Nahuel Huapi National Park
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Nahuel Huapi National Park
The oldest national park in the country, Nahuel Huapi National Park has been protecting gorgeous terrain and its residential flora and fauna since 1934. In reality, the land in the center of the park was donated in 1903 to the federal government by Perito Moreno.
The park sits at the foothills of the Andes, deep in the heart of Patagonia. Its 7,050 km2 lie in the southwest of Neuquén province and the northwest of Río Negro province, bordered by Chile to the west. San Carlos de Bariloche, famous in its own right, is the largest city within the park, and provides a haven for tourists year round. Another popular city to visit, more of a resort, really, is Villa La Angostura, sitting right on one of the many lakes in the park.
Beyond its long history, this park is particularly interesting because it is actually home to another park. Los Arrayanes National Park sits on the Quetrihué Peninsula in Nahuel Huapi Lake, protecting the unique arrayanes myrtle trees. This area is full of lakes, and is popularly known as the Argentine Lake District. See this Argentina Travel Guide for more information on the different areas of the country. The Lake District is made up of a multitude of lakes, including Mascardi Lake, Guitérrez Lake, Moreno Lak, Guillelmo Lake, Traful Lake, and the most famous — Nahuel Huapi Lake. The latter has many islands within it, and one — Isla Huemul — was home to the Huemel Project, where Argentina conducted secret research on nuclear fusion from 1949 to 1952.
Cerro Catedral is one of the most famous mountains in the park, and is home to one of the most popular ski resorts in the country, coming in at 2,388 meters. The highest peak in the park is Cerro Tronador, which is right on the border with Chile, at 3,491 meters.
The park’s rich flora and fauna are what make the park so famous, and each year, thousands come to hike and explore its diverse and beautiful landscapes. As it has altitudes from 700 to 3,000 meters, and everything from 4,000 mm/year rain in its western rainforests to 300 mm/year rain in its eastern steppes, one can only imagine the wide range of biotopes, and the flora and fauna within.
Flora includes alerce, which is a slow-growing conifer, the unique arrayanes mentioned above, coihues, ferns, lengas, ñires, and amencayes. Llao llao is a fungus that grows as beautifully interesting irregular growths on local trees, and is emblematic of the area. Animals range greatly as well, from river otters, huemuls, guanacos, maras, parakeets and soaring condors. Guanacos are unique, small llama-like animals found only in Patagonia. As the area is extremely healthy, its animal population is widely varied and also very healthy.
The area is one of the most beautiful and most famous in the country, and is bordered to the north by Lanín National Park. Weather you like to curl up by the fire in the mountainside town of Bariloche, or you are an avid hiker, you will find something for you in this national treasure.