Nahuel Huapi National Park, which surrounds the lake of the same name, and within which San Carlos de Bariloche is located, is an expansive park of nearly 1.8 million acres, and Argentina’s oldest national park.
The park actually contains another park, Parque nacional Los Arrayanes, which is where the much-visited Quetrihué peninsula is. This peninsula is home to a large tract of 300-650 year old red-to-light-brown-barked Arrayan trees.
The larger park covers a large range of altitude, from 700 to 3400 meters, and contains four distinct ecosystems, from high Andean peaks (above 1600 meters), including the imposing Cerro Tronador, Andean forests, Valdivian rainforests and (mostly treeless) windblown Patagonian steppe.
With four different ecosystems, there is a great variety of different types of vegetation, including several types of Patagonian beech.
Isla Victoria is a small island located in Nahuel Huapi lake, which is part of the park by the same name. The lake is one of the main defining features of this part of Patagonia, with the city of Bariloche on the south shore, and smaller town of Villa La Angostura on the north side.
Victoria Island is located in the middle of the northernmost branch of the lake and is accessed from Puerto Pañuelo, a 30-minute drive from Bariloche. There are a couple of sailings daily, some of which continue to Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes, specifically, to the Quetrihué peninsula, which is home to the rare protected arrayán (Chilean myrtle) forest, with slender, cinnamon-barked trees which grow in a dense grove, and some examples of which are up to 650 years old. Isla Victoria has varied foliage, including the arctic beech, and some easy hiking trails, and if you spend time wandering, you can find some solitary beaches on which to sit and contemplate the lake, or take a chilly dip.
El Lago Moreno es un lago glacial en la providencia de Río Negro, cerca de Bariloche, Argentina. El lago tiene una superficie de más de 4.000 acres, y las montañas, como López, Capilla y Catedral, son la característica predominante del paisaje circundante. El lago está dividido en dos secciones, la occidental y la oriental del Lago Moreno. La sección occidental está conectada al Lago Nahuel Huapi por un estrecho canal. El agua en el Lago Moreno es generalmente leve debido a que la mayor parte de su agua no proviene del derretimiento del hielo. Esto hace que sea un destino ideal para practicar deportes acuáticos y la natación. También hay un pequeño circuito que va alrededor del lago, y es uno de las pistas más populares de la zona. El extremo norte del occidental Lago Moreno forma parte del Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. El resto del Lago Moreno ha visto más desarrollo e interacción humana que otros lagos de la zona de Bariloche.
Cerro Otto is a hill just barely on the outskirts of the town of Bariloche which has turned what was formerly just a lookout point into a tourist center. It has several activities and attractions in addition to the cable car ride up, the sweeping vistas and the 360 degree rotating restaurant on top.
The summit is at 1400 meters, and you can either opt to walk or bike a steep 8 km up, or do as most do, and go up in one of the hanging red gondolas up the the top. Once on top, the views, either outside or while inside enjoying a warm drink (it’s nearly always chilly up here, and there’s always a breeze blowing) are expansive, and include lake Nahuel Huapi (and Isla Victoria) as well as a few of the other nearby peaks, such as Cerro Catedral, Cerro Tronador and Cerro Campanario. The restaurant turns slowly, completing a rotation in 20 minutes.
Activities at the top include sledding on groomed trails in the winter, or a kind of tubing in the spring, summer and fall.
Cerro Catedral is a major attraction in the Bariloche area. It’s 20 km southwest of the city, and is a 2388-meter (7,800-foot) high peak from which you can see the contours of the valley, and the snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, on both the Chilean and Argentine side. There are abundant wildflowers in summer, and you get a view over one of the area’s major winter sports centers as well.
Most visitors take the Cablecarril and Silla Lynch, (two different gondolas/lifts) which also have a great view, and stop at the Confitería (café) for a coffee or hot chocolate to enjoy the view.
From here you can continue hiking along the ridge, to Refugio Frey, for a day hike or to spend the night. The area is very popular with rock climbers, and the mountain takes its names from the rocky spires that look like those of a Gothic Cathedral.
The Arrayán forest is the main attraction Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes, which is easily accessed from Villa La Angostura. This forest is an important remaining natural stand of the arrayan, or the Chilean myrtle tree. They are a slow-growing tree with a narrow trunk whose bark is reddish to light coffee in color, often referred to as cinnamon, and which peels off as the tree grows. The tree’s bark is cool to the touch. They bloom white in the summer (January and February), and give an edible dark blue-black fruit in early autumn.
You can visit this protected forest, which covers the Quetrihué Peninsula by horse, or on foot, horseback or bike. The trail is 12 km long. You can also visit the forest by boat, either from the park itself, or as a longer tour beginning in Puerto Pañuelo, and also stopping at Isla La Victoria. Some of the gnarled trees in this forest, which are native to a narrow band of south latitude, only in Chile and Argentina, are up to 650 years old.
Villa La Angostura is a small town nearby well-touristed Bariloche, which also has the closest airport. Villa La Angostura is built on the north shores of lake Nahuel Huapi, and is the preferred Patagonian destination of wealthy Argentines as well as international travelers.
The area is great for cycling, fishing, horseback riding and hikes, such as the one to emerald-green Laguna Verde, around which there is a walking trail. The best views from near the town are from Mirador Belvedere, which is about 4 km away. From here, you can get a good view of lakes Correntoso and Nahuel Huapi. The road to the mirador (look out point) is also the starting point for walks to two waterfalls, 50-meter high Cascada Inacayal, and 35-meter high Cascada Río Bonito. Visit one or both on the same day.
Villa La Angostura is also the perfect jumping-off point to Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes, which is home to an undisturbed arrayán (Chilean myrtle) forest.