Visiting Villa la Angostura on Lago Nahuel Huapi’s North Shore

An alpine building with cafe seating on a second-floor patio and a chocolatier on the ground floor.

Along the main street in Villa la Angostura. Photo © Los viajes del Cangrejo, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

On Lago Nahuel Huapi’s north shore, Villa la Angostura lies within Bariloche’s economic orbit. Its proximity to less developed parts of the lake, to Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes, and to the Cerro Bayo winter-sports center, though, have helped established its own identity—with an air of exclusivity—for both Argentines and foreigners. It has excellent accommodations and restaurants with prices on the high side because it gets hordes of Chilean visitors thanks to the paved international highway.

Map of Northern Patagonia

Northern Patagonia

Villa la Angostura (pop. 7,311) is 80 kilometers northwest of Bariloche via RN 237 and RN 231 (the highway to Osorno, Chile) and 109 kilometers south of San Martín de los Andes via RN 234, the scenic Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes) route that’s now being paved. It’s 870 meters above sea level, but the mountains rise sharply from the lakeshore.

Many services line both sides of RN 231 (Avenida Los Arrayanes and its westward extension Avenida Los Lagos) as it passes directly through El Cruce. Three kilometers south, residential La Villa also has a cluster of hotels and restaurants; Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes occupies all of Península Quetrihué, the southward- jutting peninsula linked to La Villa by the isthmus that gives Villa la Angostura its name (The Narrows).

Sights

Foot, bicycle, and kayak are the best ways to see Villa la Angostura and nearby sights. For hiking in the mountains, where the trails are too steep and narrow for bicycles, consider hiring a taxi or remise to the trailhead.

At El Cruce, four blocks south of the bus terminal, the Museo Histórico Regional (Bulevar Nahuel Huapi and El Calafate, 02944/49-4476, ext. 21, free) deals primarily with pioneer timber cutting, the agriculture that followed it, the families who established themselves here, and the binational Mapuche legacy. It has recently been closed for repairs.

From June–September, nine kilometers southeast of El Cruce, the >Centro de Ski Cerro Bayo (Las Fucsias 121, Oficina 3, tel. 02944/49-4189 in town) operates 26 kilometers of runs ranging from 1,050 to 1,782 meters above sea level with five chairlifts and five tow bars. Cerro Bayo also has accommodations, restaurants, and rental equipment on-site; for lift ticket prices, consult the website.

From El Cruce, a narrow four-kilometer road zigzags to Mirador Belvedere, a wide parking area and overlook with views along Lago Correntoso to the north, the implausibly short Río Correntoso that connects it to Lago Nahuel Huapi, and the hoary western peaks that mark the Chilean border.

About midway up the route, an eastbound forest trail leads to Cascada Inacayal, a 50- meter waterfall. From the parking area, a three-kilometer trail to 1,992-meter Cerro Belvedere climbs through coihue forest before dipping into a saddle and then ascending steeply over Cerro Falso Belvedere before continuing to the summit. The road, with several blind curves, can be difficult in wet weather.

Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes

Local folklore says Walt Disney’s cartoon feature Bambi modeled its forest after the arrayán woodland at the tip of Península Quetrihué, a former estancia that became a national park in 1971. With their bright white flowers, the eye-catching red-barked forests of Myrceugenella apiculata do bear a resemblance, but a Disney archivist has pointed out that Bambi was in production before Walt’s 1941 trip to Argentina and that he never visited the area.

So close to La Villa that it feels more like a sprawling city park—it’s larger than the town itself—Los Arrayanes occupies Quetrihué’s entire 1,753 hectares, which stretch south into Lago Nahuel Huapi. Its namesake forest covers only about 20 hectares, but the rest of the peninsula bristles with trees like the maitén and the southern beeches coihue, lenga, and ñire as well as colorful shrubs like the notro and chilco and dense bamboo thickets of colihue.

The park’s floral standout is the arrayán, whose individual specimens reach 25 meters and 650 years of age, but it’s also ideal for hiking and mountain biking—the undulating 12-kilometer trail to or from the peninsula’s tip is a perfect half-day excursion (on a bicycle or doing one-way by boat and the other on foot) or a full day by hiking in both directions. Argentine rangers often exaggerate the time needed on certain trails, but the three hours they suggest is about right for this walk in the woods, which passes a pair of lakes. Only at the park portal, near La Villa, are there any steep segments.

At the portal, rangers collect a US$8 admission charge (US$2 for Argentine residents); even those whose only goal is the 20-minute stroll to the panoramic Mirador Arrayán must pay the fee. Near the dock at the peninsula’s southern tip, a confitería with a cozy fireplace serves sandwiches, coffee, and hot chocolate.

From the Bahía Mansa dock near park headquarters, nonhikers can reach the arrayán forest in about 30 minutes on the Catamarán Futaleufú, run by El Cruce’s Greenleaf Turismo (Avenida Siete Lagos 118, 1st floor, tel. 02944/49-4405), at 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.; the cost is US$16 one-way, US$31 round-trip, plus a small boarding tax. Cyclists can rent bikes in La Villa, but hikers and bikers must leave the park by 4 p.m.

From the Bahía Brava dock across the isthmus, the newer Catamarán Patagonia Argentina (tel. 02944/49-4463) runs a slightly cheaper service (US$13 one-way, US$25 round-trip) at 10:30 a.m., 2:45 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Shopping and Events

Locals and parachutists peddle their wares at El Cruce’s Feria de Artesanos (Belvedere between Avenida Los Arrayanes and Las Fucsias, daily in summer).

For four days, early February’s provincial Fiesta de los Jardines (Garden Festival) occupies center stage.

Sports and Recreation

English-speaking Anthony Hawes operates Alma Sur Eco Trips (tel. 02944/15-56-4724), with activities ranging from hiking and riding to mountain biking, fly-fishing, and white-water rafting and kayaking.

Information and Services

The Secretaría Municipal de Turismo (Avenida Arrayanes 9, El Cruce, tel. 02944/49-4124) is open 8:30 a.m.–9 p.m. daily in summer, 8:30 a.m.–8 p.m. daily in winter.

The APN’s Seccional Villa la Angostura (Nahuel Huapi s/n, tel. 02944/49-4152) is in La Villa.

Virtually all services are in El Cruce, where Banco Patagonia (Avenida Arrayanes 275) has an ATM. Cambio Andina (Avenida Arrayanes 256) is a currency exchange house. Correo Argentino is at Las Fucsias 121; the postal code is 8407. New System (Avenida Arrayanes 21, Local 2) has long-distance phones and Internet connections. Hora Cero (Avenida Arrayanes 45) is a Wi-Fi café.

Getting There

El Cruce’s convenient Terminal de Ómnibus (Avenida Siete Lagos and Avenida Arrayanes, tel. 02944/49-4961) has frequent connections to Bariloche, several buses daily to San Martín de los Andes via the scenic Siete Lagos route, and long-distance services to Neuquén. Chilebound buses from Bariloche stop here, but reservations are advisable because they often run full.

Sample destinations include Bariloche (1.5 hours, US$4.50), San Martín de los Andes (3 hours, US$9), and Neuquén (6 hours, US$20).


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Argentina.

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