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Driving Bariloche to San Martín

There are four ways to get from Bariloche to San Martín de los Andes. Each has its pros and cons. All head northeast of Bariloche on RN 237, however, with lovely picnic spots and stunning scenery along the way. If you continue along the Limay River, you'll journey past the river's impressive Amphiteatre and the Valle Encantado, with rare volcanic rock formations, including the Dedo de Dios (Finger of God).

The only fully paved route takes you along the gorgeous Limay River to Rinconada and then loops to San Martín via Junín de los Andes. This route is the longest, at 260km (161 miles), but it's the one I recommend for safety if you are traveling in winter or at night.

The second route takes you also along the Limay River but then heads west on a gravel road just past Confluencia and over the incredibly wild and rugged Córdoba Pass before joining the traditional Seven Lakes Route, RP 234. This also takes you past the picturesque Meliquina Lake, where you'll find a teahouse and general store. Soon after Meliquina, turn right on RP 231, the Ruta de los Siete Lagos , to continue to San Martín de los Andes. Turn left to return to Villa la Angostura.

The route that heads through Villa Trafúl at RP 65 can also be done as the "Circuito Grande," a nice day drive from Bariloche, looping through Villa La Angostura. At Confluencia, you head west along the Trafúl River past the expansive Estancia Primavera, owned by a certain gringo by the name of Ted Turner. It then catches up to RP 231, the Ruta de los Siete Lagos. Again, it's a right turn to San Martín de los Andes and a left turn to Villa la Angostura. The Circuito Grande is 240km (148 miles) total, looping from Bariloche.

Numerous daily buses link along these roads as well. Campers can hop on and off at their own pace.

The classic Ruta de Los Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Route), is a direct trip from Villa La Angostura to San Martín de los Andes. This road is now mostly paved, 184km (114 miles) from Bariloche, although road work continues at a snail's pace. This route affords many excellent lookouts, short hikes, and picnic spots. You certainly need a full day to complete the drive to San Martín and back to Villa la Angostura. After leaving the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and the town of Villa La Angostura on RP 231, turn north on RP 234. The lakes actually amount to more than seven, starting with Correntoso, Espejo, and Espejo Chico. At the juncture of lakes Villarino and Falkner, the rustic Hostería Lago Villarino (tel. 02972/427483) is one of the only places to spend the night en route, besides numerous campgrounds. Shortly thereafter, you cross the border into Lanín National Park. You can check Hermoso, Machónico, and Lácar lakes off your list before dropping into the town of San Martín de los Andes. On the shores of the Rio Hermoso is the outstanding Rio Hermoso Lodge.

Villa Trafúl: A Timeless Mountain Hide-Out -- On what is often referred to as the Circuito Grande (opposed to the Circuito Chico that takes you to the Llao Llao), the delightful little village of Villa Trafúl makes a great day trip from either Bariloche or Villa la Angostura. This lakeside settlement 63km (39 miles) north of Villa La Angostura is home to some 300 people, many descendants of original settlers. The town includes teahouses, campgrounds, and a few cabins for those who want to spend the night.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.