Quila Quina, a Hidden Gem of the Argentine Andes

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Boat trip to Quila QuinaQuila Quina is not an easy place to find.  Unless you stop by the quaint little town of San Martin de los Andes that is nestled between the high reaching Andes mountains and lakes of Patagonia, it is not likely that you will even hear of Villa Quila Quina. Quila Quina is just a jump, skip and hop away from San Martin but is virtually unknown. This however, is one of its most redeeming characteristics. I can’t imagine a better place to spend a relaxed day soaking in the beautiful nature.

Quila Quina sits right on Lake Lácar where one begins their journey along the ‘7 Lake Crossing’ in Patagonia. Although it is possible to drive there, or even bike for those who are more ambitious, I would recommend jumping aboard one of the boats that leaves from the beach on the east side of town of San Martin on a regular schedule. There is a navigation company that makes four trips a day to and from Quila Quina for 30 pesos. You can buy your tickets in the office situated right on the docks and jump on board. The quick 35 minute boat ride provides fantastic views and as you dock on the other side of the lake, it feels as if you have landed on some secret island of the indigneous Mapuches.

Right by the dock you will have an opportunity to purchase hand made crafts from the locals, and possibly enjoy a light snack at a new cafe that was just being built while I was there. But once you abandon the others from the boat and begin to adventure around the small community, it is likely that you will not see any other visitors while there.

Picnic tables in Quila Quina

Quila Quina provides the perfect picnic setting, and due to the lack of markets and cafes, I would recommend taking advantage of the picnic opportunity. Stepping off the dock you are naturally drawn to follow the yellow adorned road. The bright yellow wild flowers line the dirt path straight ahead and the huge trees tower beyond. Looking up to the sky you may for a brief moment be confused by the summer snow storm, just before realizing that it is not snow at all, but hundreds of mysterious cotton balls that have been caught up in the light breeze sweeping through the area. The old wooden picnic tables at the end of the path sit right along side a small river and provide the perfect place to enjoy your lunch while admiring the small waterfall in the background.

Quila Quina Lake ViewUp above the picnic area you can find a larger waterfall tucked behind the home of one of the Mapuche families. The family collects 3 pesos from their visitors which buys you a friendly greeting, an opening into the “backyard paradise” of this family, and a small hike to the waterfall. The other side of Quila Quina is just as enchanting. There is a path leading up the side of the mountain which follows the lake. The old trees stretch along the beaches with huge masses of entangled roots that mark their place in this community and demonstrate the history and natural state in which it remains. Occasionally there will be an opening in the trees where the wonders of the water and mountains beyond are exposed with the mind blowing views.

Tree with exposed roots in Quila QuinaIt is easy to lose track of time or distance in the tranquility of the light hike through this dream world of sorts, but remember to keep in mind that if the last boat back is missed the chances of finding a cab in the town are slim to none. The hours fly by and at the end of the day it may seem as if Quila Quina was just a scene plucked out of a day dream, but the place itself is just as real as it is beautiful.

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