Even though it’s a fraction of the size of neighboring Bariloches, the amount of activities around San Martin de los Andes can make it seem overwhelming. After all, when a pristine wilderness flecked with lakes stretches out for thousands of square miles, and hundreds of hiking trails climb their way across dormant, snowcapped volcanoes, it’s only natural to feel an urge to get out and see it all. Exploring every corner of the surroundings, however, could take an entire lifetime, and the majority of visitors only have a couple of days to explore the entire area. In order to better help organize time to maximize the area’s highlights, the following is a suggested three-day itinerary for visiting San Martin de los Andes.
Day 1: Spend a day cruising Lake Lacár
Even though there are dozens of lakes between the area’s two national parks, Lake Lacár is the cobalt darling of San Martin de los Andes. The shoreline stretches to the outskirts of town, and no trip to the town is complete without a day spent out on the lake. To experience the beauty of Lake Lacár, book a cruise from the dock in town to the dock at Hua Hum. The cruise across the length of the lake is nearly three hours long, and passes by islands and hidden beaches you’d never find on your own. Take a break at Chachin dock and hike to Chachin waterfall—stretching your legs on the 30-minute hike through pristine Patagonian forest. Grab a bite in Hua Hum near the border with neighboring Chile, and compare how the waters of Lake Nonthué differ from Lake Lacár.
Day 2: Hit the beach and town
For as much as the surrounding natural beauty seems to capture all the attention, the town of San Martin de los Andes is an attraction unto itself. Far more relaxed than Bariloches but more lively than Villa Angostura, it’s a medium sized village that’s perfectly suited for relaxation and fun. Start the day with some coffee or maté at a charming streetside café, and then grab your towel for a relaxing day at one of the nearby beaches. Catritre Beach is a local favorite on the lake’s southern shore, and Quila Quina is where Mapuche culture combines with summertime watersports. Rent a kayak and paddle the shoreline in search of hidden coves, or shop for traditional, wooden crafts as memories of Patagonia. In the late afternoon, make your way back into towards town and stroll the shop-lined streets, stopping in Plaza San Martin where musicians, performers, and entertainers all gather in the central square. History buffs can duck their head into the fascinating Settler’s Museum, or travelers with a sweet tooth can sample the town’s legendary chocolate.
Day 3: Day trip to Lake Huechulafquen
For as scenic as the downtown area can be, one of the benefits of San Martin is its proximity to Lanin National Park. Embark on an all-day wilderness journey to the northern section of the park, where the snowcapped cone of Lanin Volcano is reflected in Lake Huechulafquen. Spend the day hiking and exploring the shoreline at the base of the towering volcano, and on the way back to San Martin, explore the town of Junin de los Andes and its laidback, small town charm.