Thursday, November 27, 2014

ARGENTINA: THE SPECTACULAR LAKE DISTRICT



Holiday Greetings from Argentina’s Lake District!

           
One of the issues most challenging to expats is missing the traditional holidays of their home country.  And for this expat the holiday right up near the top of the list is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  At this time of the year I have many wonderful memories of where we have spent this uniquely American holiday period.  It makes me think of those places with fondness and often nostalgia.  One of the places most memorable to me during the Thanksgiving Day holiday period is the time we lived in San Martin de los Andes in the Lake District of Argentina.  I hope you can carve out a little time from your holiday plans and join me for this visit to the Lake District!  




Commonly known as the “Lake District” this region of Argentina marks the northernmost point of Patagonia and the landscape is defined by a rich blend of gorgeous forestry, towering mountain ranges, snow-capped peaks and plenty of deep, dazzling lakes. As you explore this area of Argentina you will constantly be amazed at how beautiful a simple landscape can be. This region takes the visitor back to pure basics where nature does her thing and hours can be spent just gazing at beautiful horizons.




                       Lovely Lake Lacar and the joy of living in Argentina's Lake District



The Lake District of Argentina is part of the Nahuel Huapi National Park which was established in 1934 and which is the oldest of the thirty national parks in Argentina.  The park surrounds Nahuel Huapi Lake in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes and is bordered by Chile on its western side. The largest of the national parks in the region it has an area of approximately 2,720 square miles or nearly 2 million acres. Nahuel Huapi National Park is dominated by the high mountain chain of the Andes with many spectacular lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow covered peaks, glaciers, valleys, and extensive forests. The name comes from the Mapuche language of the indigenous people where nahuel means tigre, or tiger, and huapí means isla, or island.




                       The beauty of the Lake District never fails to give pause and appreciation






Spring has sprung in the spectacular Lake District of Argentina







Images of the indigenous Mapuche people  

                
The indigenous Mapuche people are found in the Andean region of both Argentina and Chile




Nahuel Huapi National Park is an internationally known year round destination for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. In spring, melting snow creates waterfalls by the dozen.  . In winterthe mountain snows draw skiers particularly to the slopes of Cerro Catedral. The glacier at Perito Moreno and iceberg-dotted lakes generate sighs of wonder. In summer and fall the lakes and terrain attract boaters, fly fishers, trekkers, rafters, kayakers, equestrians, mountain bikers, climbers, and paragliders.  The Lake District is unparalleled for outdoor activities in Argentina and Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapí is truly one of the jewels of Argentina.




More blooming evidence of Spring as seen in
Nahuel Huapi National Park of the Lake District




As well as enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings in the Lake District region, there are also several towns which are well worth visiting  including San Martin de los Andes, Villa de Angostura, and Bariloche.  We chose the charming town of San Martin de los Andes on Lake Lácar as our home base from which to explore this spectacular area.  So let’s meet and greet San Martin!  

  


San Martin de los Andes




                           View of San Martin de los Andes on Lake Lacar

                                
Following is a brief excerpt from an email we sent to family and friends many years ago when we first arrived in San Martin.  I find it interesting to now read these forgotten, but not lost, emails since joining the world of blogging.  Little did I know that blogging would be created in the not-so-distant future and little did I know what fun it would be t share the many places we had visited, explored, and lived in during our expat “nomadic” life.

  “We are currently in the beautiful Lake District which is south of Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina.  We are living the outdoor life and enjoying the incredible lakes with the Andes in the background.  Our base is San Martin de los Andes which is a lake town of approximately 30,000 inhabitants.  It is one of the top tourist destinations in the country and for a very good reason – its beauty, its casual lifestyle, its outdoor activities, and its friendly population.





San Martin de los Andes was our home base while living and exploring the Lake District



San Martin de los Andes is located on the northeastern coast of Lácar Lake (Spanish: Lago Lácar) which is a lake of glacial origin in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. It is enclosed in a mountain range of the Andes approximately 2,100 feet above sea level. The area around the lake is mostly uninhabited except for the small city of San Martín de los Andes. The lake has a surface area of approx 22 square miles  and is about 25 miles long. Like many Andean Argentine lakes it drains across Chile and into the Pacific Ocean.





                San Martin de los Andes and its charming Alpine-influenced architecture



It may be relatively small and compact, but San Martín de los Andes is full of charm and all the amenities needed for both residents and visitors. San Martin offers many wonderful  outdoor activities activities including boating, hiking, fishing, and nearby skiing.  San Martin’s setting could not be more beautiful or scenic with views of the surrounding mountain peaks. We spent the spring and summer months in San Martin which are the fall and winter months in the northern hemisphere.  It was perfect for our outdoor lifestyle and my love of warm weather.


The magic of San Martin de los Andes at night
 

Now for a little historical background: San Martín de los Andes was founded in 1898 and modeled like a European style alpine village. Following its founding the main economic activities were wood logging and husbandry. A major change in settlement life came about when Lanín National Park was created in 1937. The creation of Lanín National Park meant that wood logging was gradually reduced and numerous small settlements along the lake shore disappeared. New roads were built which effectively connected San Martín with the rest of Argentina. This led to an increased trade that almost ended local husbandry and agriculture. In the 1970s many tourism enterprises were established in San Martín making the town an important tourism center especially during the skiing season.





                    The beauty of San Martin de los Andes and its setting never disappoints!


From San Martin de los Andes we could visit the nearby towns and the many recreational areas. It was a perfect base for our needs! When we felt like “hitting the road” we had two options. One option was getting on local bus for the excursion on the Road of the Seven Lakes.  The other option was to get on a long distance bus to cross over the Andes and visit Chile.  I will save those excursions, however, for another posting.



What a charming country scene in the Lake District of Argentina 



The Road of the Seven Lakes (Spanish: Camino de los Siete Lagos) is the popular name given to provincial route #234 between San Martín de los Andes and Villa La Angostura. It then continues on to the Los Arrayanes National Park, the Nahuel Huapi National Park and Lake, and Bariloche. Much of this scenic 107 kilometer (approximately 67 mile) road was only partially paved when we lived there with the rest being covered in pebbles so consider yourself forewarned for quite a ride!   





There are non-stop spectacular views as seen in the Lake District of Argentina



Villa La Angostura



On no, another gorgeous lake! This is Lago Nahuel Huapi at Villa la Angostura



As an introduction to our visit to Villa La Angostura, here is another excerpt from one of my  emails sent to family and friends while living in the Lake District:  We have taken the three hour bus trip on this route (one-half of which is on gravel road)  with one gem of a lake after another.  The final lake on this route is named Lago Nahuel Huapi where the small town of Villa La Angostura is located and where we spent Turkey Day.  “Villa” as the locals call it is on the same lake as Bariloche, but there the similarity ends.  It is small, lovely, and quiet.  We spent Turkey Day having a chicken-bird picnic on the beach.  You will see that we made friends with a local doberman who definitely enjoyed the picnic with us and who guarded us while we took our after-feast siesta!”




Villa la Angostura is one of the most picturesque towns in the Lake District and is well suited for relaxation when a visitor is not enjoying the many outdoor activities in the area. The architecture of the town is of Alpine-style wooden motif similar to that of Bariloche's city center. There are lovely shops and restaurants of artisanal products such as chocolate, beer and trout. “Villa” is categorized as a mountain village even though it has approximately 11,000 inhabitants.




        Thanksgiving Day in Villa la Angostura where we gave thanks for our many blessings.


Villa La Angostura is considered one of  the main attractions of Argentina's Andean Patagonia region not only because of the wooden town itself, but also because of its beautiful surroundings.  Beaches, forests, mountains, adventure sports and wonderful food are all to be found and enjoyed in “Villa.”  On the west side of Villa is the Nahuel Huapi Lake and to the east the Correntoso Lake.  Both lakes are connected by the Correntoso River which is one of the popular sport fishing destinations around Villa la Angostura.





                        Scenic cruise boats ply the waters from Villa la Angostura 






A "local" has decided we offer the best available Thanksgiving meal and we are happy to share!


Just outside Villa la Angostura is Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes which offers several hikes through the unique arrayán forest - arrayáns are evergreens with gnarled brown trunks). Here you can hike mountain trails and enjoy hidden vistas of Lake Nahuel Huapi without the crowds. Afterwards, retire to your lodge, or cabin, or hut, or whatever which is often tucked away in the surrounding forest. Villa a great retreat for a few days of fun and relaxation. Above all, it is a place to enjoy nature and the peaceful life. Now for a total change of pace, let’s visit the bustling city of Bariloche!



   Striking Arrayan trees are native to the Andes and are found in and around Villa de Angostura




BARILOCHE



       Now this is one attractive bus and it must be time to visit Bariloche 


San Carlos de Bariloche, usually referred to as Bariloche, is a city situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake. It is located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park and is the largest urban area in Argentina’s Lake District. The city has a permanent population of approximately 110,000 and is the the biggest, most lively, and most tourist oriented city in the Lake District.The name Bariloche comes from the Mapudungun (language of the Mapuche people) word Vuriloche meaning "people from behind the mountain.” The Poya people used the Vuriloche pass to cross the Andes, keeping it secret from the Spanish priests for a long time.




Meet the magnificent poster boy of San Carlos de Bariloche!



After development of extensive public works and Alpine-styled architecture, the city emerged in the 1930s and 1940s as a major tourism center with skiing, trekking, and mountaineering facilities. San Carlos de Bariloche is surrounded by pristine wilderness and is picturesquely located on the edge of the sparkling Nahuel Huapi Lake and offers plenty of adventure sports and skiing opportunities. The town itself is memorable for its alpine village style architecture, buzzing nightlife, and its amazing quantity and variety of chocolate.  





             Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate everywhere in Bariloche!



Check out Bariloche's 4 ton award winning Easter Egg!
                     



My daughter and I visited Bariloche during Easter week when she was a foreign exchange student in Argentina. Bariloche was one huge chocolate Easter wonderland with everything imaginable in the form of chocolate. It was a chocolate addicts fantasy come true. In 2012 Bariloche received the Guinness Book of Records certification for the largest chocolate Easter egg in the world! Quite 
impressive!







Tourism, both domestic and international, is the main economic activity of Bariloche all year round. While popular among foreigners including Europeans, the city is also very popular among Brazilians. One of the most popular activities is skiing. The main ski area is at the area of Cerro Catedral. During the summer beautiful beaches such as Playa Bonita and Villa Tacul also welcome sunbathers. Most tourists visit Bariloche in its winter (summer for North Americans and Europeans) for its skiing, but it is definitely a worthwhile destination year round. And the regular flights from Buenos Aires make Bariloche and the Lake District conveniently accessible.



Bariloche is especially beautiful when a visitor is ready for something other than beautiful natural scenery!  



Some visitors may be put off with the tall apartment buildings, nightclubs, and the urban sprawl. If you feel this way, head out to Nahuel Huapi Lake or the surrounding mountains and enjoy their peace and quiet. It is also easy to avoid staying in the city center by finding accommodations on the road leading to Llao Llao outside of Bariloche. There are many options available in and around Bariloche to satisfy every personality and Bariloche is certainly a worthwhile destination while visiting Argentina’s Lake District. 

                                   

                   The lovely and very impressive Llao Llao Hotel and Resort near Bariloche




Countryside beauty and quiet at Llao Llao which is conveniently close to bustling Bariloche 




I remember hearing many, many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is the link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting. And if that is not enough, I have also included below the SLIDE SHOW of the web album for your immediate enjoyment.



I sincerely hope you have enjoyed your visit to the spectacular Lake District of Argentine. I know that I have certainly enjoyed revisiting this beautiful area.  Until our next excursion, I wish you happy holiday Thanksgiving Day greetings and l look forward to seeing you again very soon!  Saludos, Laura 



Gobble, gobble holiday greetings from a handsome still-running-wild Mexican Turkey!