Travel Guide to the Lake District, Patagonia
Patagonia is one of the world’s ultimate destinations for adventure holidays, thanks to its jaw-dropping landscapes comprising craggy mountains, windswept pampas, dense forests and mighty rivers and lakes. Head to the north of Patagonia, and you’ll be greeted by a land so ethereal it feels as though plucked straight from a storybook: the Lake District. Segueing into stunning corners of both Chile and Argentina, the Patagonian Lake District is a startlingly beautiful region so rich in natural gems that every hike, bike ride, kayaking excursion or tour on horseback you take is rewarded with spellbinding views at every turn; and that’s certainly good for the soul! Keep reading to discover our expert tips in this travel guide to the Lake District in Patagonia.
When to visit the Patagonian Lake District
The ideal time to visit the Lake District in Patagonia depends on the sort of activities you are looking to do. Between the months of November and April, the Lake District welcomes visitors seeking summer adventure excursions, such as hiking, biking, climbing and others, when the weather is warm enough to enjoy this kind of activities. Then, from late June to early September, the Lake District becomes a fantastic destination for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, as mountain resorts are draped in thick folds of snow.
Ski resorts in the Lake District, Patagonia
On Chile’s side of the Lake District, keen skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes of various resorts including Pucón, Nevado de Chillan and Corralco. You can even brave the mountainsides of volcanoes such as Lonquimay and Osorno, which are pretty amazing pistes to ski down! Over in Argentina, some of the best Lake District ski resorts include La Hoya, Chapelco, Cerro Catedral, or Cerro Bayo, where days out on the slopes are rewarded with evenings in German and Swiss-like towns, similar to the Alpine villages of Europe and with plenty of pubs and chocolate shops to fuel up in!
Lake District summer activities
While this region of Chile and Argentina is an amazing ski destination, it is most well-known for the impressive scope of outdoor activities enjoyed in the warmer months. Hiking is probably the most popular, with endless trails and tracks for stomping amid nature, encircling yourself with the gorgeous scenery and breathing in clean, fresh air. You can also go horse riding, lose yourself on mountain biking trails, tackle river rapids by white-water rafting, scale rock walls on a thrilling climbing excursion, go sailing or kayaking on the lakes, try catching your dinner on a fishing trip, or even climb an active volcano! One thing’s for sure: whether travelling with friends, the family, as a couple or solo, you won’t be short of action-packed things to do in the Patagonian Lake District.
Places to visit in the Chilean Lake District
There are essentially two different regions in the Chilean Lake District to base yourself in: the northern area, with Pucón at its heart, and the southern area, centred around Puerto Varas. Both these towns lie on the shores of glistening lakes – Villarrica and Llanquihue, respectively – and are found at the foot of towering mountains or volcanoes that are prime for hiking tours. If travelling to the north, we recommend flying into Temuco and basing yourself around Pucón, spending your days white-water rafting the River Trancura, immersing yourself in indigenous Mapuche culture or sipping a drink at Villarrica, looking out across the lake.
If visiting the southern part of Chile’s Lake District, you can fly into Puerto Montt and enjoy day trips from there, or base yourself in the lovely town of Puerto Varas which is close to active volcanoes like Osorno and Calbuco. Soak up the charms of nearby villages that are steeped in German heritage, such as Ensenada and Frutillar, when you’re not hiking or biking your way around this stunning region.
Places to visit in the Argentine Lake District
Meanwhile, over in Argentina, the Lake District has just as many amazing viewpoints and activities to make the most of. San Carlos de Bariloche is the most famous town in the Argentine Lake District – likely where you’ll fly into – and is well placed for day trips to Nahuel Huapi National Park where elevated lookout points are in abundance. It’s a very bustling town, so if you’d prefer to go somewhere a little more peaceful then consider Esquel, Villa La Angostura, or San Martín de los Andes, all with their own unique characters and beautiful backdrops, of course.
One of the really fun ways to explore the Argentine Lake District is to drive the Seven Lakes Route, a 100km drive linking three national parks and two provinces, passing through a bewildering array of landscapes that really captures the essence of this gorgeous region.
The best hotels and boutique lodges in the Lake District
You won’t have any issues if looking for either sumptuous or authentic places to stay in the Lake District, as the region has plenty of them! Here are some of our top picks for hotels in the Lake District:
Argentine Lake District hotels
For luxury living in the Lake District, Las Balsas Gourmet Hotel and Spa hits all the high notes. This is a Relais & Chateaux property located near Villa La Angostura, and the hotel has it all: gorgeous woodlands, pool, Jacuzzi and fabulous fare. Then there’s Llao Llao, one of Argentina’s most famous resorts that made the headlines in recent years when Barack Obama stayed and enjoyed a few rounds of golf! You can’t blame him – backed by cypress forests and a shimmering lake, the golf club here is undoubtedly one of the best in South America. The resort also boasts a kids club, games room, yoga and tango classes, a spa, swimming pool and terrace with spellbinding lake views; definitely one of the most luxurious places to stay in the Lake District.
Also flaunting prime vistas over Nahuel Huapi Lake is Bariloche Design Suites, complete with a spa, infinity pool and sauna, though much more modest in size for an intimate Lake District experience. Another wonderful accommodation choice in the region is Estancia Peuma Hue, a boutique eco-lodge offering full-board cuisine and activities in a picturesque lakeside setting. Drive even further into the pristine landscapes and you’ll find Estancia Huechahue, an hour from San Martín de los Andes in Neuquén on a 15,000 acre estate, a fantastic spot to see wildlife such as Guanacos, Eagles and Condors though also get stuck into life on a traditional cattle ranch.
Chilean Lake District hotels
Around Pucón there are some really wonderful boutique lodges to hole up in, such as &Beyond Vira Vira (formerly the Hacienda Hotel Vira Vira). With Villarrica Volcano watching over it, this smartly designed hacienda blends nods to the indigenous Mapuche culture with modern perks, while leaning towards a more sustainable attitude to tourism – such as prohibiting single-use plastics and using responsibly sourced materials. Hot tubs, yoga sessions and homemade cuisine rounds it all off perfectly. There’s also Hotel Antumalal in Pucón, which dates back to 1950 so can really claim to be one of the continent’s original boutique lodges, attracting esteemed guests like Neil Armstrong and even Queen Elizabeth II!
Then, on the banks of Lake Llanquihue, the design-conscious abode Hotel Awa leaves visitors in awe with its glass-encased haven of luxuries and local touches. An indoor pool with views over the lake, fine-dining restaurant and sleek guestrooms all feature, alongside elegant artwork and Mapuche looms. For something a little more low-key near Puerto Varas, check into the Quincho Casa Hotel which is dressed in rustic-chic décor and has just four rooms in total. Another gem here on the shores of Lake Llanquihue is Hotel Cabañas Del Lago, which takes inspiration from the region’s German heritage and offers a roaring fireplace, heated pool, Jacuzzi and spa, as well as delectable dishes served with a spellbinding lake and volcano view in the restaurant.
Want to start planning your own trip to the Patagonian Lake District? Use the Discover Your South America trip-building tool to handpick the hotels and activities you want, adjust the durations depending on how long you want to stay in each place, and have fun in the process! Surtrek is always at hand to help out. Call us on 1 866 978 7398 (Canada and USA) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to an expert, and Discover Your South America with Surtrek!