PEUMA HUE162 ArgentinaNorthern Patagonia: the lake district This photogenic Andean region is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a quiet country stay in picturesque surroundings. Several national parks offer easy access to hiking trails and ski slopes, framed by ancient forests and dotted with icy volcanoes and beach-fringed lakes. Two towns serve the region?Bariloche, on the Argentinean endof the most scenic trans-Andean crossing,and San Martín further north. Like the Salta region it is ideal for self-drive exploration.From Bariloche drive by hire car to Villa La Angostura and thence explore the exquisite seven lakes route to the chalet-style town of San Martín. This classic journey, on paved and gravelled roads, connects the national parks of Lanín and Nahuel Huapi where there are opportunities to fish, horse-ride, hike or take a boat excursion. Stop along the way to have a picnic and take photos of the landscapes of fresh forests and crystal-sharp lakes. There are country-style hotels and resorts, some operating to a very high standard, occupying privileged positions throughout the region. Estancia Peuma Hue (left) is an award-winning eco-resort purpose built with wooden beams, open fires and with a rustic, homely atmosphere. Las Balsas is an intimate lakeshore retreat with a superb restaurant and luxurious spa: you may not feel the need to leave the grounds during your stay.The lakes region is great riding country too. Huechahue is a vast cattle ranch extending over a riverside oasis of poplars, pines and orchards. Here, your days are filled following adventurous horse-riding trails into the surrounding panorama of table-top mountains, shrubby hills and water meadows.
View over the lakes near Bariloche.istockphoto.comARGENTINACHILEBRAZIL..Perito Moreno GlacierEl CalafatePurmamarcaSaltaBarilocheBuenos AiresCafayate.San Martín de los Andes....- -- SEVEN LAKES SELF DRIVE --- SALTA EXTENSION 163 llao llao resort You'll really get the best out of a lake district stay based at this luxurious property (above) overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi with dramatic Andean views. It's big, and decorated in a classical, ornate style, but still manages an informal homely atmosphere; you'll feel well at home surveying the lovely gardens, taking a dip in the pools or indulging yourself in the spa. Guests can hike, fish, windsurf or play golf in the vicinity. It is one of the Leading Hotels of the World portfolio, and deservedly so. Argentina on the road We present two variations of a self-drive itinerary as a taster of what you can do with the freedom of a hire car.Seven lakes self-drive 14 days, 11 nightsBuenos Aires 2 nights, Bariloche 2n, Villa la Angostura 1n, San Martín de los Andes 1n, Bariloche 1n, El Calafate 3n, Buenos Aires 1n.Day 1 Fly from the UK to Buenos Aires. Days 2&3 At leisure in the capital, including a city tour. Evening visit to a tango show with dinner. Day 4 Fly to Bariloche and collect your car. Day 5 At leisure to enjoy the town and the lakes, surrounding villages, mountain views and forest trails. Day 6 Drive to lakeside Villa La Angostura (2hrs direct, 76km) set in a fairyland forest landscape. Overnight at a country inn. Day 7 Drive to San Martín de los Andes, (110km), along lake shores, crossing rivers and through fragrant coihue forests. Day 8 Return to Bariloche. Day 9 Drop off car; fly to El Calafate, on Lago Argentino. Day 10 Excursion to Perito Moreno glacier, with a boat trip up to the ice wall. Day 11 Optional boat trip on Lago Argentino to historic Estancia Cristina, near the Upsala Glacier. Day 12 Fly to Buenos Aires. Day 13 Fly to the UK arriving day 14. Prices from £2,125pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights. Seven Lakes and Salta 21 days, 18 nightsAs above, but on day 13 fly to Salta and continue as follows:Salta 1 night, Molinos 1n, Cafayate 1n, Purmamarca 2n, Salta 1n, Buenos Aires 1n.Day 13 Fly to Salta, (pp154-155) and collect your car. Day 14 Drive through rust-red canyons and gullies towards the altiplano, visiting whitewashed Cachi along the way, to Molinos. Day 15 Drive to Cafayate in vineyard country. Days 16&17 Drive to the adobe town of Purmamarca on a canyon floor. Explore the villages and mountain scenery of the area?an artist's palette of colour. Day 18 Return to Salta. Day 19 Drop off car; fly to Buenos Aires. Day 20 Fly to the UK arriving day 21. Prices from £3,166pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights. Daily departures from the UK Best of Patagonia