Travel & Places Latin America

Nahuel Huapi, Argentina

Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapí is one of the jewels of Argentina. This is a spectacular area of lakes and rivers carved from ancient glaciers, majestic mountains, inviting valleys, meadows, Valdivian forests and wildflowers.

The name comes from the Mapuche language, where nahuel is tigre, or tiger, and huapí is isla, or island.

Spread over 2,927 sq mi (7,581 sq km) of Río Negro and Neuquén provinces, the park is an internationally known year-round destination for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts.

(See Lake Nahuel Huapi from space.) In spring, melting snow creates waterfalls by the dozens. In winter, the mountain snows draw skiers, particularly at Cerro Catedral. The glacier at Perito Moreno and iceberg-dotted lakes elicit oohs and ahs. In summer and fall, the lakes and terrain attract boaters, fly fishers, trekkers, rafters, equestrians, mountain bikers, climbers, paragliders, and 4X4 enthusiasts.

Birders, botanists, ecologists enjoy the area as do those who prefer nightlife or shopping. The local handicrafts include pottery, wood, metal, leather goods, candles, and chocolates. San Carlos de Bariloche, the largest town in the area, is a regional mecca for musicians and artists.

Lodgings around Lake Nahuel Huapi include a variety from upscale expensive resorts to more humble camp sites. You can select from hotels, hostels, bungalows, cabins, or camping. Restaurants offer you a selection of regional cuisine, typical Argentine dishes, German/Swiss cuisine, continental fare as well as barbeques and fast food.

Getting to Bariloche is easy. You can choose to fly in, take a very long bus or train ride from Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities, or relax on a combination bus and lake crossing from Chile to Bariloche across Lake Todos los Santos, Lake Frías, and Lake Nahuel Huapi. The scenery is out of this world: snowy mountain peaks above forested hills, clear, cold water and enough vista opportunities for even the most avid photographer.

The private donation of land which created the park came from Dr. Francisco P. Moreno, Honoris Causa, (1852-1919) who "wanted to preserve and demonstrate to future generation the richness of the Argentine Republic's natural flora and fauna. On November 6th, 1903, he donated an area of approximately 10 sq. miles in the vecinity of the Nahuel Huapi Lake, to be kept as a public Natural Park."

Originally called Parque Nacional del Sur (South National Park, the park was renamed Nahuel Huapi National Park in 1934. Patagonia Virtual

As you see from this Patagonia Virtual map, it is an area rich in rivers and lakes. Some of the major waterways are Gutiérrez, Mascardi, Hess, Fonk, Martín and Nahuel Huapi, the largest at 2524 ft. (765 m) above sea level. It covers an area of 1288 sq mi (560 sq km), and is approximately 464 m deep. It is 174.8 m(76 kmi) long, and at its widest, 27.6 mi (12km) across. It empties into the Limay river which joins the Neuquén to form the Negro river which ends at the Atlantic. The lake is dotted with islands, the largest being Victoria, and extends up into the surrounding area with Hope, Corner, Machete, Blest, Sadness,and Narrowness inlets, or brazos. Multiple peninsulas host communities such as Quetrihué, Llao Llao, San Pedro and Huemul. If you visit Victoria, make sure you take the lift to Cerro Bella Vista for a panoramic view of the lake. Don't forget your camera!

The tallest peaks in the area are Catedral 7880.4 ft (2388m), Bayo 5775 ft (1750 m) and Tronador, named for the avalanches that thunder down the mountain sides and are loud enough to be heard miles away. Other peaks, ranging between 5940 ft and 7920 ft are Capilla, Cerro Santa, Bastión Elena ,López Crespo, Cuyín Manzano, Campana, and Milaqueo. The terrain of mountains, hills and valleys supports ample wildlife, flora and fauna. Between the peaks, the pasos, or passes, allow access through the Andes to Chile. The most well known and used are Puyehue, Perez Rosales, and Vuriloches, used by the Mapuche over the centuries.

Read the next page for more things to see and do.

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