Whether you like hiking, swimming, kayaking, skiing, running, or just admiring a stunning view of many lakes and mountains while sipping on a latte 1000 meters above sea level, Bariloche is one of those magical places that you will never forget and always long to revisit. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that Bariloche has several famous chocolate factory stores in town with some of Argentina’s best ice cream for those of you who are passionate about sweets.
Bariloche is nestled in Argentina’s northern Patagonia region at the foothills of the Andes making it a sports enthusiast’s paradise with its cool temperatures and its abundance of mountains, and lakes. I stayed in Bariloche for New Years 2017 and managed to fend off my hangover so that I could do a bit of mountain biking, hiking, and most importantly some chocolate tasting! The city is small with just over one hundred thousand people making it easy to navigate by foot.
Bariloche is situated within Nahuel Huapi National Park and lies along the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake. Bariloche is geared up for tourism, providing lots of affordable restaurants, hotels, hostels, souvenir shops, and chocolate shops. Prices in Argentina are higher than most places in South America due to inflation problems. However, if you stay in hostels, use the bus system, and do your cooking then you can make things affordable.
What To Do
Hike Cerro Campanario
If you’re pressed for time, then I would suggest doing this trek. It only takes 30 minutes to hike up, and the rewards out weigh the work by a long shot! When you reach the peak, you can enjoy the spectacular view of the surrounding lakes, and mountains. Cerro Campanario lookout is over 1000 meters above sea level and offers travelers the opportunity to see some of Patagonia’s most striking views. There is even an option to take the gondola if you are not keen on walking up. However, I recommend doing the hike because the path up has many different trees and flowers to see.
When you get to the top of the mountain, you can visit La Confitería a cafe that serves expresso type coffees, cakes, empanadas, and soft drinks. The cafe has a seated area that includes breathtaking views of the vicinity; Lake Nahuel Huapi.
Hike Cerro Otto
Just like Cerro Campanario this hike also has some great rewards at the peak. You can get a 360-degree view from over 1400 meters above sea level that includes Lake Nahuel Huapi, Lake Moreno, and Lake Gutiérrez. There is also a lot of activities to do like skiing, rock climbing, and you can walk through an obstacle course that is high up in the trees. When you get hungry, you can visit the revolving restaurant, or hit the cafe.
I did this hike on New Years Day, so everything was closed, including the gondola. Therefore, I had to hike up to the top of the mountain, but it was worth it. There are a few ways to go up the mountain. You can take the Gondola up for around $25 USD, drive up the logging road, or hike up the trail.
I hiked up the logging road due to safety issues. Unfortunately, sometimes thugs rob hikers along the main trail during the early hours of the morning when not many people are around. I started early to avoid the heat, but this made me vulnerable to thieves. If you hike up using the logging road, it is less likely that you will run into problems because there is a lot of local traffic along this route.
The hike up and back took me roughly 4.5 hours. This time frame included some stops along the way for pictures. The weather often changes in Bariloche, so I would suggest bringing a light jacket, sunscreen, and water.
Mountain Bike Circuito Chico(Around Lakes)
Mountain biking the Circuito Chico is a must do if you have the time! If you do the bike circuit early enough, you should be able to hike up Cerro Campanario afterward. The rental agency for biking Circuito Chico is only a 5-minute walk from the Cerro Campanario trail head. The public bus stops at both locations frequently.
The Circuito Chico biking route takes about 3 hours to complete, depending on how often you stop. There are so many things to see along the way, and many different places to eat or relax and enjoy a beer. I rented a bike from Circuito Chico Adventure for $25 USD. This company also rents out Kayaks.
The guides at the rental agency that I went with explained the best way to do the circuit in English, and they gave everybody in my group a map and showed us where the favorite stops where. The bike tour is self-guided. However people are sent out in groups of 5 or more, so it’s likely that you will make new friends along the way.
My gang started out with ten people, and eventually, we all separated because some people wanted to stop at different places and some were faster than others. I was pretty slow at the first because I haven’t used a bike with gears in over 20 years! Well, that’s not entirely true, I did have a modern bike last year when I went on “The Death Road Tour” last year in Bolivia, but that was all down hill so there was no need for shifting gears. And before Bolivia, I rode some horrible Mary Poppins style of bike in Myanmar.(Nightmare!)
Once I figured out how to use the gears on my bike, everything turned out right, plus I made friends with a few people who were doing the circuit at a slower more relaxed pace. We stopped at a lot of beautiful places, including the famous Hotel Llao-Llao located high on top of a hill surrounded by spectacular views of the entire region. Most of my group finished the circuit within 3 hours. After I had finished the biking loop, I hiked up Cerro Campanario.
How To Get There/Where To Stay
You can check the airfare prices of Argentina’s national carrier Aerolineas Argentina, or try one of the airline search engines like Skyscanner.com or Cheapflights.com. If you choose to take the bus, you can buy a ticket from one of the tour companies in town or at the central bus station. It was a hit and miss with buying bus tickets online for me. However, if you want to look online to compare prices, you can try OmniLíneas.com for bus prices.
Good Things To Know
Most of the attractions are all close to town, and buses to them run frequently. If you want to use the bus system, you will need a SUBE card. You must swipe this card each time you use the bus, and you can recharge it at a lot of small stores and kiosks in town. You can use the SUBE card in other cities in Argentina, so hang on to it if you plan to visit more places. Your hotel or hostel will be able to provide you with more information on this card.
Have you been to Bariloche? What did you like best about it? If you would like to share something with our readers, then please leave something in the comment section below.
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