Bariloche & Northern Patagonia
The area around the town of Bariloche is one of the prettiest in Argentina, and this part of Patagonia makes the British Lake District look rather dowdy. With snow-capped mountains, vast clear lakes and some of the best walking in South America, the area around the town of Bariloche is a perennial favourite.
And right at the heart of it all, perched on the edge of the stunning Lake Nahuel Huapi, is Bariloche itself. If you were awarding prizes for the cutest town in Argentina then Bariloche would walk away with it every year.
In summer you can enjoy some fantastic trekking and boat tours out on the lake, and in winter Bariloche is Argentina's leading ski resort, so no matter what time of year you plan a holiday to Bariloche, we'd always recommend including the Lake District in your itinerary.
What to See and Do in Bariloche
Although it's an undeniably pleasant place to stroll around, there are no major 'sights' in Bariloche itself, so once you've spent some time enjoying the 'Black Forest' atmosphere (and maybe the gateaux...) you're likely to spend most of your days heading out of Bariloche itself and enjoying the superlative countryside.
Lake Nahuel Huapi
The picture-perfect Lake Nahuel Huapi forms the focus of many activities, and a popular day tour from Bariloche is to take a boat across to Isla Victoria, which sits right in the middle of the lake. Here, a chair-lift to the top of the island's central hill gives you superb views in all directions across the lake and on to the snow-capped mountains on the border with Chile. You can also sail further on the Los Arrayanes National Park, where there are some lovely walks in this old myrtle forest. Among other wildlife, you can hope to see home to deer, guanaco, eagles and condors.
And when the weather's fine in Argentina's summer (roughly December to February) you can also enjoy some of the beaches around the lake, many of which (like the lovely Playa Bonita) are absolutely gorgeous. You might not want to do too much in the way of swimming, however - the lake is largely formed from meltwater and so the water is absolutely freezing even in the height of summer.
Trekking in Bariloche
The countryside around Bariloche offers some of the nicest walks in Argentina, so if trekking is on your agenda, then Bariloche should definitely be on your itinerary. Although the landscape is generally more gentle than further south in Patagonia, the scenery is still spectacular.
If you just want to stretch your legs, then the Arrayanes National Park offers some beautiful walking, or you could do a day trek up to one of the refuges maintained by the Club Andino Bariloche like the one at the top of Cerro Lopez, just outside of town. Another option is to take the cable-car up to the top of nearby Cerro Otto and just walk back down, which takes around an hour and a half and will still give you some amazing views.
And if you have more time available on your Bariloche holiday, then you can look at some longer treks, with some superb 2-5 day routes available. You should be aware, however, that most of these longer treks will take you well over 2000m and conditions can be very changeable, even in summer. We have some suggestions for treks from Bariloche, as well as elsewhere in Argentina, so have a look and see what you think.
Skiing in Bariloche
For obvious reasons, trekking in Bariloche is more of a spring/summer activity, but if you're visiting in Argentina's winter then fear not! Bariloche is a popular ski resort both with Argentinians and Brazilians - it's one of the nearest ski resorts to Sao Paulo or Rio, so you'll find many Brazilians in Bariloche during the main ski season of June-September. The main ski centre is Cerro Catedral, which is located 20km out of Bariloche and has over 100km of ski runs, along with chair lifts and all the other facilities you need. It might not be quite up to the standards of the top European ski resorts, but it's certainly not far off, and the views down to Lake Nahuel Huapi beat anything you'll get in the Alps...
Eating out in Bariloche
Bariloche has a surprisingly varied range of restaurants for a relatively small town, and if you can tear yourself away from the chocolate shops for just a moment, you'll find plenty of places with main courses worthy of your attention. Most famous of all is El Boliche de Alberto (347 Villegas), a classic parilla grill-house with (most reckon) the best steaks in Bariloche. They're certainly the biggest, with German-sized portions the norm here. We actually prefer Los Tehuelches (281 Beschtedt), though - the steaks are great and it's much more of a local place.
Vegetarians are also very well-catered for in Bariloche, with no fewer than five vegetarian restaurants in town: trust us, for Argentina that's incredible. Our pick is Covita (511 O'Connor) which really is very good, even for non-veggies. It does a great line in Asian/fusion dishes, and everything is fresh and delicious so even if you just fancy a change, seek it out - it's just across the street from the Cathedral.
Flights To and From Bariloche
Bariloche's airport has regular flights to Buenos Aires and across the border to Santiago de Chile as well. Outside of winter, there are also daily flights south to El Calafate and north to Mendoza, while in winter there are ski-season flights to Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Road and Rail Links to Bariloche
Fast and comfortable coaches run to all points north, south and east, and there are also services to Osorno in Chile, running via the lovely Villa la Angostura. A more interesting way to get to Chile is by a combined boat and bus service across Lake Nahuel Huapi and two smaller lakes to the Chilean town of Puerto Montt - it's a comfortable and beautiful way to cross the border and we highly recommend it.
If you want to head east to the Atlantic coast, there is also the intriguing option of the now-resurrected Tren Patagonico, which leaves Bariloche on a Monday evening and winds its way overnight across the Pampas to Viedma on the coast.
It's certainly not a luxury service, but there are comfortable sleeper compartments and if you like your train journeys, this is probably Argentina's best. It will also give you a chance to enjoy the delights of Welsh Patagonia, or even to go whale-watching...
Tailor-made Tours of the Lake District
All our holidays in Argentina are 100% tailormade, so if you'd like to incude a tour of the Lake District in any of the itineraries you see above, or just start from scratch then get in touch and let us know - we'll be delighted to help you plan your perfect trip to Bariloche!
Did you know?
Northern Patagonia attracted a lot of German immigrants from the 19th century onwards, and many made their home here in Bariloche, bringing their styles of houses, clothes and food with them. So if you were wondering what all the chalets are about, or why there are so many superb chocolate shops, now you know...