Route 40 stretches a staggering 5,224 km (3,246 mi), running from the North to the South of Argentina. Along a small section the road snakes between pristine lakes and massive snow capped mountains. The Seven Lakes Drive starts just outside of the city center of Villa La Angostura, and is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Travel with us from Bariloche to explore Argentina’s lake district, and drive this famous stretch of Route 40 to San Martin de los Andes!
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Where Exactly is the Seven Lakes Drive?
The entire way from Bariloche to the end of the Seven Lakes Drive in San Martin de los Andes is absolutely stunning. However, it’s important to note that the official route is set between Villa La Angostura and San Martin de los Andes. Between these two towns the drive features small photo signs when you are 500 meters from each of the next view points.
All outlooks have a small turn off where you can park your car and get out to take photos. Also, at each official stop there is a sign that shows which part of the route you are. There you’ll find fun facts about Argentina’s lake district, the nature, and wildlife in both English and Spanish!
→ Official Start of the Seven Lakes Drive
Bariloche to Villa La Angostura
Just because you don’t reach the official start of the Seven Lakes Drive until Villa La Angostura doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful! If your drive is like ours it starts in Bariloche, and continues on Route 40 in Argentina.
Just outside of town you’ll find your first view on the left hand side. There will be a small car park overlooking the lake with the city of Bariloche in the distance. Don’t worry, along the drive through Argentina’s lake district there will be lookouts the entire way to the start of the actual drive!
Lunch Stop in Villa La Angostura
We stopped in Villa La Angostura just after noon, but decided beforehand to spend the night at the end of the drive in San Martín de los Andes. While the drive can easily be done in one night (or even one day) some travelers decide to take 2-3 days staying in both Villa La Angostura and San Martín de los Andes.
If you want to slow down your trip and hike some of the trails in the area then both towns are nice for that. Nevertheless, if you only have one night we preferred San Martin de los Andes as it was smaller and the town is set directly on the lake.
In Villa La Angostura we hit the larger grocery store and stocked up on some road snacks and local treats before visiting a small bakery for lunch to go. It’s a good idea to grab lunch in town then enjoy it at one of the lookouts on the Seven Lakes Argentina drive.
Day Hike in the National Park
If you have allowed yourself enough time stop at Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes (location) for a small day hike. There are trails all throughout the park ranging from one hour to half day hikes.
Also, you’ll find two beautiful beaches where you can jump in and cool down in the summer. To hike as a foreigner there is a $400 Peso entrance fee for the trails. Otherwise, the beaches at the entrance are free!
Starting the Seven Lakes Argentina Drive
Shortly after leaving Villa La Angostura you’ll arrive at your first lake view. Be warned that along the 108 km (67 miles) route you will stop almost a dozen times. Not only are there waterfalls, swimming beaches, and lots of animals, but there are also more than seven lakes! Here are the official lakes of Route 40 in Argentina below.
- Nahuel Huapi
Quick Tips for the Seven Lakes Drive
1. Plan your drive based on the weather if you can. Our first day was cloudy and raining, but luckily we left ourselves enough time to drive the same route back to Bariloche.
2. There are no gas stations between Villa La Angostura and San Martin de los Andes so fill up before starting your journey.
3. While you can do the drive in two hours we recommend planning for half a day. Especially if you want to have a picnic, swim in the lakes, or even do a small hike.
4. Along the drive there are small photo signs that show when you are 500 meters to the next viewpoint. Remember that the pullovers are on both the left and right side of the road!
5. Watch out for bicyclists. Argentina’s lake district is extremely popular, and we lost track of how many bikers we saw peddling the Seven Lakes Drive.
6. Also keep your eyes peeled for animals! We were stopped numerous times by either a family of cows or sheep crossing the road.
One Night in San Martin de los Andes
Just before coming into San Martin de los Andes there is a beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the lake and town. There isn’t an official platform, but instead just a stretch of pullovers that is typically filled with cars.
This was definitely one of the most stunning views on the entire drive. Leaving that morning around 10am after picking up our rental car, we arrived at our accommodation in the very late afternoon.
We then walked around San Martin de los Andes and visited the small beach before heading to dinner. Corazon Contento (location) has everything from salads to sandwiches, but the one thing you must try is the special quiche. Honestly, we didn’t have anything else like it in Argentina!
Where to Stay in San Martin de los Andes
Ultra Luxury – Paraíso Casa de Montaña – Set in the mountains above the city, this upscale hotel offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Take some time to relax at the indoor/outdoor pool and onsite spa and wellness center.
Fun Vacation – Nuestro Lugar – Cute family run cabins close to the main street. The cottages feature a small kitchen and seating area, and are great for couples or those traveling with kids.
Budget Travel – Bike Hostel – Fun atmosphere and great spot to meet other travelers. Cool decor centered around bicycles and outdoor activities, and also has a large kitchen to make your own meals. Bike Hostel even has a hot tub to warm up in for the cooler months!
Finishing the Seven Lakes Argentina Drive
Despite what our photos show, the first day we did the Seven Lakes Drive it was completely cloudy. This means that many of the mountains and lakes were covered in fog! So when we woke up the next morning to a bright blue sky we decided to drive back on Route 40 in Argentina the same way we came.
There is a main road that is faster to get back to Bariloche, but of course doesn’t offer the same views. While you have a car and are in the area consider a visit to the small town of El Bolson and the Circuito Chico Loop outside of Bariloche.
- Visiting El Bolson Argentina and the Cerro Amigo Hiking Trail
- Biking the Circuito Chico Loop in Bariloche Argentina
Continue on to Chile?
It’s good to know that just like Argentina’s lake district, Chile has their own Seven Lakes Drive! You can easily cross just over the border and spend a day or two exploring the Chilean side.
Not having extra days to spare we decided to save the Chilean lake district for another time. If you end up going please let us know how it is!
Have any questions about our drive through Argentina’s lake district or your own tips for Route 40 in Argentina? Feel free to share in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay in Bariloche Argentina
Ultra Luxury– Llao Llao Resort – One of the most famous luxury hotels in all of Patagonia! This exclusive resort features a full spa, golf course, and one of a kind mountain and lake views.
Fun Vacation – Cacique Inacayal Lake Hotel & Spa – This amazing hotel is just 5 minutes from the main walking street and set right on the lake. After a long day of mountain biking in Bariloche the heated pool and lake view rooms are the perfect place to relax.
Budget Travel – Peninsula Petit – Located just outside of Bariloche near the beginning of the Circuito Chico. Nice rooms with lake views, a great breakfast, and beautiful beach to relax at for sunset.
Hostel Life – Selina Hotel – We’ve stayed at Selina’s all over South America now and Bariloche is no different! These hostels offer private rooms, dorms, a swanky bar, and awesome co-working lounge space for you to enjoy.
For more places to stay in San Carlos de Bariloche you can explore the latest prices here!
Argentina Travel Planning
Flights: We always find the best flights using Skyscanner. Remember that a lot of the time it’s cheaper to fly between cities in Argentina than driving or taking the bus!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to explore when traveling in Argentina. It is especially fun to have a car in scenic regions like Patagonia.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Argentina. Attend a tango show in Buenos Aires, visit Iguazu Falls with an epic boat tour, or go glacier trekking in El Calafate!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Here’s all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
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