which a parking lot invites you to marvel and take pictures.
Lanin National Park
Not far after the waterfall, the entrance to Lanin National Park opens up. At the foot of Argentina's most beautiful mountain, campsites, lodges and the wonderful Lago Hermoso, which can only be reached on foot, invite you to stay.
In warm weather, a stopover is recommended at the summer resort of Villa Quila Quina, whose special microclimate offers the best bathing conditions in the region.
In Villa La Angostura, it is worth stopping at the Quetrihue Peninsula or Victoria Island, which are forested with strictly protected, ancient myrtle trees.
San Carlos de Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi National Park
60km further along Lake Nahuel Huapi (the last 40km are unpaved) you will reach San Carlos de Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi National Park, the most popular recreational and outdoor vacation area in the region. The scenic San Carlos de Bariloche is also called "Switzerland of Argentina".
The pretty town is the perfect starting point for trekking tours and hikes through Nahuel Huapi National Park. This is one of the oldest national parks in Argentina and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In winter (peak in July), the largest ski area in South America comes to life on Cerro Catedral.
Places of interest after the Ruta de Los Siete Lagos
From San Carlos de Bariloche, the 7 Lakes Route becomes Ruta 40, which leads over 130km to the hippie stronghold of El Bolsón and on to Los Alerces National Park. Nomen est Omen, because its main attraction consists of larches up to 3,000 years old.
In summer, the Ruta 40 can be followed even further south, more than 500 kilometers on partly unpaved roads into the rugged glacier region of Argentina.
Popular destinations are the mighty Lago Buenos Aires on the border with Chile and the Cueva de las Manos ("Cave of the Hands") on highway 97, which branches off at Bajo Caracoles. Its millennia-old cave paintings have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.
Los Glaciares National Park
The UNESCO World Heritage National ParkLos Glaciares can also be reached via Ruta 40. This climbing and trekking paradise is the second largest and most visited national park in Argentina.
The glaciers of the Patagonian Ice Field (the largest outside Greenland and Antarctica) and the country's two southernmost lakes, Lago Viedma and Lago Argentino, as well as the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate, are among the main attractions of Los Glaciares National Park.
PICTURES: Los Glaciares National Park
Torres del Paine National Park
About 400km further south of El Calafate, at the border crossing to Chile, lies the scenically breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, whose rock formations guarantee unforgettable vacation memories. No wonder that the Torres del Paine is repeatedly chosen as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
PICTURES: Torres del Paine National Park