Sailing Through The Andes Range: A Scenic Way to Travel Between Argentina and Chile

The wonderful Lake LLanquihue, Puerto Varas at 8 am

The famous travel writer Freya Start once said  “There is a great moment, when you see, however distant – the goal of your wandering.” The thing which has been living in your imagination suddenly becomes a part of the tangible world.”  This is the realization I felt as I cruised along the Andes Range, referred by the locals as the ‘Cordillera.’ Definitely a great experience for any traveler and probably one of the most picturesque areas I have witnessed.  It requires 2 days/1-night to complete this well-known all-season trip ‘Lakes Crossing.’ The package deal includes transportation, accommodation, breakfast and one dinner.

Prior to the Lakes Crossing trip, we stayed for 3 nights in Bariloche, famous for its chocolates, and Swiss-style architecture. Also known as ‘Braziloche’ to Brazilian skiers and snowboarders.

On Wednesday, 9th of March, Marisa, Tempo Holidays local representative welcomed us at Bariloche airport to transfer us to Design Suites.  Marisa also went through the tour options with us on the way to the hotel. Upon arrival and check in at the hotel, Alejandro, the hotel staff, briefed us about the hotel facilities and breakfast time. Design Suites is definitely a highly recommended hotel and one of my favorites so far particularly for its extra room space. The hotel lounge was relaxing and a perfect meeting place at any time of the day. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

After a nice breakfast, our morning of Thursday, 10th of March began with a 4-hour short circuit tour which was part of the 3-night Bariloche package. The tour guide for this trip was ‘Javier,’ a wonderful and calm person with great sense of humour. He  was  also our designated photographer for all our star jump shots.  The tour included a visit to Saint Edward Chapel (Eduardo de Capilla) a stone and wood charming chapel that sits on top of a hill and offers a panoramic view of Llao Llao Hotel. After the amazing viewing at the Edward Chapel, we went to Campanario Hill,accessible via a 7-minute cable car ride. Upon reaching the viewing point of the hill, we witnessed another breathtaking and beautiful view of the Perito Moreno and Nahuel Huapi Lakes, two of the many beautiful likes around the area. From this point you can also see the ravishing beauty of the Llao Llao Peninsulas. We had the chance to enjoy a nice cake and tea/coffee at the restaurant while admiring these beautiful natural surroundings. If you are someone who enjoys gorgeous landscapes, this is a highly recommended tour.

Our next stop was Rosa Mosqueto (Rose-Hip Hagebutte) where you can purchase some of Rose-hip produced products. We continued driving along Exequiel Bustillo Avetowards Angotstura Bridge which connects Moreno and Nahuel Huape lakes. The highlight in this area was the Panoramic Lookout, the corridor to the principal panoramic landscapes of the city of San Carlos de Bariloche (also known as Bariloche) and its peak surroundings. Javier then dropped us off at Don Molina Restaurant for a good lunch treat. This is one of the restaurants highly recommended by Javier. After lunch we continued exploring the city of Bariloche, which I would like to personally call ‘City of Chocolates.’ Apparently, the best chocolates are Mamuschka and Rapa Nui.  My personal choice and favorite was the Mamuschka.

Amidst the shocking news we received on Friday 11th of March, about the earthquake in Japan, we started off the day at 8.15am with another tour. This was an optional tour that we booked and paid locally.  You make sure to shop around, as most tours do not have an English-speaking guide available.  Our first stop was the Mirador del Traful, a lookout balcony that is 70 meters high and offers a spectacular view of Lake Traful. We then moved on to Villa Tratful, a small and quiet village, located at the shore of Traful Lake and inside the Nahuel Huapi National Park. This small town has an incredible view of the area, including the surrounding mountains and hills. Next stop was at Lago Espejo – Mirror Lake lookout. The place is also laced with lakes and rivers. We then moved on to Villa la Angostura – Narrowness-ville where we had lunch at Parrilla Asador Restaurant.  Villa la Angostura is a quaint village nestled in the mountains in Argentina’s Neuquen province, and one of the main attractions in this region. It is a popular winter and summer destinations. Ski enthusiasts and vacationers visit the place during winter since Cerro Bayo ski centre is just a short drive. During summer, the pleasant weather as well as the beautiful mountain and stream entice trekkers, hikers, bikers and even kayakers.

Following the Japan disaster, Jo received an email notification for a tsunami alert since our next destination was Chile.  When traveling, registration through DFAT, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is not mandatory but highly recommended.

Saturday, 12th of March, marked the Day One of our Lakes Crossing venture. The trip involved both by road, via bus, and lake crossings, via a catamaran, with fully escorted professional guides. The tour provides a good feel of magnificent scenic sights of Andean mountain peaks in the area of two important national parks – Nahuel Huapi in Argentina and Vicente Pérez Rosales on the Chilean side.  Both are your gateways to beautiful landscapes of lakes, forests, mountains, rivers, and ends in a very picturesque and charming town.

After custom clearance at the Chilean border, we spent our night at Hotel Natura, the sole hotel in Peulla. This stunning hotel offers fabulous mountain landscape view.  Dinner was included in the package. This small town got its name from the native tongue of the local Mapuche tribes which means “spring sprouts.” The next day, Sunday, 13th of March, was another glorious day and the most relaxing day of the entire trip. We were given the option to relax or do other activities like horse riding, kayak, jet boat ride, and many more. We opted to do a short hike to the nearby waterfalls.

At nearly 4pm, we continued with the lakes crossing trip via catamaran for 1-hour and 40-minutes. It was then followed by another 2-hour bus trip. Along the way we stopped at Saltos del Petrohué – Petrohué Waterfalls, a small series of waterfalls along the upper reach of Petrohué River. They are located in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Los Lagos Region, Chile. From here we had the opportunity to view Osorno Volcano in the background, one of the most active volcanoes of the southern Chilean Andes.

After over 2 days of travelling which include 4 buses and 3 catamarans, we finally arrived at our final destination at around 8 pm – the Cabanas del Lago Hotel, a real abode to discover Puerto Varas. Immediately after checking in, we proceeded straight to the Mirador del Lago Restaurantlocated within the hotel for a much needed dinner.  I highly recommend the salmon from the menu. We enjoyed sitting by our table appreciating the night skyline of Puerto Varas and the wonderful Lake LLanquihue, the second largest lake in Chile, while the hotel pianist played familiar ballad favorites. We also enjoyed the excellent unobtrusive service and the good quality of food. My experience in this restaurant was a double thumbs up!

It rained almost the whole day on Monday 14th of March. And when the rain stopped towards the end of the day, we witnessed from our room the brightest and most amazing rainbow. We stared at it for a good 15 minutes and admire its beauty. Puerto Varas is a charming little town surrounded by scenic vista of natural beauty, a fabulous prologue to understand the German colonization of the area, even just a glimpse from our room.

On Tuesday, 15th of March, at 4.30pm after exploring the city of Puerto Varas Jo and I left Puerto Montt Airport which is 30 minutes away from Puerto Varas to get to our next destination – Santiago.

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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