A great break-the-long-bus-ride destination between Argentina’s Bariloche (lakes, mountains, chocolate) and Chile’s Pucon (volcano climbing, hot springs, extreme sports), the Argentine town San Martin de Los Andes is a treasure not to be missed.
Filled with colorful house, city parts and – of course – a lake, this town in Northern Patagonia lacks no chocolate, physical activity, view staring or charming people. Hit greatly by Chile’s volcanic erruption in June, you could still see the air fills up with ash in September. Bariloche was sunny and the desert road to San Martin had barely been opened, covered by ashes. Unlike other nearby locations, San Martin itself was clear, especially early in the day, yet at the footsteps of the mountains you could see sand-like covers of dark ash.
At the top of Chapelco Mountain, there was no sign of damage, besides one snow-hiking guide who told me and the other travelers, upon request, about how the ashes turned tourists away, the only livelihood of many, destroying new businesses just founded.
Beside a few skiers, children included, we had the mountain practically for ourselves. It was just me and a family of mother, 3 year old son and two grandparents. I had a day and a half in this town, and tours left with two travelers or more confirmed. This was the only one I found to be going for sure, and it turned out to be a great family. After hiking in the snow-filled forest, posing inside an igloo, eating candy made of local fruits and marveling at adorable wooden cabins covered with snow – it was time to slide down short hills, between trees.
The grandpa in the group took this video of me having silly fun, right before I ran through the snow like I hadn’t run in a long time, falling down, my iPhone touching snow, laughing – and getting up to run some more. This video is of sliding down fun. Unfortunately for you, no falls were captured on film….
The scream at the end of the video is of the adorable 3 year old grandson. He was sliding with the best of them. I was going to add music to spare you the scream, yet after days of technical challenges (which is why this post is only being published now), I decided to stop fighting YouTube for a while, and just be happy the video is playing. Will see whether the challenges will be resolved soon.
Meanwhile, if you travel twice between Bariloche and San Martin, know that there are two ways to do so. The first can be found in the previous link, and the second is the better-known Route of the Seven Lakes. To take this road, I recommend not settling for the 3-4 hour bus ride, but rather to rent a car or go on an all-day tour.
Chile’s Lake District was not hurt by the volcanic eruption. A few weeks after my visit to Argentina’s Lake District, I read other traveler’s reports: Bariloche was now the one filled with ashes, San Martin clear as sunshine rays. I recommend checking what’s going on before visiting, and if you can, don’t miss either Bariloche or San Martin de Los Andes.
Have you ever visited an area following a natural disaster?