Tour around Lakes Huechulafquen and Epulafquen

This lake tour that may be enjoyed at all seasons sets sail across the lakes up to a river of solidified lava. The view of the Andean Patagonian forest with the silhouette of the Lanín Volcano...

We left the City of Junín de los Andes following National Route 40 heading north. We traveled along 4 kilometers and, before crossing the bridge over the Chimehuín River, we turned left to take Provincial Route 61 to the West. From that spot, we covered 22 kilometers along a gravel road to the mouth of Lake Huechulafquen and entered the Andean forest area, a protected land created in 1937 with the aim of preserving the woods, the drainage basins and wildlife.

It was wonderful to see the waters of Lake Huechulafquen (which stands for “the lake in the end” in the Mapuche tongue). This is the largest lake in the Province of Neuquén, featuring 46 kilometers of length and 4 of width. Its depth surpasses the 500 meters.

According to season, the temperatures of the water range between 5º and 15º C. Of course this natural environment is a paradise for fly-casters when it comes to catching rainbow and brown trout that dwell in the area.

  • Across Lake Huechulafquen

    Across Lake Huechulafquen

  • The best views of the Lanín Volcano

    The best views of the Lanín Volcano

  • Canoa Harbor in Lanín National Park

    Canoa Harbor in Lanín National Park

  • The Escorial

    The Escorial

  • Lanin always present

    Lanin always present

  • Quietly admire the imposing volcano

    Quietly admire the imposing volcano

  • Puerto Canoa

    Puerto Canoa

Finally, traveling along 31 kilometers, we reached the northern margin of the lake, where Puerto Canoa and the José Julián catamaran await visitors.

To Sail

We got on the catamaran that can seat 60 passengers. It has been named José Julián after a local denizen who implemented angling in the lake.

The watercraft has a snack bar, large windows, two outdoor decks and the cockpit is open to visitors. Once we got comfortable, the catamaran set sail.

On the lake, to our right, we spotted Mount Cantala and, to the left, Mount Los Ángeles. Both mountains reach a height of 2,000 meters. The area presents a high rainfall regime year round; therefore, its vegetation is lush and an ideal habitat for steamer ducks, black-necked swans and kelp gulls to make their nests.

Traveling on catamaran turned out to be quite a pleasant experience. We could barely perceive the movement of the water. We could also observe Isla de los Chivos (Goats Island) and Bahía Azul (Blue Bay). We could watch the various layers of the forest, made up by lengas, coihues, ñires, notros and raulíes.

On the Escorial River

Very gradually, the José Julián Catamaran began to cross the narrowest area, where the Huechulafquen waters mingle with the Epulafquen.

Lake Epulafquen –which stands for “two lakes” in the Mapuche tongue- features a length of 16 kilometers and a width of 1.50. The depth of the Escorial area is 180 meters.

After feeling and experiencing this wonder of nature, we were delighted by a cup of coffee and a bar of regional chocolate.

We could spot the solidified lava river in the distance. This natural attraction was the result of the Achén Niyeu Volcano eruption, over 500 years ago. The lava stream is over 8 km long and 2 km wide up to the volcano crater. Its dark color is due to the basalt, which is the most common mineral in the area.

According to Raúl, the lava entered the lake with a temperature of over 1,000º C. It clashed against the 3º C of the water and covered 2 km. of the lake surface and gained more than 100 meters of depth. He also pointed out that, as time went by, small coihues and cypresses began to grow on the volcanic soil. Afterwards, the catamaran got into a natural bay from where we could appreciate the solidified lava with the silhouette of the Achén Niyeu Volcano crater in the background.

It was time to go back. We went away in silence under the look of the wonderful Lanín Volcano.

Autor Pablo Etchevers Fotografo Eduardo Epifanio

DifficultyDifficulty: Low

DurationDuration: Navigation takes 90 minutes approximately.

Opening hoursOpening hours: From December thru March, outings at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 6.30pm (the latter is subject to confirmation). Ask about timetables for spring, fall and winter outings.

How to get hereHow to get here: From San Martín de los Andes, take National Route 40 towards the North. After 42 km, you will pass by the district of Junín de los Andes. Drive along until you reach the mountain regiment military area and, before crossing the bridge over the Chimehuín River, turn left into Provincial Route 61 towards the West. After 22 km, the mouth of Lake Huechulafquen is reached. Finally, there are only 31 km left up to the northern shore of the lake, where Puerto Canoa is located and where the modern José Julián Catamaran is awaiting.


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