The Nahuel Huapi National Park in Patagonia forms an Eldorado for nature lovers and outdoor vacationers with fairytale sceneries of snow-capped peaks and deep blue mountain lakes.
Founded in 1934, Nahuel Huapi National Park on the border with Chile is one of the oldest national parks in Argentina and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. As part of the scenically spectacular "7 Lakes Route", this natural beauty should not be missed when vacationing in Argentina.
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PICTURES: Nahuel Huapi National Park
Photo gallery: Nahuel Huapi National Park
San Carlos de Bariloche
The tourist center of Nahuel Huapi National Park is San Carlos de Bariloche. With hotels, restaurants and bars, this picturesque town on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi offers the perfect infrastructure for outdoor vacations and day trips to the beautiful surroundings.
Significantly, Bariloche, derived from the Mapuche word "Vuriloche", means "people behind the mountain". Thanks to its mountain panorama, lake landscape and its typical chocolate, San Carlos de Bariloche is also called "the Switzerland of Argentina".
What Mar del Plata is for Argentina's Atlantic coast, San Carlos de Bariloche is for its lake region. In the high season (July and January to February), there is real mass tourism here, unusual for the otherwise quiet and barren Patagonia. Even in the low season, the hotels and bars of San Carlos Bariloche are well filled thanks to school trips and honeymoons and it is never boring in the idyllic city on the lake.
PICTURES: San Carlos de Bariloche
Photo gallery: San Carlos de Bariloche
Sights in Bariloche
Architectural sights are looked for almost in vain in San Carlos de Bariloche, its main attractions are landscape and nature. The typical Swiss wooden houses meet here seemingly without plan with massive concrete buildings and working-class neighborhoods stand in stark contrast to the posh hotels on the promenade.
There are some beautiful churches, such as the neo-Gothic Cathedral built in 1946, the majestic Nahuel Huapi Church on its peaceful hill in the middle of an idyllic garden, or the wooden Capilla de San Eduardo overlooking the surrounding lakes.
The Centro Civico in Bariloche, with traditional wooden huts, cafés and souvenir stores, is a must for every vacationer in Bariloche and was designed by the same architect as the San Eduardo Church. Bernese mountain dogs with wooden barrels around their necks, who have their picture taken with tourists in front of the huts, underline the Swiss flair of San Carlos de Bariloche.
Also worth a visit is the chocolate bar "Rapa Nui", which has existed since 1939. Here you can find the best sweets in town with chocolates, chocolate bars in various flavors, hot chocolate, ice cream and cakes!
Tip: The Havana Museo del Chocolate is also all about chocolate. After the informative tour about the history of chocolate, hot chocolate is served and half of the ticket price is valid as a voucher in the chocolate store.
Activities and attractions in Nahuel Huapi National Park
The beautiful surroundings of Bariloche invite Argentina vacationers to enjoy a variety of leisure activities. Hiking, trekking, walking, picnicking and simply enjoying the unspoiled nature of Nahuel Huapi National Park are the most popular activities around San Carlos de Bariloche. Besides hiking around the lakes, the picturesque landscape also invites to skiing, rowing, fishing, kayaking and climbing.
Skiing and snowboarding at Cerro Catedral
Cerro Catedral, about 20km from Bariloche, delights mountain hikers in the Argentine summer and attracts winter sports enthusiasts of all abilities and ages, especially in July. One of the largest ski resorts in South America, the 2,400-meter-high mountain offers about 100 kilometers of slopes and can transport more than 22,000 skiers and snowboarders per hour with gondolas and chairlifts.
Outside the ski season, the beautiful nature with magnificent views invites you to hike and mountain bike. At the foot of the Cerro Catedral lies the picturesque Lago Gutiérrez, another destination that is worth seeing all year round.
Panoramic view from Cerro Otto
A very nice excursion destination is Cerro Otto, which can also be climbed via a 6km long gravel road by car or cable car. At the top, a revolving restaurant and numerous viewpoints with sensational views of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the surrounding mountains await.
There is also a second restaurant on Cerro Otto, where no entrance fee is charged and the better food is offered according to guest reviews.
Tip: On the Cerro Otto blows an icy cold wind even in summer, so be sure to take windbreakers and possibly a scarf and hood with you to the top.
Ascent to the volcano Tronador
Cerro Tronador, at 3,454 meters, is the highest mountain in Nahuel Huapi National Park and has been covered with a thick layer of ice and snow for thousands of years. Although the volcano is extinct, it still lives up to its name "Thunderer" thanks to avalanches and pieces of glacier.
Around the three peaks Argentino, Chileno and Internacional, eight glacier tongues flow along the mountain flanks. Particularly photogenic is the Ventisquero Negro, the "black glacier", which thanks to sand, dust and ash rolls black colored into a mineral-rich and therefore turquoise blue glacial lake.
The 20m high waterfall Saltos de Nacillas, which can be reached via a walkway through forests full of mosses and lichens, is also absolutely worth seeing.
Tip: In the high season starting in November there is a lot going on here, in the Argentine spring (October) you are still almost alone on this full-day excursion.
Water sports at Lake Nahuel Huapi
The 530 square kilometer Lago Nahuel Huapi ("Island of the Jaguar") is the namesake for the national park. Throughout the year, the deep blue mountain lake attracts visitors with its peaceful atmosphere and offers a sensational backdrop for boaters and anglers. In the Argentine summer, Lago Nahuel Huapi invites you to jump into the cool water.
Also the smaller lakes Lago Correntoso, Lago Angostura and Lago Traful offer with wonderful silence at the picturesque water Argentine relaxation and outdoor vacation at its best.
Tip: The bus and boat tour "Cruce de Lago" takes you to the most beautiful places around the lake and also includes the equally picturesque Lago Todos Los Santos in neighboring Chile.
Crossing to Isla Victoria
Isla Victoria on Lake Nahuel Huapi is a picture-perfect day trip for unforgettable impressions and breathtaking vacation photos. After the crossing by boat, hikes across the island are worthwhile, among other things to a Caribbean-like picture-book beach or to the small mountain with a magnificent panoramic view. The Bosque de Arrayanes is the world's largest (and strictly protected) myrtle forest.
Visit to the Arrayanes National Park
Arrayanes National Park on the Quetrihué Peninsula also impresses with spectacular panoramas and rare, ancient trees. The nearly 20 square kilometer nature reserve in Nahuel Huapi National Park was founded in 1971 specifically to protect the Arrayán myrtle trees. Unlike Isla Victoria, the unique myrtle forests of trees up to 600 years old in Arrayanes National Park are open to visitors.
Official website of Nahuel Huapi National Park
Information about trekking trails in Nahuel Huapi National Park
Official website of the ski resort Cerro Catedral