From Santiago De Chile we flew down south to Puerto Montt to start our lake crossing journey to Bariloche in Argentina. Upon our arrival, we drove to Puerto Varas, an hour away, and checked into Casa Kalfu, a wooden lodge on the banks of Lake Llanquihe. In the early 1900s, German immigrants settled in Puerto Varas and built colorful wooden homes that set Puerto Varas apart from other cities in Chile.
When you have only one evening to have the best meal in Puerto Varas, where do you go? Where Anthony Bourdain takes you. And so we went to Donde el Gordito for some tasty seafood served by the most generous hosts. We headed back to the hotel and chilled in the living room by the fire place at Casa Kalfu while it rained cats and dogs. Also because wifi was strongest in the living room.
Welcomed by the mist the next morning, we began our one-day lake crossing journey to Argentina and contrary to what you think, it was not a standard cruise trip. We changed buses and boats three times. In case you’re wondering, we did not see or have to deal with our luggage until we arrived at Bariloche. We took the tour with CruceAndino.com, which did an impeccable job juggling it all.
And the journey begins…
At 8am we set off to Petrohue and stopped by the National Park to see mounds of volcanic rocks spread across emerald green waters. It was a misty morning. Not the best of times to appreciate the beauty of the famous Puerto Varas volcanos in the background. An hour and a half later, we boarded the cruise and set sail to Peulla on Todos los Santos lake taking in the scenery which was majestically unveiled by the mist. In Peulla, we had lunch at Hotel Peulla tucked in the Andes. For those guys on a two day lake crossing trip, they stayed at Hotel Peulla. I read a couple of tripadvisor reviews on the hotel. Not good, but then what do you expect from a hotel in the midst of nature only accessible by boat? We continued our journey onto Bariloche, so we hopped on our second bus ride and drove to immigration control. Along with a hundred other tourists, the majority Brazilians, we stamped our passports. Although the bus ride was 10-15 minutes, we spent most of our time at immigration control at Puerto Frias.
We then boarded a cruise and set sail on Lago Frias for 15 minutes until we arrived at Puerto Bles. From Puerto Bles, we took another 2 minutes bus ride to our final cruise journey. This time it was for an hour, sailing on Nahuel Huapi Lake (translated to Tiger Island), a beautiful Andean lake surrounded by lush greenery, snow capped peaks, waterfalls, valleys and above all serenity. We were the only boat gliding down the lake in the sun’s warm glow. By the time the temperature dropped, at around 8pm we finally arrived at Puerto Panuelo, hopped on the last bus and made it to the hotel with our luggage intact. We booked at San Pedro de Quemez hotel hastily the day before after we were met with rather unfortunate news that our original booking at a family cottage was closed due to a tree crashing through the roof. Oopsy!
It worked out great. We were next door was one of THE best steaks in town. Don Juan. I can still taste the very last bite. Although we did not spend an extra day in Bariloche, Patagonia’s biggest tourist center, particularly for mountaineers, skiiers and trekkers, we were already lost in its natural beauty as we started our 7 day journey down south to El Calafate.