The 7 Lakes Route in Argentina: A Detailed Guide

The Ruta de los 7 Lagos is one of the most iconic scenic drives in Argentina.

The route is made up of the stretch of Ruta 40 between Villa la Angostura and San Martín de los Andes.

And there is a lot more to see here than the 7 namesake lakes, including hikes, waterfalls, and charming villages.

This area of the country has become a personal favorite of mine, having visited 3 times in the past year alone.

Most recently, having spend an entire month in Villa La Angostura I found myself driving this route nearly every day.

If you trust me, you can trust that you won’t regret spending a day (or a few) exploring the 7 Lakes Route in Argentina.

A wooden boat floats oared in a Correntoso Lake Villa La Angostura

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The Ultimate Guide Guide to Argentina’s Ruta de 7 Lagos

This region of Northern Patagonia is much different than what you may imagine when you think of Patagonia.

El Calafate’s glaciers and El Chalten’s hikes into towering peaks may be iconic but there is something special about Bariloche and its surroundings.

The largest towns in Patagonia’s Lake District head up the start an finish lines of this scenic drive.

They are Bariloche and Villa La Angostura to the south and San Martin de los Andes to the north.

How to See the Ruta de los 7 Lagos

TIP: Renting a car and want to do a longer road trip? Check with your rental car agency about the fee for returning the car in a different city than where you picked it up. Sometimes the fee is reasonable (around 100 USD).

Tips For A Successful 7 Lakes Route Day Trip

  • There is no cell signal on the drive, download your map in advance ( is good) and plan ahead.
  • Fill your tank before, there are no gas stations along the way
  • You do not need a 4×4, any old car will do
  • The entire stretch of this portion the Ruta 40 is paved and in good condition.
  • Detours to Lagos Espejo Chico and Hermoso, and Villa Traful are all unpaved but usually in good condition.
  • I say usually, note that in winter pot holes are abundant.
  • If you have time for slow travel, you will not regret doing this over 2-3 days, camping or renting a cabin along the way.
  • If doing it in only one day, choose where you’ll want to spend your non-driving time and budget that out accordingly. For lunch in Villa La Angostura or San Martin de los Andes? By visiting Villa Traful or Lago Meliquina? With plenty of slow, restful stops on the beaches of the lakes? This is easy to drive in a day but you do have to make choices…
Lago Hermoso, a short detour from the Ruta de los 7 Lagos

Is the 7 Lake Route doable in one day?

Yes, 100%.

On our first visit, we did this drive round-trip in one day from San Martin de los Andes to Villa La Angostura.

But it was a long day so I recommend starting as early as possible to make full use of daylight hours.

You will also need to be selective on your detours off of the main route.

In one day you wouldn’t be able to drive to/from Villa Traful, do a long hike, see all of the lakes, and have a long lunch in San Martin de los Andes and then drive back to Villa La Angostura, as an example.

If after reading this guide, you want to do ALL THE THINGS, consider staying in the area for a while.

There are campgrounds up and down the route, cute towns to stay in along the way for an off the beaten path experience, or you could use Villa La Angostura or San Martin de los Andes as a base to jump off of.

All that being said, if you want to do it in a day, you can easily do it and most do!

All the main lakes are visible from Ruta 40. My two favorite detours are just a 2 kilometer detour.

So, if you’re on a time crunch, don’t stress!

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7 Lakes Drive from Bariloche

The 7 Lakes Route is one of the most popular day tours from Bariloche, but I think it’s important to note that it adds a solid 1 and 15 minutes hours onto your drive, each way.

That becomes even longer if you’re staying at a hotel near the Circuito Chico and need to cross the entire city to start the route.

That adds nearly 3 hours on the road. (Sorry, I know I didn’t need to do that math for you, but I like to really drive a point home).

If it were me, I would instead stay in Villa La Angostura (or San Martin) and use that as your base for the 7 Lakes or plan this itinerary as a road trip.

See Bariloche, then move on to your next stop (VLA or SMdlA), seeing the 7 lakes drive in route to your next base.

Still want to just see it from Bariloche? How about an alternative route?

You could drive the Circuito Grande. You’d see the Rio Limay and the Patagonian Steppe right outside of Bariloche, then drive through the southern portion of the 7 Lakes Route on your way back.

Or you could just drive a portion of the route, no one said you need to drive the whole way to San Martin de los Andes.

There is plenty to see along the way, regardless of how far you actually go.

In fact, I think driving just up to Lago Falkner will have shown you the most beautiful stretch of the route.

If you don’t have a car, this organized tour does the 7 lakes route from Bariloche.

Truth: There are more than 7 Lakes on the 7 Lakes Route

While there is an official list of 7 lakes that you can tick off as you see them, there are far more to explore.

In fact, the unofficial lakes we visited were my favorites on the entire 7 Lakes Route.

Here’s a breakdown of lakes, official and beautiful add-ons.

Official 7 Lakes, Argentina:

The “official” list of the lakes that make up the Ruta de los Siete Lagos differs depending on the source.

This is the list I saw the most and it’s the one I’ll use in this post as the official seven lakes.

They are listed here from north to south, starting in San Martin de los Andes and ending in Villa la Angostura.

  1. Lago Machónico
  2. Lago Falkner
  3. Lago Villarino
  4. Lago Escondido
  5. Lago Espejo
  6. Lago Correntoso
  7. Lago Nahuel Huapi

Unofficial Lakes:

There are even more lakes than this, but these are the ones we visited and that are mentioned in this post.

These lakes are also coincidentally my favorites!

  1. Lago Lácar: San Martin de los Andes is built around this large lake but it somehow did not make the cut)
  2. Lago Meliquina: 30 minute detour, good alternative to Lago Traful. Very close to San Martin de los Andes (easy day trip on its own if staying in SMdlA).
  3. Lago Hermoso: Very short detour from the main road, do it.
  4. Lago Traful: 30-40 minute detour, road is very bumpy but in good condition. Traful is slowly growing into a popular destination so you’ll find more options for lodging and dining here now.
  5. Lago Espejo Chico: Very short 2 km detour, do it.

Map of the Ruta de los Siete Lagos

Below is a map of all of the lakes and sights mentioned in this article.

Don’t stress about missing viewpoints (miradores).

They are very well marked on the road with enough advance notice to slow down and pull over.

Self-Drive the 7 Lakes Route: The Low Down on Car Rentals

We always rent a car in this area, always.

I highly recommend it, even if just for this day trip.

The most beautiful spots are slightly off the beaten path or unexpected, and being able to stop when we wanted is priceless.

While car rentals in Patagonia are far from cheap, having the freedom to move is worth every penny.

You can rent your car in any of the cities near the 7 lakes: Bariloche, Villa la Angostura, or San Martin de los Andes.

Click here to check rates and availability.

There is no need to rent a large truck or 4×4.

We’ve had no issues with the tiniest and cheapest rental car category, this section of Ruta 40 is paved and in good condition.

I recommend reserving your car well in advance, especially for December through February (peak summer season).

They will sell out in high season but may very well run out of cars in shoulder season as well.

Because these days there is no true low season in Bariloche. It’s popular year round with Argentines and foreign tourists alike.

Check rental car availability and rates here.

The 7 Lakes Sights, A Checklist

Here is a list of the viewpoints, hikes, and detours to see on the 7 lakes route.

This list starts in Villa La Angostura and ends in San Martin de los Andes.

  • Playa Lago Correntoso – Beach on Correntoso Lake in Villa La Angostura
  • Rio Correntoso – [Claims to be] the shortest river in the world connecting Lago Nahuel Huapi and Lago Correntoso. On the way to Playa Lago Hermoso you can walk the pedestrian bridge and get photos.
An aerial shot of a turquoise river with two bridges crossing it
Rio Correntoso seen from above, connecting Lagos Nahuel Huapi and Correntoso
  • Mirador Inalco – Beautiful viewpoint of Lago Nahuel Huapi in VLA with a large parking lot, thanks to its proximity to town you’ll likely find vendors selling tchotchkes and offering photos with a Saint Bernard.
  • Mirador Lago Espejo – Immediately after leaving VLA, take a short detour onto Ruta 231. It’s an iconic viewpoint and it’s truly like a postcard. You’ll want a photo here.
  • Lago Espejo Grande – Back on Ruta 40, visit the beach on Lago Espejo Grande. It’s a great way to spend the day if you’re staying in VLA.
  • Playa del Guardaparque – Beautiful beach with a good picnic area (and campground) right on Ruta 40. It’s on Lago Espejo Grande and colloquially named for the park ranger’s office that shares the beach.
  • Ruca Malen Bridge (Puente sobre el Rio Ruca Malen) – There is space to pull over on either side of the bridge, great photo op of the turquoise green river and the Hosteria Ruca Malen.
Rio Ruca Malen where it joins Lago Espejo Chico
  • Lago Espejo Chico – Right after the bridge as the road curves you’ll see a dirt road with a tiny easy to miss sign for Lago Espejo Chico. 2 km detour, head to the end to the campground. Gorgeous picnic area on the lake and on the shores of Lago Ruca Malen on the south campground (to your left if you’re facing the lake). This is a favorite stop of mine.
  • Mirador Lago Correntoso
  • Villa Traful – Long detour and an option for lunch at its many lakeside/view restaurants. The drive is full of bumps and I’m always happy its over, it will take a good chunk of your day, expect 30-40 minutes drive each way from Ruta 40 to Villa Traful. Excellent option to overnight here.
  • Hike to Cascadas Ñivinco – This is an easy hike, 30-40 minutes each way (pictured above)
  • Mirador Lago Villarino
  • Lago Falkner – Easiest lake/beach to visit as it is right on the side of Ruta 40, simply pull over and enjoy.
  • Lago Hermoso – 2 km detour down a bumpy road, every bump is worth it. It’s my favorite lake!
  • Mirador Lago Machonico
  • Villa & Lago Meliquina – Too blue to be true? The color and transparency on this lake is stunning. Just before reaching San Martin de los Andes, after 14 km down a dirt road you reach the tiny, tiny town. I found the drive much easier and shorter than Villa Traful. If going for lunch don’t miss El Refugio, such a mountain vibe and with hearty food and unbeatable lake views.
  • Mirador Pil Pil – Photo below, you can see the lake is far in the distance here.
  • Lago Lacar & San Martin de los Andes – As you get close to SMdlA, there are some areas to pull over with views of Lago Lacar, the sunset views here are excellent and great for a yerba mate stop!

North to South: Our First Seven Lakes Route Itinerary

The first time I drove the 7 Lakes Route we were staying in San Martin de los Andes, so we did it as a day trip there and back driving the lakes from north to south.

When I first wrote this blog post it focused heavily on this itinerary. Now that I’ve updated it, I almost deleted the following itinerary write-up. All of the information above is very complete and detailed BUT sometimes you just can’t beat anecdotal.

So if you’re looking for a first hand experience, here’s how we drove the 7 lakes route in 2018, our first but far from last time on the drive...

We drove from San Martin de los Andes to Villa la Angostura and back, with long stops at a few of the lakes and a lunch break in Villa Traful.

We had a leisurely start to our day, leaving at 10 am and got back to San Martin de los Andes just in time for sunset at 7 pm.

Leaving from Bariloche? Many will do this trip from Bariloche, the largest city in this region. If so, leave as early as possible as the drive is much longer. Take this itinerary in reverse order (south to north).

Read Next: A Complete Guide to San Martin de los Andes

1. Lago Lácar & San Martin de los Andes

San Martin de los Andes is built right on Lago Lacar’s shores, so you can access the beach and pier directly from downtown.

There is even a parking lot behind the park that borders the beach.

These first few kilometers of the 7 lakes road have great views of the lake and San Martin below.

These photo spots aren’t marked or set up as official view points, but the shoulder is wider at a few points making it safe to pull over.

As you drive towards Lago Machónico, you’ll pass the Mirador Pil Pil and Arroyo Partido viewpoints.

Like all the official viewpoints and photo stops, they are well marked 500 meters beforehand, giving you time to slow down.

2. lago Machónico

Before reaching the first official lake of the drive, Lago Machónico, you’ll pass the small Laguna Fria.

The road then curves to the left before revealing a panoramic view of Lago Machónico.

There’s only a viewpoint here, looking down at the lake below.

After stopping to stretch your legs and take in the view, continue south to Lago Hermoso.

On the pier at Lago Hermoso in winter

3. Lago Hermoso

All of my favorite lakes, like Lago Hermoso, weren’t part of the official seven.

They all required a short detour off the main highway, which meant more space and less people.

The turn off to Lago Hermoso (coming from the north) is on the right, by the El Viejo Almacen restaurant.

It’s only 2 kilometers so there’s no excuse not to make the effort.

There is another restaurant overlooking the beach that had killer views. Like most restaurants in this area, it was closed until high season in the summer.

There are campgrounds and a shop for handicrafts sold by the indigenous Mapuche people.

4. Lago Falkner

Back on the main road, head south to Lago Falkner.

This was my favorite lake of the official 7 that line the main highway.

The road borders Lago Falkner at water level just meters from the beach.

There was a food truck and artisan beer stand right next to the water here.

Both were closed as these things tend to open in peak summer months (December to the beginning of March).

There are toilets and changing rooms here as well.

Further down from the facilities is a huge beach, right next to the shoulder of the highway.

NOTE: The southern half of the Ruta de los Siete Lagos is in Nahuel Huapi National Park, one of The 7 Natural Wonders of Argentina.

The northern half, including SMdlA, is in Lanin National Park, which I find equally as beautiful! Read more about Argentina’s national parks here.

5. Lago Villarino

The next lake, Lago Villarino, neighbors Lago Falkner.

The road passes right between the two, leading you up to the main viewpoint that looks down on the lake from above.

However, there’s a dirt road that leads to the Villarino Campgrounds right on the beach.

It’s easily missed so keep an eye for it on your left just as you leave Lago Falkner.

Lago Escondido is, as you’d expect, hidden.

6. Lago Escondido

Lago Escondido is exactly as the name indicates, hidden.

There’s a viewpoint right next to the lake, but you can only see glimpses of it between the trees (above).

Despite this, I still thought it was beautiful with its teal green water.

Lago Traful

7. Lago Traful

This was the biggest detour of our day.

The turn off to the town of Villa Traful (above) and the lake of the same name is just before Lago Correntoso.

Provincial Road 65 is a dirt road through the forest and it’s a 26 kilometer drive.

In total we spent a few hours in Villa Traful, having lunch and relaxing on the beach.

This was, without a doubt, my favorite part of the day. Lago Traful is gorgeous and the tiny town was sleepy in all the right ways.

There were a lot of adorable cabins, campgrounds, and restaurants along the water.

If you have the time, consider spending a night or two here.

Want more scenic drives? The Circuito Grande drive in Bariloche is another scenic route that includes Villa Traful, along with the Patagonia steppe and a turquoise river.

Lago Traful and the windy viewpoint (on top of that huge boulder)

While in Villa Traful, you cannot miss the Mirador del Viento.

It’s a few kilometers past the town, perched on a cliff looking down on the immensity of Lago Traful below.

It’s aptly named as the Windy Viewpoint so hold on to your hat as you step up to the edge of the boardwalk.

Update 2023 – When we visited again in 2023 the viewpoint was damaged and closed but you can enjoy the view from the side of the road without the wooden platforms.

After you’ve had your fill of Lago Traful, wind your way back down RN26 to the pavement of Ruta 40.

Pavement you never knew you loved so much until you spent 30 kilometers bouncing around on the dirt road to Villa Traful.

8. Lago Correntoso

Shortly after the turn off to Villa Traful, the highway bends sharply to the right.

Just after this bend there’s a turn off to a campground on the shore of Lago Correntoso.

If you’re looking for a picnic spot, this is an excellent choice.

Otherwise, keep driving to the two panoramic viewpoints further down.

A deep blue lake seen through tree branches on the Ruta de los 7 Lagos
Lago Correntoso’s viewpoint is one of the most beautiful

9. Lago Espejo Chico

Another unofficial lake and unsurprisingly another favorite of mine.

You’ll see the exit for Lago Espejo Chico just after the first mirador/view point for Lago Correntoso.

The drive is short, bordering the Ruca Malen River.

The river here is just as beautiful as the lake, if not more so.

People were laying on the shoreline and even fly fishing (fishing season is from Nov-April and you need a permit).

You can’t miss the beach at Espejo Chico as the road leads you straight to it.

There are facilities here include a restaurant and campgrounds.

We sat on the beach for a while, listening to the water wash up against the rocks.

I loved Espejo Chico, don’t miss it!

10. Lago Espejo Grande

Right after you pull back onto the highway from Espejo Chico, you’ll see another viewpoint for Lago Correntoso.

From there, the road continues south, passing the small Lago Bailey Willis to the right before reaching Lago Espejo Grande.

There’s a viewpoint looking down on the lake from above.

Turquoise waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi, a major Buenos Aires attraction
Lago Nahuel Huapi

11. Lago Nahuel Huapi & Villa la Angostura

Shortly after Espejo Grande, the large Lago Nahuel Huapi comes into view, marking the end of the Seven Lakes Route.

There’s one last panoramic viewpoint right, Mirador Inalco, as you’re entering Villa La Angostura.

It’s worth stopping, even if you’re tired of all these stops.

Nahuel Huapi is enormous and the largest lake in the region.

Congratulations, you’ve conquered the Ruta de los 7 Lagos!

If time allows, relax with a coffee or drink in Villa la Angostura before continuing on with your day, you deserve it.

From here we turned back to drive home to our hotel in San Martin de los Andes.

If you’re also driving the seven lakes road “there and back” as we did, don’t worry about being bored on the return journey.

The drive was very quick without all of the stops.

The best part was seeing everything from a new angle.

It honestly felt like a completely different drive.

Bonus: Sunset Over Lago Lácar

We pulled off the road before reaching San Martin de los Andes to watch the sun dip behind the mountains.

The town itself is tucked away behind a hill in a way that puts it in darkness well before sunset.

To get the best sunset view, stop a few kilometers outside of town. The shoulder widens here and it’s safe.

Plenty of people had the same idea, but we were the only ones drinking wine instead of mate.

I’ll take wine over that much caffeine at night any day (but maybe that’s how Argentines are awake for such late dinners?).

Cheers to an excellent day on the Ruta de los 7 Lagos.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Retamas in Patagonia’s Springtime on this route are a dream

Best Time to Visit the 7 Lakes Route

Spring through Fall are the best months to drive this route (and anywhere in Patagonia for that matter).

We just did part of this drive in spring and the yellow retama flowers that border the road were breathtaking.

Summer is high season with January in particular being the busiest month.

Locals take their holidays in January and crowds will be at their most hectic and prices at their highest.

If traveling in summer reserve your accommodation and rental car as far in advance as possible.

Winter can be tough with snow and ice making driving conditions more hazardous (especially if you grew up in Texas like me).

I spent a lot of time on this drive in winter but made sure the temperatures would be above freezing to avoid ice on the road. I also went with a late start so the sun had time to melt ice that had formed overnight.

If it’s been snowing a lot or when in doubt, ask a local (your hotel or Airbnb host) whether you’d need chains that day.

Ski season is from July through September, read more about winter in Bariloche.

Wondering what is the best time of day to drive the 7 lagos? If driving from the north leave early in the morning to have the sun at your back.

If driving from Bariloche or Villa La Angostura, leave later in the day to avoid the sun being directly in your eyes.

But also leaving late will cut your time at the lakes shorter so pick your poison here.

Where to Stay on the 7 Lakes Route

In San Martin de los Andes we stayed at Arrayan Hostería de Montaña y Casa de Té.

It’s a 5 minute drive out of the city center so it’s more comfortable with a car but so, so worth it.

The view of Lago Lacar was wonderful to wake up to each morning!

Villa La Angostura is an ideal alternative to Bariloche at the southern end of the drive, for luxury you cannot beat Las Balsas. On a budget, check out Hosteria Traunco right in town or check out beautiful homes like this.

Consider staying a night or two in Villa Traful, a peaceful small town ideal for getting away from the noise. I love this cabin or stay here if you’d prefer a hotel.

Read More about Argentina:

Argentina Travel Resources

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE | It is always a good idea to travel insured. It protects you in so many cases, like lost luggage and trip cancellations, medical emergencies and evacuations. It’s very affordable with the potential to save you thousands in the case of an emergency. I recommend SafetyWing.
  • PHONE PLAN | These days, traveling with data is essential. Especially in Argentina where everything is managed on Instagram and WhatsApp. I recommend this E-SIM card. It’s hassle-free and affordable, for more read how to get an Argentina sim card.
  • ACCOMMODATION IN ARGENTINA is the most common hotel site used in Argentina and it’s where you’ll find the most options.
  • RENTAL CARS | I love to travel Argentina via road trip, I’ve always used, now they are operating under the umbrella of’s car rental system.
  • BUS TICKETS | Check Busbud for long distance bus routes and tickets.
  • VPN | If you’ll be using a public WiFi connection and want to secure your data, I highly recommend using a VPN, I personally use and have had a good experience with ExpressVPN. I also use it to access Hulu and American Netflix from Argentina.
  • FLIGHTS | Always check Google Flights and Skyscanner for flights to and within Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina is the local airline with the most routes. FlyBondi and Jetsmart are two budget airlines with dirt-cheap prices (but expect to pay for every add-on like luggage).
  • BOOK A CONSULTATION | I offer one-on-one travel consultations to help you plan your trip to Argentina. Pick my brain to get a local’s insight. Click here for more information.

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