Bariloche is an all-season town in the Patagonia region of Argentina, next to the glacial lake Nahuel Huapi, which is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. With such scenic beauty, the town formally known as San Carlos de Bariloche has been called the "Switzerland of South America," and offers some quiet, out-of-the-way retreats and views galore.
Tourists also come for sports and adventures like skiing, hiking, biking, ziplining, and additional recreational activities. Plus visitors love to see Bariloche's top nightspots and taste its world-famous chocolate—there is even a chocolate museum in town. With so much to offer, Bariloche is an ideal place from which to enjoy the country's Lake District.
Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, one of Argentina's most popular parks, is large at nearly 2 million acres and spans both Neuquén and Río Negro provinces. This park surrounding Bariloche boasts the spectacular glacial lake known as Lago Nahuel Huapi and offers views of mountain peaks, rushing rivers, and verdant forests with trees like the Chilean cedar and Winter’s bark. You'll see wildlife ranging from river otters to ducks to cougars and foxes, and enjoy all-year recreational activities such as hiking, rafting, and kayaking.
AddressCerro Catedral, Río Negro, Argentina
Cerro Otto offers not only skiing and snowboarding, among other snow activities, but short-distance trails for mountain biking or hiking. The mountain's base is only 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Bariloche, and visitors enjoy taking the cable car up to the country's only revolving restaurant with an amazing view of Gutiérrez Lake and Nahuel Huapi Lake, Mount Leones, and other mountains.
Cerro Catedral, only 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Bariloche, is the biggest ski resort in the southern hemisphere, and international tourists visit for its range of activities. Onsite are more than 30 ski lifts, a shopping center, internet cafes, diverse restaurants, and a bike park with trails for everyone from beginners to experts.
Cerro Campanario, about 22 miles (35 kilometers) from downtown Bariloche, is where you'll find spectacular panoramic views of the Andes and nearby lakes, hiking opportunities, and a mountain-top cafeteria. Hike or take the chairlift up for some great vistas.
Bariloche has a reputation as the chocolate hub of Argentina, and the plentiful shops and cafes in town offer enough variety to please the chocoholic. Frantom will whet your appetite for more treats, and you'll find plenty to savor at Mamushka, Rapa Nui, Abuela Goye, and Chocolates Tante Frida. The town even has a museum called Museo de Chocolate which has guided tours and exhibits all about the history of chocolate, along with a gift shop and cafe.
The Bariloche area has a wealth of outdoor activities providing scenic views. Visitors may choose to ride a horse, mountain bike, or hike. Adventurers may want to zipline through the woods on one of South America's longest trails, or paraglide on a 5,000 foot descent through the forested hills, among other activities.
Another option is to trek in a lovely local spot such as Refugio Frey, featuring lake, mountain, and forest landscapes. Cerro Leones Park is the spot to see ancient caves and rock art, and Cerro Lopez has a great panoramic view of Lake Nahuel Huapi and its surroundings.
The lakes have a number of water sport possibilities; one of the more popular excursions is the Cruce de Lagos, the lake crossing between Chile and Argentina, which also involves road crossings and usually takes two days. You'll have a chance to glimpse at waterfalls at Saltos de Petrohué, Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes, and wildlife. Take this photographic tour in reverse for the crossing from Bariloche to Puerto Montt, Chile.
If you feel like splurging, the renovated and luxurious Llao Llao is a classic resort. There's a golf course, boating, restaurants, and much to see in this luxurious, lodge-like setting with stone fireplaces and views of the lakes and Andes. Enter the spa for a massage, aromatherapy, or to take fitness classes from pilates to yoga.
AddressRP77, Río Negro, Argentina
Phone+54 294 442-9850
Bike the half-day, 37-mile (60 kilometer) Circuito Chico route around the lakes, where you'll also view the woods, mountains, and city in the beautiful backdrop. At Villa Llao Llao, a wonderful viewpoint includes the Llao Llao Resort, and you can take a peaceful walk in the woods at the Parque Municipal Llao Llao. If cycling isn't for you, you can usually see most of the tour by bus to enjoy the views.
The longer Circuito Grande, which spans 150 miles (240 kilometers), features even more natural beauty, like waterfalls coming from the Coacó and Blanco streams, rock formations at Valle Encantado, rivers, and more.
The Francisco P. Moreno Museum of Patagonia, which focuses on natural science, cultural anthropology, and regional history, has both permanent and temporary exhibits such as one on aboriginal history related to the Mapuche, Selknam, Tehuelche, and Yámana cultures. The museum is located in the east wing of the Centro Cívico, a building complex declared a National Historical Monument.
Another good choice is the Museo Paleontológico which educates visitors on the region's fossils, showing off an approximately 22 million year-old shark jaw, along with dinosaur skeletons and more.
Bariloche has numerous choices for going out on the town at night and dining to your heart's content. Eateries range from parillas (steak restaurants) to international cuisine from Germany and Mexico. Check out the many bars, brewpubs like Cervecería Mandela with daily happy hours, the Casino de Bariloche, and dance clubs offer a diversity of entertainment for all budgets.
AddressEl Bolsón, Río Negro, Argentina
Located 80 miles (129 kilometers) south of Bariloche in Argentina's Patagonia, the town of El Bolsón has not only the Quemquemtreu river running through it but is situated at the base of Mount Piltriquitrón. The area's bounty offers mountain scenery, sports, fishing, and a peaceful and restful vacation. The town also has one of South America's best craft fairs downtown at Plaza Pagano on Thursdays and Saturday. Experience artists creating everything from pottery to stained glass to jewelry and metal pieces while you drink a craft beer and listen to live music.