We spent our last night in the lovely Andean town of San Martin drinking locally made beers and talking politics in the Fass Bier bar, before having some typically Patagonian food in one of the town’s best restaurants, El Regional. It seemed like a fitting end to a fabulous few days in this extraordinary region. We were heading south to Bariloche, and our final internal flight back to Buenos Aires, before departing for the European winter. First though, was the pleasure of driving back along the Ruta de los Siete Lagos into the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi.
Leaving San Martin you drive for a few kilometres along the shores of Lago Lacar, the road rises upwards before turning away from the water through wooded hillsides en route to Lago Machónico. Here we stopped at the mirador to take in the views, before heading off-road along the Rio Hermoso to the beach on Lago Hermoso. To describe the view down the lake to distant snow capped mountains as beautiful simply doesn’t do it justice. I could have spent hours drinking in the vista.
The Ruta de los Siete Lagos is the sort of place where superlatives become redundant through overuse, and it wasn’t long until we reached the even more enchanting view over Lago Villarino and Lago Falkner. The two lakes are separated by a short river over which the Ruta 40 passes on a narrow strip of land. The lakes and their surrounding mountains are mesmerisingly picturesque, we’d brought lunch with us and we almost had a picnic on the shore of Lago Villarino. In the end we decided to carry on to Lago Espejo Chico.
This, it turned out, was an inspired choice. On the banks of one of the most beautiful of all Patagonian lakes, we sat in glorious silence and ate our lunch under a bright blue sky. The pristine waters of the lake were so clear we cold see every detail of the lake floor. It counts as one of the nicest settings for a meal ever. It only lacked a chilled bottle of something sparkling. After lunch we took a stroll on the lake shore before heading along the final stretch of road to Villa La Angostura, where the Ruta de los Siete Lagos ends.
Just outside the town the road is joined by one that comes across the border from Chile. The change is almost instantaneous. There is far more traffic and a lot of heavy vehicles. After the Ruta de los Siete Lagos it feels like you’re abruptly thrust back into the real world. It’s not a pleasant experience. The route south towards the airport at Bariloche traces the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, it would be our final view of the Lake District. It’s taken me a long time to visit this extraordinary region of this extraordinary country, I hope to be back soon.