There’s something with the air in Bariloche – you can call it San Carlos de Bariloche if you’d like and want to be that guy – or it’s the gobsmackingly beautiful pristine glacial lakes and mountains surrounding it, that make you want to take in as much as possible of this place.
The city itself is a mixture of kitsch Swiss aspirations – not sure bout the whole having photo taken with a St Bernard dog thing, but the hot chocolate at Rapa Nui is delish – and a paradise for any outdoor aficionado. Stretching out along the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi the location is nothing short of divine. On top of that, the cultural capital of Río Negro province is situated in the midst of Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. Strap on your hiking boots and head up the mountains, rock climb, go horse riding or fly fishing. But I know you only have about 48 hours so let’s get to it.
Situated in the Lake District in Northern Patagonia, Bariloche is a 2 hour and 20 minute flight from Buenos Aires – or for the slow traveler – a 24-hour bus ride from La Capital. Aerolineas Argentina and LATAM run three to nine daily flights each, in addition to a handful of bus operators including Andesmar and Chevallier having two to four daily departures from Retiro, ticket prices ranging from AR $1670 for semi cama to AR $1905 for first class bus fare.
You need to cut your environmentally conscious short and book a flight. A return ticket from Buenos Aires’ domestic airport Aeroparque are around AR $4000 if you book a few months in advance. Note prices can vary depending on the ever so famous Argentine inflation, so check and compare prices when you are ready to book and to plan ahead.
The bus system is great and makes it fairly straightforward to go hiking without having a car so there is no reason to not make the environment a favor by using public transport. Or to simply use your feet and stroll around town. At the height of summer, which is also temporada alta (December to February) there are buses roughly every 20 minutes to Llao Llao and bus #55 runs frequently to Cerro Catedral.
Tourism is the main income for this city, which means there are plenty of accommodation options. Make sure to book ahead during the warmer months though, if you have a special place in mind as the town is packed with porteños, backpackers and busloads of schoolkids and holidaymakers. Even finding something through Couchsurfing can be tricky, so stay the night at Bariloche Hostel – an intimate gem on a hill on Calle Salta with a cute garden and beautiful view over the lake. Or If you want to start off your day with a hot breakfast and have it without checking into a five-star hotel, Las Marianas run by two ex-mountaineers is a spotless and well-run hotel.
Eating and Drinking
Except for beef, pasta and minutas (staple food in this endearing nation called Argentina), restaurants in Bariloche are keen on trout and lamb. Despite there being plenty of fish in the sea though, you can still find some of the best milanesas in the country here. Stand in line with locals and Argentine tourists and devour the massive milanesa napolitana with tons of cheese and tomato sauce at Fonda del Tío. Make sure to treat yourself with some fine dining at Butterfly Patagonia just by the lakeside off Avenida Bustillo Km7.9 and savor a seven-course menu with some well-paired glasses of wine at a immaculate white topped tables.
Drink your way through Bariloche’s local cervercerías (breweries) serving everything from dark and musty porters and stouts to pale ale. Squeeze yourself in between cheerful pub visitors at a table outside at microbrewery Konna, order a rubia (the blond ale) and enjoy the live music that’s plays throughout the summer.
Manush is another cozy cervercería that makes you question if you’re in a bar in Bariloche or in a pub in London. Almost every club (boliche) in town are exclusive to busloads of teenagers that are celebrating the end of school so do yourself a favor and finish off your evening with ice cream at Jauja. The lemon pie is swoon worthy.
Take a hike to one of the easily accessible viewpoints in Parque Municipal Llao Llao, my personal favorite (and an undisclosed secret until this article is published) Cerro Llao Llao. You get colectivo 20 from the center towards Llao Llao and get off at Puerto Pañuelo. From there just walk straight for about two kilometers and head right when you see the signed turnoff to Cerro Llao Llao. Once at the top, a photo with the mountain and lake backdrop and your social media profile picture is all set.
If you feel like have someone else do all the footwork, go horse riding with the incredibly kind Carol Jones and ride through valleys, rivers and steppe or hike to Refugio Frey and chat with random strangers.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure to get out of town on at least one of your days. You can also rent a bike on Avenida Bustillo Km 18.6 at Bike Cordillera and test out your leg muscles cycling Circuito Chico – a 65-kilometer circuit taking you through some worthwhile viewpoints and the pretty village of Colonia Suiza.