Argentina’s most beautiful region covers 700km of spectacular forest-clad Andes, with jagged peaks and deep valleys peppered with lakes and rivers of all hues from pea-green to indigo to turquoise. Wherever you go, it’s hiking heaven: endless views, virgin landscapes and no crowds. Try climbing, skiing, white-water rafting and horse-riding, or succumb to the gentler pleasures of lake cruises, fine cuisine and lolling in idyllic waterfront retreats.
All roads start at the quaint central town and adventure centre of Bariloche, set inside a national park. From here, head north along serpentine roads through fairy-tale landscapes of forests and lakes to upmarket resorts like San Martín de los Andes, world-class fishing, and spectacular riding at authentic estancias. Further north still, you’ll find rare prehistoric beauty, snow-capped volcanoes and swathes of monkey puzzle trees. Or, head south from Bariloche to wild and rugged lands beloved of Che Guevara and outlaws Butch and Sundance, at El Bolsón and beyond, where Los Alerces National Park is among the country’s most untouched.
1. Sail through fjord-like Lago Blest and Lago Frías (pictured), then walk up the stunning Cascada de los Cantaros. Or sail over the border into Chile.
3. Ski at Cerro Catedral - or in warmer months, trek the peaks and go horse riding into the steppe.
4. Stroll around Península Llao Llao for chocolate-box views and ancient Valdivian rainforest.
5. Kayak on immense Lago Gutiérrez.
6. White-water raft down Río Manso.
7. Hike up to Refugio López or climb glaciers to the summit of Mount Tronador.
Photo credit: Vivi Gualhanone
1. Cassis, on the forested shores of Lago Gutiérrez, blends the freshest seasonal ingredients into recipes inspired by owner Mariana's Hungarian and German roots. The 7-course gourmet menu includes fillet of hare with borage and shallots; Atlantic prawns with wild rosehips, and a sorbet of sorrel, pistachio and bitter chocolate.
2. In a sea of chocolate shops along Calle Mitre, Mamuschka stands out for its handmade bonbons and so-thick-you-can-stand-a-spoon-in-it hot chocolate. The queue along the pavement says it all.
3. We've heard rave reviews of Butterfly on Playa Bonita, its stunning degustation menu paired with unusual wines from the region. Dishes change daily, and can be adapted for vegetarians; expect unusual combinations like panko-crumbed prawns with white chocolate sauce or fresh local trout with olive tapenade.
1. The Seven Lakes Drive takes you along a deliciously scenic road, past (can you guess) 7 completely different lakes to the tourist town of San Martín de los Andes, prettily set on picturesque Lago Lacar. Don't miss the lovely beach of Quila Quina.
2. Take a boat trip to the fairy-tale woodland of Bosque Los Arrayanes (pictured; a forest of skinny intertwined trees, with unusual cinnamon-coloured bark).
3. Horse ride with gauchos at Estancia Huechahue - you can even try your hand at cattle mustering.
4. There's world-famous rainbow trout fishing on the Río Chimehuín near Junín de los Andes.
5. Admire the staggeringly beautiful landscapes of Parque Nacional Lanín, dominated by the perfect cone of the extinct Lanín volcano (climbable, with a guide and serious equipment).
6. Yet further north, the mysterious landscapes of Pehuenia have yet to be discovered by the masses: a silent haven with forests of monkey puzzle trees, broad lagoons, and the rich culture of the native Mapuche people.
1. Drive along the steep cordillera, beside sparkling turquoise rivers
2. Overnight in laid-back El Bolsón and cerveza-sample in the many micro-breweries. This is the fruit-growing capital of the country, and the handmade ice cream at Jauja is said to be the best in Argentina...
3. Ride the Old Patagonian Express, La Trochita, from friendly pioneer town Esquel; its antique trains have real fires in the carriages!
4. Visit Butch and Sundance’s charismatic old house at Cholila, which has been ‘restored’: fans, prepare to weep.
5. We love Los Alerces National Park: hike up Cerro Dedal or take a boat trip along a jade-green river to see 2,600 year-old alerce trees. Absolutely magnificent, and utterly unspoilt.