Barely a century since its founding as a frontier fortress, San Martín de los Andes has become one of the lakes district’s most fashionable resorts. Nestled in the hills near Lago Lácar, it owes its appeal to its surrounding scenery, the trout that thrash in Parque Nacional Lanín ’s lakes and streams, and the ski boom that began at nearby Chapelco in the 1940s.
San Martín itself is picturesque enough, thanks to the legacy of architect Alejandro Bustillo, whose rustically styled Centro Cívico builds on his designs at Bariloche . Unlike Bariloche, San Martín has shunned the high-rise horrors that have degraded Bustillo’s legacy there; its biggest blight is the increasingly aggressive marketing of timeshares. The height limit has its own downside in promoting San Martín’s perceived exclusivity—in a sense, it’s Argentina’s version Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where fashion often trumps nature.
At Lago Lácar’s east end, 642 meters above sea level, San Martín (pop. 22,269) is 189 kilometers north of Bariloche  via RN 237, RN 231, and RN 234; it’s 109 kilometers north of Villa la Angostura  via RN 234. It’s 259 kilometers from Bariloche via the roundabout route, but a faster alternative is via Junín .
Air and bus schedules change frequently, especially in ski season. Aerolíneas Argentinas (Belgrano 949, tel. 02972/41-0588) flies regularly to Buenos Aires, usually to Aeroparque but sometimes to Ezeiza. Occupying a booth in the bus terminal, LADE (Villegas 231, tel. 02972/42-7672) flies occasionally to Aeroparque and to other Patagonian destinations. American Jet (tel. 0810/345-9876, www.americanjet.com.ar ) has just begun weekday flights to Neuquén.
San Martín’s Terminal de Ómnibus (Villegas 231, tel. 02972/42-7044) has regional, long-distance, and Chilean connections.
Transportes Ko Ko (tel. 02972/42-7422) goes to Villa la Angostura  (3 hours, US$9) via the scenic Siete Lagos  route, sometimes continuing to Bariloche , but most services to Bariloche (4.5 hours, US$13) use the longer but smoother Rinconada route. Albús (tel. 02972/42-8100) also goes to Villa la Angostura three times daily via the Siete Lagos route and twice to Bariloche, while La Araucana Viajes (tel. 02972/42-1330) goes twice daily via the Siete Lagos route.
In summer, Ko Ko goes to the Chilean border at Paso Hua Hum (US$3) at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily. Monday–Saturday, Igi-Llaima (tel. 02972/42-8100) and Empresa San Martín (tel. 02972/42-7294) alternate service to Pucón (6.5 hours, US$17) and Temuco, Chile (8 hours, US$20); Empresa San Martín continues to Valdivia. In summer, Buses Lafit (tel. 02972/42-7422) goes Wednesday and Sunday to the Chilean border post of Pirehueico (2 hours, US$8) and on to Panguipulli (4.5 hours, US$20).