Argentina – Villa la Angostura
February 23, 2008
(February 15,16,17) At the southeastern end of Lake Nahuel Huapi, San Carlos de Bariloche is the most popular tourist destination in Patagonia; and with good reason.
Sloping up from the pristine waters of this 140,000-acre lake are lush mountains, with the snow-capped Andes in the background.
At its deepest, the glacial lake goes down more than 400 meters and averages 225 meters. Our nephew, Mark, recommended that we stay outside of Bariloche proper so we reserved a room at the Relais & Chateaux property, Hosteria las Balsas.
This ten-room hotel, 80 kilometers away from the “hustle and bustle” of Bariloche, is on the northwestern end of the lake in Villa la Angostura.In topology and architecture, the area felt like the Adirondacks in New York State although a bit more dramatic.
Las Balsas itself is reminiscent of the Adirondack camps. The rooms are small, the kitchen is wonderful, and the staff very good at suggesting and arranging excursions. One day we hired a sailboat and took a three-hour cruise on the lake. Marcello, the captain, was very good about pointing out the important homes, including a compound of 144 estates owned by wealthy portenos (i.e., those from Buenos Aries), complete with golf course and country club.Another day we hired a car and took the obligatory 7 Lakes drive to San Martin. Two thirds of this 2½-hour drive is over poorly maintained and very dusty, gravel roads.San Martin has more of an alpine feel and is perched on one of the 7 lakes. Rather than bump back through the same route we returned via a paved road, a longer trip but it took us east out of the 2-million acre Nahuel Huapi National Park and into virtual desert, veined with rivers and fringed with red, rocky mountains.Since the town itself seemed to offer mostly pizzas and “hamberguesas,” we decided to go off-campus to dinner at the Hotel Correntosa, with its lovely dining room hanging above the lake. Here we ate the same locally raised pink trout as we had at Las Balsas, but this was raw and thinly sliced, served with tomato salsa and grilled shrimp—a real winner.