A region running along the Andes' eastern cordillera and bordering Chile, the Lake District boasts cobalt blue glacier lakes set on a horizon of monumental Andean peaks. The area is made up of several adjoining national parks, Lanín, Nahuel Huapi, Lago Puelo and Los Arrayanes, that all offer the visitor an abundance of outdoor pursuits throughout the year. Driving through the region is a delight: snaking roads cut into the hillside take you through forests, over mountains, along lake shores and across wild-flower meadows and a sprinkling of chocolate box villages complete the Alpine ideal.
San Carlos de Bariloche
Sitting on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi and nestled between the Patagonian Steppe of Cerro Catedral to the east and the soaring peak of Cerro Otto to the west, Bariloche is a bustling city surrounded by stunning wilderness and shrouded in tales of the ancient lake monster Nahuelito. Modern Bariloche was founded by German settlers at the turn of the 20th Century but today the Swiss-style chalets have been somewhat eclipsed by urban development fuelled by the tourist industry. If peace and quiet are the order of the day, a 10 minute drive out of the town transports you back to the tranquillity of nature and there a number of good accommodation options to choose from where you can dip in and out of city life. With such close proximity to Chile, a stay in Bariloche can be easily combined with Chile and El Cruce de Lago is an exceptionally scenic and civilised way to cross an international border.
Villa La Angostura
At the far south of the Neuquén Province is Villa Angostura; meaning "narrow village", this pretty town takes its name from the narrow isthmus that connects the town to the Quetrihué Peninsula. Founded in 1932, the town was historically where the Argentine elite built their summer homes and today there is still an air of quiet superiority to its louder, busier neighbour Bariloche. The town offers the only land access to Parque Nacional Los Arranyes which is named after the unusual arrayán tree, a species of myrtle. This handsome cinnamon-coloured tree can grow to be a hundred years old and is either found standing alone or in groves with its trunks contorted and twisted and its roots skimming the ground. The park is also home to the Magellenic woodpecker, the largest species of woodpecker in the world and the symbol of Patagonia.
San Martin de los Andes
Four hours north of Bariloche, San Martin de los Andes is a delightful mountain town set on the northern point of Lago Lácar and ringed by towering Andean peaks. Strict building regulations mean the town has preserved its character with charming, alpine architecture leaving you wondering whether you are in The Alps and not The Andes.
Bariloche may be the Argentina's capital for outdoor adventure but it is also its chocolate captial. Mitre Street is lined with family-run shops peddling every type of chocolate ranging from dark bitter bars to exquisite chocolate sculptures.