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This spectacular cross-border trip, called Cruce de Lagos, is an epic journey made up of four bus rides and three ferry trips that steer through the Andes from the picturesque town of Bariloche, in Argentina, to Puerto Varas, in Chile.

 

 

The lake district crossing follows a route that the original German settlers used to export their goods through the port town of Puerto Montt, Chile. The adventure begins with a lakeside drive beside the massive Nahuel Huapi Lake which, like the lakes in Switzerland, can look either serene and inviting or rough and menacing, depending on the weather.

 

 

Don’t fret if you encounter cloudy skies; the massive mountain range rising between the departure and destination towns works as a weather system-stopper, so wet and windy on one side might mean stunning sunny scenery on the other.

 

 

After an hour the route reaches the set-off point for the first boat. A large catamaran takes you onto the lake for the hour-long ride to Puerto Blest, a trip that offers pleasant scenes of the surrounding mountains and a wonderful wide view of Bariloche disappearing into the distance. Once off the boat, a rickety bus heads out onto the dirt roads for a bouncy 15 minute jaunt to Puerto Alegra, sitting on the next of this chain of lakes.

 

 

This is where it gets a bit more rustic, with a single jetty out to a boat with wooden benches. The second lake, Lake Frias, is set in a deep crater-like bowl of mountains and is much narrower than the first. Flowing through lush green surroundings, it takes you right up to the border between Argentina and Chile, and some unusual emigration controls, where you can warm your feet up beside a log fire as you sign out of the country.

 

 

It is then a two-hour bus ride, breaking the back of the Andes, to the Chilean border post, which lies right on the edge of the tiny town of Peulla. From here, travelers have a number of options - you can take advantage of the long break before the next bus and stop for a hearty lunch, or explore one of the steep trails winding through the forest and into the mountains towards a spectacular three-tier, 100 m-high waterfall and a viewpoint over the lake. Or, if you have the funds, you could break the journey with an overnight stay in the heart of nature at the luxurious Peulla Hotel then catch the next ferry out.

 

 

The final boat then heads out onto Lago Todos los Santos, where on a good day the water is mirror-still and the awesome pointy ice-covered top of Puntiagudo and perfect dome-shaped Osorno volcanoes are reflected on the water as they appear miraculously from around the corner. A jaw-dropping beautiful journey of one-and-a-half hours then follows until the boat moors up in Petrohue.

 

 

The last bus ride heads from there to Puerto Varas, but the one-and-three-quarter hours journey is broken up by a highly-recommended stop at Saltas de Petrohue, where the water rolls down ancient lava floes in a wide and very photogenic waterfall, before the journey arrives at its final destination and it is time to sample one of the local restaurants as the sun sets behind the shore.



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