Stunning Lakes in Patagonia You Can Visit from Bariloche

Bariloche is a captivating city situated in the stunning Patagonia Lake District in Argentina, renowned for its mesmerizing natural beauty, encompassing breathtaking lakes and majestic mountains. If you’re planning a trip to this enchanting destination, get ready for an unforgettable experience as you immerse yourself in the wonders of the surrounding lakes. From the famous Nahuel Huapi Lake to the lesser-known hidden gems like Lago Frías and Laguna Jakob, each lake offers a unique and captivating journey for all types of travellers.

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Patagonian Lake District

Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Patagonia, San Carlos de Bariloche, commonly known as Bariloche, is a city situated in the province of Río Negro in Argentina. It lies on the southern shore of the pristine Nahuel Huapi Lake, surrounded by the majestic Andes mountain range. This strategic location places Bariloche at the heart of Argentina’s renowned Lake District, a region celebrated for its awe-inspiring natural beauty and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Lake District owes its name to the vast number of glacially formed lakes scattered across the region, reflecting the towering peaks and dense forests that envelop them. The area’s charm lies in the harmonious blend of glistening lakes, snow-capped mountains, ancient forests, and picturesque valleys, making it a mecca for travellers seeking unparalleled encounters with nature.

At the heart of this natural wonderland lies Nahuel Huapi National Park. Covering a vast expanse of  7,050 km2, this protected area is Argentina’s first national park, established in 1934. The park is named after its primary feature, the magnificent Nahuel Huapi Lake, whose name comes from the Mapuche language of the indigenous Mapuche people, meaning “Island of the Jaguar.”

Nahuel Huapi Lake: Beaches in the city

Nahuel Huapi Lake, often referred to as the “Jewel of the Andes,” is the largest and most famous lake in Argentina’s Nahuel Huapi National Park. This majestic glacial lake spans across the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro. Covering an area of approximately 550 square kilometres, Nahuel Huapi Lake is not only a natural wonder but also holds significant cultural and historical importance.

Geographically, Nahuel Huapi Lake is nestled between the Andes mountains, which contribute to its stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks and lush forests. The lake’s crystal-clear waters are fed by glacial streams and rainfall, ensuring its pristine quality and vibrant shades of blue and green.

The lake’s name originates from the Mapuche language, with “Nahuel” meaning “jaguar” and “Huapi” translating to “island.” According to Mapuche legends, the lake was believed to be guarded by a mythical creature in the shape of a jaguar, adding an aura of mystique to its already enchanting beauty.

Nahuel Huapi Lake offers a plethora of activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy year-round. During the summer months, the lake becomes a haven for water sports enthusiasts, offering opportunities for boating, kayaking, sailing, and fishing. The lake shore is dotted with picturesque beaches and recreational areas, providing ample space for picnics and relaxation.

It is possible to take cruises across the lake to Peurto Blest and explore the waterfalls at Cascada los Cántaros. You can book the tours here.

The surrounding Nahuel Huapi National Park provides an extensive network of hiking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints, allowing visitors to bask in the panoramic vistas of the lake and its surrounding landscapes. Popular viewpoints such as Cerro Campanario and Cerro Llao Llao are accessible by either hiking or taking the chairlift.

To get away from the city consider exploring Playa Bonita and Bahía López, which boast stunning vistas and serene beaches that are easily reached from Bariloche.

In the winter, Nahuel Huapi Lake and its surroundings transform into a winter wonderland. Snow-capped peaks and frozen landscapes offer opportunities for snow sports, including skiing and snowboarding in nearby resorts.

PEURTO BLEST AND CASCADA LOS CÁNTAROS TOUR – This full-day cruise takes you to the hidden corner of Nahuel Huapi Lake at Peurto Blest before a short excursion inland to see the waterfalls.

SUGGESTED STAY – CACIQUE INACAYAL HOTEL AND SPA – I spent a number of nights at this lovely hotel with stunning views across the lake from the rooms. The spa is beautiful and the pool has views over the lake.


Lago Moreno: A Hidden Gem

For those seeking a more tranquil and intimate connection with nature, Moreno Lake is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Surrounded by lush forests, this lesser-known lake offers a serene retreat perfect for leisurely nature walks and birdwatching.

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The lake’s name pays homage to Francisco Pascasio Moreno, an explorer and scientist who played a significant role in the exploration and mapping of Patagonia during the 19th century. Today, Moreno Lake stands as a tribute to his legacy and serves as a reflection of the untouched wilderness that defines the Patagonian landscape.

SUGGESTED STAY – LA HUALA – this lovely family-run lodge has paths down to the beach on the edge of the lake. The cabins are hidden away in the woods so you feel that you are in your own little world.


Lago Gutiérrez: The Adventurer’s Haven

Lago Gutiérrez, also known as Gutiérrez Lake, is another stunning lake situated near the city of San Carlos de Bariloche. Gutiérrez Lake has crystal-clear waters, which are fed by glacial streams from the surrounding Andes mountains. The striking colours of the lake create a captivating contrast against the green of the forests that encircle its shores.

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Gutiérrez Lake also presents numerous opportunities for hikers and nature lovers. The surrounding area boasts a variety of hiking trails, some of which offer breathtaking panoramic views of the lake and its serene surroundings. One of the best views of the lake and just a short walk from the parking area is Mirador Lago Gutierrez

If you seek an immersive wilderness experience, consider camping near Gutiérrez Lake. There are designated camping areas where you can spend a night under the stars.

SUGGESTED STAY – PEUMA HUE RESORT AND CABAÑAS – situated at the end of the lake away from the towns, this is the perfect escape after a day hiking.


Mascardi Lake: Nature’s Retreat

Lago Mascardi, also known as Mascardi Lake, is surrounded by dense forests and rugged landscapes that exemplify the region’s natural beauty making it an easy location for photography with a number of clearly marked observation platforms.

The lake’s name pays tribute to a key figure in Argentine history, Luis Mascardi, an explorer who played a significant role in the early expeditions and mapping of the Patagonian region. Today, Lago Mascardi stands as a testament to his contributions and serves as a breathtaking showcase of Patagonia’s pristine wilderness.


TRONADOR TOUR – this tour includes a tour along the shore of Lago Mascardi on the way to Pampa Linda where the hike to Cerro Tronodor begins

SUGGESTED STAY – LAS CARPITAS – located at Villa Mascardi this tiny resort offers yurts for the summer months, a campsite as well as a lodge for the winter months.

Lago Frías: The Enchanting Escape

The name “Frías” is derived from the Spanish term “cold,” which aptly describes the lake’s chilly waters, originating from glacial melt and mountain streams.

One of the unique aspects of Lago Frías is its accessibility. Unlike many other lakes in the region, reaching Lago Frías requires a boat trip, making the journey itself an adventure. A boat departs from Puerto Pañuelo, located on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi to Peurto Blest.

The boat takes visitors across the stunning Nahuel Huapi Lake, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. From Peurto Blest, a bus will take you the short distance (2km) to Peurto Alegre where boats will take you across the lake.

Once at Lago Frías, you are greeted by the sight of pristine turquoise waters surrounded by dense forests and towering mountains. The lake’s picturesque beauty is a photographer’s dream. It is possible to take this tour which will arrange everything for you including the bus transfer.

Lago Frías offers several trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints. One popular hike takes adventurers to the panoramic viewpoint of Cerro Tronador, where you can witness the awe-inspiring glaciers and snow-capped peaks of Tronador Mountain, which straddles the border between Argentina and Chile. This is a hard two-day hike and includes a glacier hike.

LAGO FRÍAS TOUR – This tour takes you on a cruise to Puerto Blest and then arranges the transfer to the ferry at Puerto Alegre for the cruise on Lago Frías.

SUGGESTED STAY – HOTEL PUERTO BLEST – the hotel at Peurto Blest is right on the jetty where the boats arrive. It has an Alpine feel with mountains towering above and the deep turquoise water on the small beach.


Laguna Jakob: Serenity in Solitude

This lake shares its name with the nearby mountain hut and offers a serene and captivating experience for nature enthusiasts and hikers alike.

Surrounded by lush forests and framed by towering Andean peaks, the lake creates a picture-perfect scene that leaves you in awe as you come over the final hill into the valley. Its crystal-clear waters mirror the rugged beauty of the surrounding landscapes, adding to the allure of this location.

Nestled close to the lake is the rustic Refugio Jakob, a cosy mountain hut that provides a warm and welcoming shelter. The refuge serves as a popular base camp for those seeking to explore the stunning trails in the area.

If you are brave enough you can indulge in refreshing dips in the chilly waters of Laguna Jakob, an invigorating experience that connects you with the raw beauty of the Andean wilderness. This is the perfect way to finish a day of hiking to the lake and refuge.

As night falls, Laguna Jakob transforms into a stargazer’s paradise. Away from the city lights, the sky becomes a canvas of twinkling stars. Sit on the large flat rocks below the mountain hut and watch the sky with the dark shadows of the mountains in the foreground, a magical way to spend a night.

From Laguna Jakob, it is a hard day hike through the mountains to Lago Mascardi. A tough trek, but stunningly beautiful and worth the effort.

SUGGESTED STAY – REFUGIO JAKOB – This is the only place to stay but it is stunning. Nestled on the rocky shoreline of the lake this is the perfect spot to relax after a day of trekking.


7 Lakes & San Martin de Los Andes Road Trip

One of the most picturesque road trips in Argentina is along the iconic 7 Lakes & San Martin de Los Andes route. This extraordinary journey covers approximately 180 kilometres of breathtaking landscapes, weaving through the heart of the Patagonia Lake District. The route connects the towns of San Martin de Los Andes and Villa La Angostura, passing by seven stunning glacial lakes and revealing the untouched beauty of the Andes mountains.

  • Correntoso lake
  • Espejo lake
  • Escondido lake
  • Villarino lake
  • Falkner lake
  • Hermoso lake
  • Machonico lake

The lakes are all unique and completely different to Nahuel Huapi Lake where the road trip starts in Bariloche. The road trip follows National Route 40 so driving is easy or sit back and take a tour with a driver.

Patagonian Lake District tips and questions

What is the best time to visit the Patagonian Lake District?

The best time to visit the Patagonian Lake District is during the shoulder seasons, which are spring (October-November) and autumn (March-April). During these times, the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds.

What are the most popular activities in the Patagonian Lake District?

•Hiking: There are many stunning hiking trails in the area, ranging from easy to challenging.
•Camping: There are many campgrounds in the area, where you can pitch a tent and enjoy the great outdoors.
•Fishing: The Patagonian Lake District is home to some of the best trout fishing in the world.
•Boating: You can rent a boat or kayak and explore the lakes and rivers in the area.
•Wildlife watching: The Patagonian Lake District is home to a variety of wildlife

Where are the best places to stay in the Patagonian Lake District

•Bariloche: This is the largest town in the area, and it has a wide variety of accommodation options.
•El Bolsón: This town is known for its bohemian atmosphere and its proximity to the Nahuel Huapi National Park
•Puerto Blest: This small town is located on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi, and it is a great place to base yourself for exploring the lake.

How do I get to the Patagonian Lake District?

The easiest way to get to the Patagonian Lake District is to fly into Bariloche. There are also bus and train services from other parts of Argentina.

What is the difference between ‘Lago’ and ‘Laguna’

The words “lago” and “laguna” are both Spanish words that mean “lake.” However, there are some subtle differences in their usage.

  • Lago is typically used to refer to a large, open body of water that is surrounded by land.
  • Laguna is typically used to refer to a smaller, more enclosed body of water that is often connected to a larger lake or river.

In general, “lago” is used to refer to lakes that are larger and more open, while “laguna” is used to refer to lakes that are smaller and more enclosed. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and the words are sometimes used interchangeably.

Feature Lago Laguna
Size Larger Smaller
Openness More open More enclosed
Connection to other bodies of water Often not connected Often connected to a lake or river
Usage Typically used to refer to large, open bodies of water Typically used to refer to smaller, more enclosed bodies of water


The lakes in the Patagonian Lake District are a beautiful green colour for a few reasons.

Glacial flour: The Patagonian Lake District is home to many glaciers, and these glaciers grind rocks into a fine powder called glacial flour. This glacial flour is carried into the lakes by meltwater, and it gives the lakes their distinctive green colour.

Phytoplankton: Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that live in the water. Some types of phytoplankton produce a green pigment called chlorophyll, which gives the lakes their green color.

Minerals: The rocks that make up the Patagonian Lake District contain a variety of minerals, and these minerals can also give the lakes their green colour. For example, the mineral copper can give lakes a blue-green colour, and the mineral iron can give lakes a yellow-green colour.

Bariloche’s lakes and mountain escapes

The lakes around Bariloche offer an extraordinary journey into the heart of Patagonia’s natural wonders. From the iconic Nahuel Huapi to the serene Laguna Jakob, each lake presents a unique and unforgettable experience.

  • Nahuel Huapi National Park: Explore Argentina’s gem, covering 2 million acres.
  • Moreno Lake: Charming lake with crystal-clear waters, ideal for fishing.
  • Gutiérrez Lake: Turquoise gem perfect for water sports and hiking.
  • Lago Mascardi: Deep green waters surrounded by towering mountain peaks.
  • Lago Frías: Remote alpine treasure accessible by boat, great base for trekkers.
  • Laguna Jakob: Hidden treasure near Refugio Jakob, offering serene surroundings.
  • 7 Lakes & San Martin de Los Andes Road Trip: Unforgettable 110-mile route through stunning landscapes.

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