Nestled along the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Bariloche serves as a perfect side trip for those who have 3-4 days to spend after visiting or working in Buenos Aires. Along the northern reaches of Patagonia and positioned along the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche is a picturesque natural wonder with snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes perfect for easy-to-hard trekking/hiking or kayaking in the warmer months and skiing in the colder months. Given a well-developed tourist infrastructure, multitude of outdoor activities, great restaurants, and artisanal chocolateering, Bariloche is also perfect for a multi-generational jaunt in Argentina as it is easier on kids or grandparents than the more rugged parts of Patagonia (Torres del Paine, El Chalten, etc.). Given a history of immigrants from Germany, Austrian, Italy, and Switzerland from the late 19th century onwards, Bariloche often feels like a Bavarian architectural town with an Argentine twist.
Bariloche also has a strange dichotomy of history. Its natural beauty (specifically Bosque de Arranyes) is thought to have have served as a muse for Disney's production of Bambi. However, in its darker shadows of history, Bariloche served as a haven for escaping Nazi war criminals upon the fall of the Third Reich at the conclusion of World War II. As it still reckons with its past, Bariloche has also simultaneously begun to welcome the world. It is not only a popular destination for nature-loving portenos from Buenos Aires, but very popular among Brazilians, Europeans, Israelis, and increasingly Americans. Bariloche is situated in the middle of the famed Ruta 40 (the Argentine retort to America's Route 66) which traverses the entire Andean backbone of Western Argentina with the wine country of Mendoza to the north on Ruta 40 and the heart of Patagonia to the south on Ruta 40. For those who have even more time, this may be a road trip worth exploring while stopping on Bariloche along your journey. If your travels take you to Bariloche for a few days, we hope our recommendations help make planning your trip easier!
At the time of this writing, Uber does NOT operate in Bariloche. We had a phone that worked internationally so we found it most convenient to call the concierge at our hotel who gladly called a taxi to pick us up from either the hotel or from whichever location we were visiting back to the hotel.
If you plan to rent a car, please know that here it is EXTREMELY HARD to find an automatic transmission rental. Sadly, neither of us could comfortably drive a manual. #millenialamericanproblems
Remember that as a Southern Hemisphere destination, the seasons are opposite from the US. That being said Bariloche is a year-round destination depending on your interests. It is a very popular ski destination during its winter. Our trip was in November during its spring so we focused more on easy-to-medium hikes, eating, and soaking in the serene views.
WHERE TO STAY:
Charming Luxury Lodge http://charming-bariloche.com/en/
This is where we stayed for our 4 nights. The hotel has some spectacular views as it sits upon the bluffs overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi, access directly to the beach (playa) as well as its own heated pool! It truly is a luxury lodge with big rooms and bathrooms. The staff is wonderful and extremely helpful. In fact, Roberto at the front desk helped us with some tips regarding hikes. Every member of the front desk staff helped us with questions, called restaurants for reservations, and called us cabs whenever needed. They also provide free wifi and free breakfast with hot items which further adds to its value and allows you to power up before daily excursions/hiking! The location of the hotel is also great as it is near some great restaurants - Butterfly (very short walk), Las Morillas (very short walk), and La Salamandra Pulperia (walk or very short cab ride). The hotel location makes it easy to get into the city to try other restaurants/chocolate/bars or head out to the various hiking excursions/viewpoints such as Cerro Catedral, Cerro Campanario, Cerro Otto, or all the way out the Llao Llao Peninsula.
Llao Llao Hotel http://llaollao.com/en/
This was the one other hotel we strongly considered. This is an uber luxury hotel that has been listed by Conde Nast as one of the best hotels in Argentina and has hosted the Clintons. It is the ultimate resort with gorgeous views, golf courses, and spa treatments. During our time in Bariloche, it was actually completely rented out for an antique car convention so the decision was out of our hands. We did stop by for some coffee and snacks after our Cerro Llao Llao and Villa Tacul hike. The one negative of this hotel would be that it is very far from the city center and some of the better dining recommendations.
THINGS TO DO:
We had about 3.5 days in Bariloche. Here are some of the things we definitely enjoyed and recommend:
Cerro Llao Llao and Playa/Villa Tacul (easy-to-medium hike based on fitness level). If you do both items, it is about a 4.5 hour round trip based on how much time you relax. You can ask for a cab to drop you off near the Cerro Llao Llao trailhead which is near Puerto Panuelo and the Llao Llao Hotel Resort and Spa. Once you begin the trailhead, eventually the road forks where you may go left and ascend to a panaromic viewpoint of Cerro Llao Llao or go right and descend down to Playa/Villa Tacul. At the top of Cerro Llao Llao you have beautiful views of Cerro Lopez and Lagos Moreno and Nahuel Huapi. Since there is only one way back, you can come back to the point of the fork and explore the other option if you so desire. When you are done exploring both options, come back to the point of the fork one last time and reverse course back to the start of the trailhead. We found the views breathtaking and it certainly had less people than the more commercialized experience at Cerro Campanario. We found this resource particularly helpful. https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://trekking-bariloche.blogspot.com/2010/02/cerro-llao-llao-y-villa-tacul.html&prev=search
Cerro Campanario (chair-lift available to top which has a restaurant). this is a well-developed vista overlooking the surrounding mountains and lake district with gorgeous 360 views. A small cafe/restaurant on top offers refreshments and local brews and wines to boot. A chair-lift makes getting to the top easy for people of all ages. Elevation: about 1050 meters (~3400 feet)
Cerro Catedral (chair-lift available to top with a restaurant and hiking along the ridge once there). in the winter this is one of the top ski resorts in South America. In the summer it is a popular spot for trekkers, which is what we did. To save time and maximize our time with the views, we used a combination of two different chair-lifts (Cable Carril from the bottom of the mountain and then switched onto Cable Lynch) to get to the top ridge (Panaromica Ridge) where we explored the top ridge and grabbed some refreshments at Refugio Lynch. Please see the below diagram (green arrows). Elevation: about 2100 meters (~6900 feet)
Here are some of the things that we looked into but did not get a chance to do. Some of the readers may definitely enjoy them:
Refugio Frey (for the hardcore hikers, this is a full-day round-trip hike. its views may not necessarily be better than Cerro Catedral which has cable lift option but it is considered a very rewarding hike with hikers from all over the world following the trail. You may also use the Cerro Catedral ski lift option to gain some of the elevation and then subsequently hike to Refugio Frey. Since we did not do this, we suggest you research how to combine the Cerro Catedral ski lift and Refugio Frey hikes, if interested)
Cerro Otto - cable lift was down for maintenance when we were there. its views would not necessarily be better than Cerro Campanario or Cerro Catedral so we put this further down our list
Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Route of the Seven Lakes) - we did not have a rental car so missed out on doing this. We also thought it was better to do with a rental car then through an organized tour. Multiple beautiful lakes and viewpoints and small towns to enjoy on this mini road-trip.
Cerro Tronador - 36km hike and overnight camping required. We opted out as we weren't quite ready to give up our hotel bed.
Bosque del Arranyes - rumor has it that this forest was one of the inspirations behind Disney's Bambi
for dining we loved,
Butterfly Restaurant - perched right on the lake with great views, this is a spectacular tasting menu with wine pairing from Argentina's famous vineyards. It is considered one of the best restaurants in Bariloche. Reservations recommended. http://www.butterflypatagonia.com.ar/
Alto el Fuego - great steakhouse in cozy settings with very flavorful meats and BBQ with large portions. It is within the city itself. Reservations recommended. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312848-d3382861-Reviews-Alto_el_Fuego-San_Carlos_de_Bariloche_Province_of_Rio_Negro_Patagonia.html
Cerveceria Manush - great microbrew and gastropub. Walk-ins possible. http://www.cervezamanush.com.ar/
for dining we researched but didn't get a chance to sample,
La Salamandra Pulperia - highly-ranked restaurant specializing in Argentine cuisine and famous for its empanadas https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312848-d2519066-Reviews-La_Salamandra_Pulperia-San_Carlos_de_Bariloche_Province_of_Rio_Negro_Patagonia.html
for Bariloche's famous chocolate shops to indulge your sweet cravings, there are two we loved that had plenty of unique artisanal chocolates: