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Top 6 Things to Do in San Martin de Los Andes, Patagonia

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1 month ago

San Martin de Los Andes is Bariloche’s quieter, shy little brother. Set in a valley between two mountains and full to the brim with European Alpine architecture and chocolate stores, San Martin de Los Andes encapsulates the best of Patagonia.

You’re probably thinking, “but I am going to Bariloche, so is San Martin de Los Andes really worth visiting?

If you are looking for another small town to tag onto a Bariloche trip, I would highly recommend visiting San Martin de Los Andes. However, I don’t think San Martin de Los Andes should ever replace Bariloche on an Argentina itinerary.

Most people visit San Martin de Los Andes as a base for visiting the iconic Route 40 through the Siete Lagos (seven lakes), and for hiking trips to Volcan Lanin and other mountain ranges.

I recommend giving yourself at least half a day to explore the town itself. With that advice, here are the top 6 things to do with your day in San Martin de Los Andes.

How to get to San Martin de Los Andes

San Martin de Los Andes is extremely well connected with both Buenos Aires and other cities in Patagonia.

By plane

San Martin de Los Andes has a very small airport (Airport code: CPC). There are usually twice daily flights to Buenos Aires’s in-town Aeroparque Airport (our favorite).

The airport is about 40 to 60 minutes from town (depending on traffic).

By bus

The most common way visitors reach San Martin de Los Andes is by bus. The town is connected by bus to Bariloche (3 – 4 hours), Neuquen (6 hours), Pucon (in Chile) (5 hours) and other major tourist hubs.

Travel tip: If you are visiting Patagonia during the summer months, bus tickets can sell out in advance.

To avoid disappointment, I always recommend you book as far in advance as possible!

Via the 7 Lakes Route

Connecting Bariloche and San Martin de Los Andes is the aptly named 7 Lakes Route (or Ruta Siete Lagos). This 65-mile road circles around – you guessed it – 7 Alpine lakes, offering you views over some of Patagonia’s most picturesque landscapes.

Annoyingly, the bus from Bariloche does not take the 7 Lakes Route. This means if you would like to take the scenic route between the two cities, your options are either self-driving (with a rental car) or joining a tour.

Top 6 things to do in San Martin de Los Andes

1. Relax on Lake Lácar

At the end of Avenida San Martín, you will find the beautiful (and chilly) waters of Lake Lácar. But if you are visiting during summer, the Patagonian sun can be very, very strong – making a beach day in Patagonia a real possibility.

The beach is an odd mix of sand and pebbles, but is generally very comfortable. If you aren’t willing to brave a swim, there is a little boardwalk where you can usually find people selling souvenirs and other trinkets

At the eastern end of the lake, near the deer statue, you can usually find food trucks set up. As people return from their day trips in the late afternoon, this area comes to life!

2. La Pastera, Museo del Che

Perhaps Argentina’s most famous export, Che Guevara, slept in this barn for a few nights on his famous 1952 motorcycle journey across South America. The small museum takes you through Che’s life and even shows the patch of hay where Che Guevara slept!

Travel tip: If you are on a longer trip through South America, I recommend watching The Motorcycle Diaries beforehand.

3. DIY San Martin de los Andes chocolate tour

Nothing can rival the elaborate chocolate shops of Bariloche. But, like all things in San Martin de Los Andes, the chocolate shops here are a little smaller and have their own charm. You won’t need a guide for this tour, almost all chocolate shops are located on the main Avenida San Martin.

I will give a special shout out to a few must-visit chocolate shops:

  • Pala Negra: This brand is made in San Martin de Los Andes. If the chocolate stores are all starting to look the same, I would recommend Pala Negra for some diversity (think crunchy quinoa). For nougat fans, Pala Negra probably have the most elaborate nougat options in town.
  • Mamusia: San Martin de Los Andes’s first chocolate shop is worth a visit. I consider myself a coconut rough aficionado and Mamusia’s was the best I tasted. A special shout out to their white chocolate and chestnut blocks too.
  • La Vieja Aldea: You can’t miss this landmark store in the heart of Avenida San Martin. Great spot for gifts to bring back home.

4. Shop for Patagonian delicacies

One of my favorite souvenirs to bring home are unique local delicacies – whether they be condiments, dips or spices. Patagonia is famous for a number of unique spice mixes, cheeses, sauces and meats.

You will find most of the little shops on Avenida San Martin and surrounding side streets have a similar offering. We like El Choike, a small deli-like shop which had an elaborate collection of Patagonian mustards and dried mushrooms.

With a few days to spend in the area, I would recommend buying up a few treats and having a beach picnic.

5. Admire the San Martin statue

In the heart of Plaza San Martin on Avenida San Martin in the city of San Martin de Los Andes you will find a statue of José San Martín.

If you are familiar with South American history, you will know of San Martin as the liberator of Argentina, Chile and Peru from Spanish rule. And if you have spent some time in Argentina, you will recognize his name from, well everywhere.

On both the north and south side of Plaza San Martin you can usually find small artisan markets selling indigenous Mapuche souvenirs.

6. Eat at the food markets

San Martin is home to a number of cute little food markets and food truck parks.

The best of them are:

  • Mercado El Maiten: At this indoor market you can find a mix of gastropubs, sandwich and empanada shops. For those who have been traveling through rural Argentina for a while, get excited for sushi and poke bowls.
  • Parador Slonjah: This covered market sits right across from Lake Lácar and is an excellent snack or dinner option after an afternoon at the beach. With a combination of food trucks and stalls, you can find here arepas, hot dogs and even a vegan stand (Chaltu).

Where to stay in San Martin de Los Andes

San Martin de Los Andes is a very small town and you can’t really go wrong with choosing where to stay. The main point of interest is Avenida San Martin which stretches through the heart of the city all the way down to Lake Lácar.

For the best value for money, I recommend the Patagonia Plaza Hotel. With a prime location in the heart of Avenida San Martin, this hotel is a strong 4 star offering with the attentive service of a boutique hotel (warm medialunas for breakfast and friendly staff make every experience better).

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Saturday 16th of March 2024

Great guide to San Martin! Found corners of the town that I would never have found otherwise. Love these posts, thank you!