Visiting the National Parks of Northern Patagonia


Laguna Blanca National Park is one of the Western Hemisphere's top two places to see the magnificent black-necked swan plus a thousand other aquatic species in a stark volcanic landscape. Though the park attracts birdwatchers year-round from throughout the world, the most birds are found in the park between November and March. Lanin National Park is named for 13,000-ft Lanin volcano and famous for its distinctive monkey puzzle trees. It is located along the Chilean border in in southwest Neuquen Province. The park's many trails include a four-day hike to the volcano itself, possible between September and April, as well as shorter hikes to the lakes. Activities in biodiverse Lago Puelo National Park include sailing on turquoise glacial Lake Puelo. One can hike into Chile from the park. In addition to numerous pristine lakes and waterfalls, Los Alerces National Park contains resplendent ancient forests of the endangered Alerce, the world's second longest living tree, similar to the giant redwoods. One specimen is 4,000 years old. Los Arrayanes National Park is a 4,300-acre park, originally part of Nahuel Huapi National Park which surrounds it. The park encompasses the world's only forest of Arrayanes myrtle trees, distinctive for their twisted trunks and cinnamon-colored bark.

Nahuel Huapi, Argentina's largest and most popular national park

Established in 1934, Nahuel Huapi was Argentina's first national park. Conservationist/explorer Francisco Pascasio Moreno arrived in Patagonia from Buenos Aires in 1876 and twenty-seven years later donated 2,000 acres to establish a public park from the acreage he had received from the government for his services. With Moreno's land as its nucleus, the park expanded over time to the 1.8 million acres it is today.

The park is located in the sub-Antarctic forest eco-region between the Patagonian plateau and the Andes in southwestern Neuquen Province and western Rio Negro Province, on the edge of the ski resort town of Bariloche and the village of Villa la Angostura. The park’s top sight is the 137,600-acre glacial lake from which it takes its name. Among the varied varied landscapes are high Andes, including 11,700-ft Mt. Tronador, arid Patagonian Andean forest, yellow and orange grasses of the Patagonian steppe and at lower elevations, Valdivian forests. Springtime attracts many visitors on Argentine tours when the wildflowers bloom and Nahuel Huapi’s forests become a colorful spectacle.

Wildlife in the park includes a marine species of the cormorant, the imperial, Andean condors, the country's largest concentration of the critically endangered southern river otter species (huillin), the gopher-like tuco tuco, pumas, wolves, guanacos and Patagonian hare as well as the rarely-seen huemel and puda.

Visiting Napuel Huapi

The park's varied climates range from areas of permanent snow to Valdivian rainforest with 158 inches of rain, something to keep in mind when scheduling your travel to Argentina.
Accommodations are plentiful, including camping zones, refugios and a variety of comfortable lodgings, some lakeside. The park allows fishing, water sports and cycling, and its 300 miles of marked trails range from short hikes to multi-day backpacking trips. Kayaking is among the park’s most popular pastimes.

Southern Explorations takes visitors to many of the top sights in Northern Patagonia.