SAN MARTIN DE LOS ANDES
This excellent beach zone has a very special microclimate and the particular feature of being located near a native culture. The roads are narrow and steeply sloped. Two cultures live together in this village. One is found in the residential areas, consisting of the owners of magnificent modern Swiss-style mountain chalets, inhabited only at weekends or in the summer season; the other is the Mapuche community of "Curruhuinca", a native town living off market gardening, firewood sale, craftwork in wood and native fabrics and cattle breeding, that is surrounded by forests of oaks, coihues, ñires, radales and maitenes.
A white-sand bay stretches out from the tourist pier, an ideal place to spend the whole day. There is a road that allows traveling across the whole peninsula, although it is more advisable to do this on foot, at the same time taking advantage of the paths that lead to Arroyo Grande Waterfall, the rural school, the "El Cipresal" interpretation path or the countless remote places where nature shows itself in all its fullness. It is important to visit the Arroyo Grande Waterfall, a source of carbonated mineral water, the cave paintings, and the bathing resorts found by Lake Lácar.
The natural geography of the place, combining the lake, mountain and forest, together with a micro-climate characterized by temperatures that in summer reach 30º Celsius, is ideal for outdoor activities: walks to the Arroyo Grande Waterfall, visits to the cave paintings, horseback rides, bicycle rides, fishing, sailing and 4x4 driving.
Attractions: The beach, the Mapuche community, the cave paintings, Arroyo Grande Waterfall, the "El Cipresal" interpretation path, Lake Escondido. A tour around an attractive summer village, offering beautiful beaches and nautical activities. Also Mt Abanico and the "Piedra de Trompul", Mt Colorado, glacial erosion, and Mapuche crafts.
Activities: Walks, nautical activities, nature interpretation, trekking, mountain bike riding, swimming, camping, 4x4 circuits, fishing.
Services: Snack bar, horse rental, boats and "water-cycle" rental, sale of Mapuche crafts and fine fruits, organized campsite (with store).
On the boat, bar service, restrooms and heating; in Quila Quina, bar, beach, organized campsite and tourist information.
Season: All year round (especially in the summer season. In winter: subject to weather conditions.)
Total distance: 36 km.
Time: 3.5 hours.
Recommendations: Sneakers or trekking footwear, comfortable pants, warm clothes (waterproof), bathing suit and solar protection.
National Route Nº 234. Two kilometers ahead of the access to Catritre is the crossroads with National Route Nº 108, which takes you to Quila Quina (12 km of gravel, not suitable for motor homes). Forests of oaks, coihues, ñires, maitenes, and radales surround the area where you can find both Mapuche community Curruhuinca houses and modern mountain homes used as secondary residences.
You can visit the Arroyo Grande Waterfall, a source of mineral carbonated water, and also admire the cave paintings. In summer, there are nautical activities and the beaches along Lake Lácar to enjoy.
Leave the pier at Lake Lácar and go through the bay that is at the head of the lake, skirting the peninsula that rises over the right bank.
In a few minutes, Quila Quina Village is reached. It includes a hill named Curruhuinca, at whose summit there are two panoramic points, locally known jointly as the Bandurrias Vantage Point, which offers a beautiful panoramic view of Lake Lácar, both to the east and to the west.
About 20 minutes away from there, the beaches of Villa Quila Quina appear on the right, and you can stop at Don Bruno port for a short tour. This is a picturesque village of summer residences, with typical magnificent and elegant building style.
Finally, back on the boat, you head for the city, observing how the imposing Mt Abanico towers above the point where Lake Lácar reaches its maximum depth, 277 meters. At the same time, this hill naturally divides the beaches of Quila Quina from Catritre camping ground and beaches, and also from another village of the Mapuche community. You get back to town at approximately 6:00 p.m.
After traveling for about 20 minutes, on the south shore (or left bank) you find Catritre beaches and camping ground. Next to these, there are homes belonging to members of the Mapuche community. On the opposite bank you can see a place called Trompul, inhabited by more members of the Mapuche community. On the coast there is a beautiful beach with a rustic camping ground, known as "Playa Blanca," near the "Islita".
Further ahead, on the south bank of the lake, rises Mt Abanico or Tren-Tren, with its magnificent granite wall, whose vertical stripes gave rise to its name Abanico ("fan"). Several Mapuche stories and legends mention this rocky promontory, at the foot of which Lake Lácar reaches its maximum depth (277 meters).
Along National Route 234, 4 km. from San Martín. To the right lies the access to this beach located on the left shore of Lake Lácar. It is a highly attractive region due to its vegetation, and the waters here are suitable for practicing nautical sports. There is an organized campsite.
Total length: 4 km.
Seasons: Spring, summer and fall.
HUA HUM INTERNATIONAL PASS
Approximately 5 km. away from the junction of Provincial Route Nº 48 and National Route Nº 234 you will find it worth stopping at the side of the road to see the whole city and Lake Lácar from an impressive natural balcony.
About 10 km. ahead is Pampa de Trompul, where there is a great rock called "Piedra de Trompul". According to tradition, this rock makes a loud roaring noise announcing storms in the area, and this noise echoes in the surrounding valleys.
Approximately 20 km ahead is the Yuco Peninsula, a small bathing resort on Lake Lácar, with beaches and natural pools. The Yuco Division of National Parks is also here and it provides a free camping ground. Nautical sports and fishing are allowed. 12 km. away from Yuco you get to the area called La Angostura, where Lake Lácar empties its waters into Lake Nonthué (Nonthué: "passing place").
After travelling 4 km. you arrive in Hua Hum ("humid or rainy place", or "hole in the roof"). It is located on Lake Nonthué, where the Hua Hum river is born and starts its journey toward the Pacific Ocean. There is a restaurant here that offers lunch service all year round. Once in Chilean territory, the Hua Hum river becomes the Pirihueico river ("place of water and snow"), and pours its waters into the lake by the same name.
Going on along Provincial Route Nº 48, you cross to Chile through the Hua Hum pass, the lowest one in the Andes mountain range, open during the whole year. In Chile you should continue the journey on a ferry boat that crosses Lake Pirihueico (check schedules and frequencies).
From Hua Hum you may also get to Chachin Waterfall on foot. Since the area is poorly signposted, it is advisable to consult with the area ranger.
On leaving Hua Hum, across the bridge over the river by the same name and after approximately 1200 m., you take a right fork. Five hundred meters further on, on the left, lies the access to Chachin Waterfall, located 600 m. away from the junction. If road conditions permit, you may go by car (6 km.), following the same route as for Lake Queñi, 13 km. away. The final 150 m. have to be covered on foot. The waterfall is 30 meters high, and is surrounded by rocks and abundant vegetation.
Total length: 94 km.
Season: all year round.
Attractions: El Balcón Vantage Point, Pampa de Trompul, Yuco, Chachin Waterfall, Lake Queñi and Thermal Baths, Hua Hum river, mountain pass to Chile
Activities: Walking, nature observation and interpretation, horseback riding, trekking, mountain bike riding, rafting, fishing, nautical activities, camping, 4x4 circuits.
Services: Restaurant, two rustic campsites, pier, daily boat excursions (leaving from the city).
Season: All year round.
Total distance: 94 km.
The trip to Hua Hum can also be done by boat. On leaving San Martín de los Andes port around 10:00 in the morning, the boat takes you across Lake Lácar and Lake Nonthue, first along the north shore with the return trip along the south shore, to get to the east end of Lake Nonthue, where the Hua Hum river is born.
Immediately after leaving the pier, you skirt the peninsula that closes the head of the lake, and begin to see some houses on the right; this place, where members of the Mapuche community live, is called "Trompul". Then you go through the Yuco peninsula, and by the ranger's cabin, De los Patos Island and Santa Teresita.
After about 3 hours' sailing you get to "La Angostura", a curious place where Lake Lácar empties its waters into Lake Nonthue. The color contrast of the two waters as seen from the boat is remarkable. Next, you disembark in Puerto Chachín, an old lumber industry establishment, where a walking excursion takes you into the first part of the valdivian forest, until you reach the spectacular Chachín Waterfall. Cinnamon trees, coihues, topa-topas, quintrales and colihue canes represent some of the flora found on the way.
Back on the boat, you resume your trip, bound for the jetty in Hua Hum, where there is a restaurant with a beach area and day campsite.
Although this place is located on the shore of Lake Nonthué, it gets its name from the Hua Hum river, that is born at this place in the lake and flows toward the Pacific Ocean. This river is an important attraction to keep in mind, as it is especially well-known for the rafting excursion that starts at the bridge, near the restaurant (on the Argentinean side), and concludes in Chile. In the summer season canoes, "boat-cycles" and horses can be rented, and a quaint "carriage" ride is also possible.
On returning in the afternoon, you can see the Pucará and Ruca Ñire ports. Along the south bank also, you will find the mysterious caves of Mt Vizcacha, inside which are cave paintings (which unfortunately cannot be seen from the boat).
LAKES LOLOG, CURRUHUE CHICO, CURRUHUE GRANDE AND EPULAFQUEN, AND THE THERMAL BATHS
Once at Lake Lolog, reached by Route Nº 62, after passing the "Regimiento 4 de Caballería de Montaña", you will see Vega Maipú and the Chapelco Range. After crossing the bridge over the Quilquihue river, there is an excellent place for sport fishing, as well as a rustic camping area. Towards the left, skirting the lake, picnic areas are found, these presenting an ideal way of spending the day. Nine km. away from the bridge, on the left begins the path leading to Puerto Arturo, where there is another rustic campsite area and the Lolog Ranger Division cabin.
Back on the road, 21 km. ahead, is the Curruhué Ranger Division cabin. While traveling along this road toward the west, the forest, the lakes and the mountains display the varied Andean landscape features. The first example is Lake Curruhué Chico (curruhué = "black place"); then there is the Lake Curruhué Grande with its vantage point, allowing the walker to go through a small group of pehuenes, silent witnesses to the passing of time. From the panoramic point you get a singular view of the lake and glacial valleys.
The area's volcanic past begins to become fully apparent starting at the Verde, Escorial and Del Toro lagoons. Some 6 km. away from Lake Curruhué Grande there is an exceptional river of petrified lava, resulting from the eruption of the Achén Ñiyeu volcano, which crosses under the roadway and goes into the waters of Lake Epulafquen. The black, porous stone is currently undergoing a process of vegetable colonization.
Concluding the journey surrounded by exuberant vegetation, the Epulafquen Thermal Baths area is reached, this being one of the most interesting places to visit in the region. There we will find 19 wells of thermal mineral water. There is also an organized campsite.
Attractions: Lake Lolog, Lake Curruhué Chico, Lake Curruhué Grande, Verde Lagoon, Escorial, Lake Epulafquen, Epulafquen Thermal Baths, walks, nautical activities, mountain bike rides.
Activities: beach, walks, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, trekking, fishing, camping, swimming, 4x4 excursions, thermal baths, nature interpretation touring.
Services: tea room and restaurant.
Season: all year round.
Total distance: 24 km.