Travels in South America (Part III): Argentina 

Wrapping up my journeys in South America — following Peru and Chile — my sister and I elected to drive across the border from Puerto Varas, Chile, into the Patagonia region of Argentina. Renting a car provides a freedom when traveling that going by public transportation and by foot does not. We were free to take any road we wanted, to wander and explore. Plus, the roads were well maintained and most people seemed to obey the traffic laws (at least as much as they do in the U.S.), so driving around Patagonia was fairly easy.

We drove past lakes and up into the mountains, where we quickly went through the border checkpoints (since it was the slow, winter season). In between each set of checkpoints is the actual border, welcoming drivers into Argentina on one side and into Chile on the other.

When I saw “we drove,” I should really clarify and say that my sister was the one to do the driving — and she hates driving. I would have been happy to drive, but since the car we rented was a manual transmission and I don’t know how to drive manual, she was stuck with it. She didn’t complain though, because it was some beautiful driving.

The twisty road we drove over and through mountains from Chile to Argentina.

Welcome to Argentina
Bienvenido a la Argentina / Welcome to Argentina.
On the drive back from Argentina to Chile, it was clear snow had fallen, because the mountains were thickly coated in white.
Welcome to Chile
Bienvenido a Chile (and welcome to Puyehe National Park, too).

Lake District

My sister and I went to Patagonia mostly to see the town of Bariloche and to drive the Seven Lakes Road, which is known for it’s stunning views. It did not disappoint, as there were abundant places to stop and admire the beauty of Patagonia — pull overs and hikes and lookout points — so many views of so many lakes and mountains it was almost overwhelming in its grandeur.

One of the small towns we stopped in along the way was Villa La Angostura, which featured a number of artsy shops and restaurants. The town had a rather German feel to it. For example, one of the cafes, Cucu Schulz, served waffles, black forrest cake, and other treats. And there was also a distinctly Christmas vibe, with wood statues of Santa Claus featured in various areas on the main street.

Angostura is where we decided to try some Argentinian steaks. We each ordered the “small” sized steaks — and we each received the largest steaks we had ever seen in our lives. After eating half of the steak, my belly was full — and yet, it looked like I hadn’t touched my steak at all. I felt a strange obligation at that moment: I had to keep eating, had to at least eat enough of the steak so that it “looked” eaten — all entirely a matter of perspective, because I had eaten more than enough, but couldn’t bring myself to stop. Fortunately, the steaks were both delicious, well seasoned and perfectly cooked.

Cerro Campanario, San Carlos de Bariloche
View from the top of Cerro Campanario, looking out over a number of mountains and lakes.
Cerro Campanario
Standing at the top of Cerro Campanario, showing another area of the gorgeous views.
Lago Correntoso
A short walk from one of our hotels lead us down to the shore of Lago Correntoso, which we saw in the early morning light.
Rio Correntoso
Walking along the lake shore brought us to Rio Correntoso, which is said to be the shortest river in the world at only 200-300 meters (the photo makes it look longer than it is). Rio Correntoso connects Lago Correntoso with the much larger Lago Nuhuel Huapi.

San Carlos de Bariloche

San Carlos de Bariloche
These wooden figures in San Carlos de Bariloche are positioned facing the lake, where they act as guardians and represent the native people lived there before the Spanish colonized the region.
San Carlos de Bariloche
A church in San Carlos de Bariloche.
San Carlos de Bariloche
The church featured numerous stained-glass windows, such as this one honoring La Virgin.

We spent the shortest amount of time in Argentina — just barely dipping our toes into the country before having to leave again in order to return home. But for how short a time we were there, it was easy to fall in love with what we saw of Argentina.

Altogether my sister and I had a phenomenal trip to South America, though it was such a small portion of such a large and culturally diverse continent. I hope I have opportunities to wander about in South America some more in the future.