Nestled between mountains on the eastern shores of jewel-like Lago Lácar, the relaxing resort of SAN MARTÍN DE LOS ANDES is an excellent base for exploring much of Parque Nacional Lanín. The northern terminus of the famous Ruta de los Siete Lagos, San Martín is Neuquén Province’s most-visited destination by far (easily outdoing Villa La Angostura, and the capital) and gets very busy indeed in the high mid-summer and mid-winter seasons.
The southern belle of Argentine towns, it consists of chalets and generally low-key architecture set in a sheltered valley at the eastern end of Lago Lácar. There’s a sandy, if often windy, beach on the lake’s shores, and in spring, the introduced broom (retama) daubs the scenery on the approach roads a sunny yellow. Expansion has been rapid, but – with the exception of the hideous derelict Hotel Sol de Los Andes that overlooks town – by no means as uncontrolled. Whereas the larger rival resort of Bariloche caters to the young party crowd, San Martín attracts a more sedate type of small-town tourism, aimed at families and professionals rather than students and backpackers. El Trabún (meaning the “Union of the Peoples”) is the main annual festival, held in early December on the Plaza San Martín. Local and Chilean musicians hold concerts (predominantly folklore), and mighty bonfires are lit at the corners of the square to prepare delicious asados of lamb and goat.