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.
Getting to Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes
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, www.bosquelosarrayanes.com.ar), 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.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition