This wonderful, full-day excursion takes visitors through lush forest and past emerald lakes (such as the picturesque Lago Mascardi), waterfalls, and beaches to a trail head that leads to the face of Ventisquero Negro (Black Glacier). You'll need a vehicle to drive the 215km (133-mile) round-trip road, including a detour to Cascada Los Alerces (Los Alerces Waterfall); it's 170km (105 miles) without the detour. Plan to stop frequently at the various lookout points along the road. Most tour agencies offer this excursion for about $35 to $40 (£24-£27) a person. A private bilingual local guide can also take you for around $160 (£108) plus transportation.
At 35km (22 miles) south of Bariloche, you'll reach Villa Mascardi. Take RP 81, the road that branches off to the right. You must stop at the National Parks gates and pay an entrance fee of $3.50 (£2.35) for foreigners. Past the turnoff to Pampa Linda and Los Rapidos campsite, continue to the Río Manso bridge, where a road heads left to the Los Alerces Waterfall. A 300m (984-ft.) walk takes you to a vista point overlooking the waterfall. After doubling back, you reach the bridge again, where you head left, continuing along the shore of Lake Mascardi until you reach the Hotel Tronador (tel. 02944/441062; www.hoteltronador.com), where the views of Mt. Tronador are outstanding. The charming log cabin hotel, built in 1929 by a Belgian immigrant family, is backed by high peaks and makes a good spot for lunch or a quiet getaway for overnight visitors. They have 30 rooms; high-season (Jan-Feb) prices for a double start at $115 (£78). The road continues up the valley of the Río Manso Superior, winding through alpine scenery until reaching the lush and expansive Pampa Linda plains, where there is another inn and teahouse. The final leg ends at a stunning cirque (a steep valley with a lake) draped with vegetation and waterfalls. From here a trail leads to the Black Glacier, named for the debris that colors the ice at its terminus. The mountain's power is imposing here. Return to Bariloche the same way you came, and see if you can pick out the heart-shaped Isla Corazón in the middle of Lago Mascardi.
Note that the route to Tronador, RP 81, is a narrow gravel road with restricted hours of transit during the busy summer months. Cars are allowed to travel in toward Tronador in the mornings only (9:30am-2pm), and travel out again in the afternoon only (4:30-7:30pm). Check with the Tourist Information Office before heading out.
Ruta 40: The Road South -- The mighty and legendary Ruta 40 is one of the world's great adventure drives. It takes you along the eastern slope of the Andes from the top of Argentina all the way to the bottom of Patagonia. For travelers with a few extra days, 3-night Ruta 40 trips are organized by Chalten Travel (tel. 02944/456005; www.chaltentravel.com); Tohol Expediciones (tel. 02944/456327; www.toholexpediciones.com) includes stops at traditional estancias, petroglyphs, and untouched national parks, and it costs a budget-friendly $450 (£305) per person. It starts in Bariloche and ends in El Calafate. Don't even think of making this expedition on your own without a 4WD in excellent condition, stocked with all the necessary supplies. This land is Patagonia off the beaten track.
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.