Los Alerces National Park is wide and kind to its visitors. Trails through forests, sandy beaches and quiet residents were waiting for us.
During our stay in Esquel, we decided to visit the astounding lakes sheltered by Los Alerces National Park. Once we left the city, we crossed the so-called “ecotone” area where the steppe turns into the Andean forest.
We drove along paved National Route 259 and then turned into gravel Provincial Route 71, where great bustards (ashy-headed geese) and buff-necked ibis protected our journey. We made our first stop at the 70th km marker and visited a house which, according to history and myth, was dwelled by the legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy during his adventures in Argentina. At that point, the landscape was exclusively made of forests whereas mountains came into sight one after the other until we finally reached our destination.
Los Alerces National Park was created in 1937 as a way to preserve the ancient forest, recognized for its beauty and slow growth. The beauty and magic coming from the palette of colors of the lakes and vegetation unfolded before our eyes on every vantage point and dream corner, which were undoubtedly the main attractions in the area.
Los Alerces National Park
Unforgettable Patagonian nook
The most spectacular, the Futalaufquen
Perhaps, the most breathtaking lake is Futalaufquen. On the left shore of this water body lies the village bearing the same name, the main services area. There, the National Park’s Head Office and Interpretive Center has a special place within a building made of stone and wood. We were provided with excellent information about different tours along interpretive trails in the National Park: Mount Alto Dedal, Los Pumas, Cinco Saltos, Tío Mindo Cascade or cave paintings are some of the tours where native flora may be admired in all its glory and splendor.
This place offers a wide variety of tours. Just 4 kilometers away from the village, southwards of the eastern arm (the lake has three arms) is Puerto Limonao, the main local port in the area. We could see motorboats in front and the incredible lodge “Hostería Futalaufquen” behind us.
Throughout the year, the water level of the Arrayanes River is sometimes low, which makes navigation impossible. Thus, this boat tour departs only from Puerto Chucao on Lake Menéndez. Visitors should get there by land.
It is advisable to take notice of the schedule and arrive at the port one hour before departure. It is recommended to carry a lunch box in the knowledge that visitors should bring back the rubbish they produce.
The Patagonian cypress forest boasts trees which are almost 3,000 years old. Their thick trunks may reach three meters in diameter and from 60 to 70 meters of height. This forest lies on the border of the so-called Valdivian rainforest. In the early twentieth century, its precious timber was used to manufacture wooden tiles for roofs and carpentry. Chilean people have always considered it as the “gold of the forest”.
On the right shore of Lake Futalaufquen, amid cascades, springs and sandy beaches, we can find inns, bungalows, cabins, campsites and grocery stores. These amenities complete the array of attractions in this spot and enable visitors to spend a longer stay in this unforgettable Patagonian nook as well.
Marcos Rodríguez José Arrieta
See more points of interest in Esquel