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Bariloche, Argentina is located in the Rio Negro Province, the same region as Argentina’s Patagonia. Bariloche sits along the banks of the Nahuel Huapi Lake, which is divided in half by the Rio Negro and Neuquen provinces. It is a nature lover’s paradise. From skiing in the winter, to hiking and biking in the summer, Bariloche has everything. It’s a great spot to base yourself for more adventures around the area. While possibilities are endless around these parts, I will attempt to offer several suggestions if you’re wondering what to do.
I will divide this blog post into activities within the town of Bariloche, activities just outside of Bariloche, and activities slightly further afield.
Bariloche, Argentina – A Quick Glance
- Bariloche rests along the banks of the Nahuel Huapi Lake.
- The architecture around Bariloche feels very Swiss and European.
- The Bariloche city center is full of hotels, guest houses and shops- a very touristy vibe.
- Most of the people you see walking around Bariloche are international and domestic tourists.
- Bariloche is extremely hilly- like a miniature San Francisco.
- Download the Patagonia maps on Maps.me (very useful for all trails around here).
Transportation Around Bariloche, Argentina
In Bariloche, you can use the same SUBE card for the local buses as you can in Buenos Aires. However, I’ve heard that it is difficult to purchase the card here, as they have a much smaller allotment for foreigners. Make sure to bring your SUBE card with you from Buenos Aires. You can recharge it in the kiosks.
There are several buses that go from the city center to the mountains and surrounding areas. However, the schedules change often, as do the correct bus stops. Definitely ask around before relying on what Google says.
You can check Bariloche city bus schedules here. I’ll be honest though, the website doesn’t make it easy to decipher. Try your best, and ask around. But from what I noticed, the majority of the buses left from the stop directly across the street from Manush (a wonderful craft beer restaurant), or right in front of the park on Avenida San Martin.
The bus terminal in Bariloche sits on the east edge of town. You can purchase tickets there for buses headed to different cities, however, you can also purchase tickets at Via Bariloche offices in the city center. That way you can avoid going all the way to the station. This office is much more convenient.
Bariloche, Argentina Activities
There are a number of available walking tours around Bariloche, which are supposed to be fantastic and full of information; tours include The German Influence & Nazi Presence, Ten Secrets, Indigenous People’s Tour, etc.
Chocolate Museum Tour
Just west of the main town center, you can find the Havanna museum. This was once the Fenoglio Family chocolate factory until Havanna purchased it many decades ago. The tours are only in Spanish and cost 400 pesos to enter. They do not have a set schedule, but begin whenever more people arrive, enough to form a group. You can get a coffee and an alfajor in the cafeteria while you wait. Do the tour if you really love Havanna or chocolate, but I personally think it’s something you can skip. The staff was rude.
The center of town is technically here at the Centro Civico Bariloche. There is a statue in the center of the plaza and hundreds of painted bandanas on the ground, representing the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. The very Swiss-inspired triangle arches over the street can be seen on one side. You can also find several tourist information booths and offices surrounding the square.
Just one street above the main plaza is a large park. Inside the park you can easily see two large tents set up. Inside those tents you can find artisan markets, with several goods from hand carved wooden utensils to knitted scarves to raspberry jam.
Walk Along the Coast of Bariloche, Argentina
The Lago Nahuel Huapi is absolutely stunning and definitely deserves your attention. There is a walkway all along the coastline to take in all the views. You can also stop to see the “BARILOCHE” sign right on the water, as well as the path that goes right into the water. Just next to the Bariloche sign, you’ll find a small rocky beach.
Go to Church
Truthfully, I don’t feel connected to churches and don’t often go to them. However, I decided to have a quick look at the Cathedral Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi here in Bariloche, Argentina, and I was pretty impressed. It was not as ostentatious as many Catholic churches are. It was large but modest; stone brick walls and beautiful stained glass windows. The lawn next to it is also great to sit and admire the lake.
Bariloche, Argentina is full of great restaurants so you will definitely eat poorly here. Just keep in mind that because the south of Argentina is much more expensive than the rest of the country, you should expect prices to be a big higher than you’re used to in BA and other cities. Here are a few of my favs:
This restaurant is right along the water. There is an outdoor patio, as well as an indoor room with windows for walls, perfect for viewing the sun setting over Lago Nahuel Huapi. The food had decent prices in comparison to the rest of Bariloche; you won’t go broke trying to have dinner with a view.
El Boliche de Alberto
This is easily the most well known steak house in the city. People line up early to get a good spot. They open at 8pm, but I recommend arriving at 7:30pm to get in line, which grows long pretty quickly. Once you get seated, the chefs will come around to take your meat order, which is great if you have specific questions about the meats. There are usually two meat options available: Chico & Grande. A normal person is just fine to order the chico. Once the chefs take the orders, they had to the grills to begin cooking. Then the waiters come around to take drink orders. Side dishes are not included in the price of the meat, but can be ordered separately: mashed potatoes, french fries, salad. Each portion is generous.
Restaurante Huang Ji Zhong Chang Kuan
This is probably the best Chinese food I’ve had in all of Argentina, which is surprisingly bad in the rest of the country. It seems to be a foreign haven. When you enter, it is like stepping out of Argentina, and stepping into the United Nations lunch room. The food is delicious and authentic, the people working here are so kind, and the prices are reasonable.
This is a major hot spot for visitors to Bariloche. The food is good, the atmosphere is fun, and the beer is fantastic. There are a ton of craft beer places all around the city, but it’s easy to see why this one is so well known. If you go alone, take a seat at the bar, and just waited to be greeted by other solo travelers. It’s very social and easy to meet people here.
Belakay Resto Bar
This is a small corner cafe in the center of town. While it’s not particularly unique to many other cafes, it is super cozy. The people working there are nice, the food good, and the vibes pleasant. It’s a great place to grab a coffee and read your book or people watch out the window. It’s off the main streets so it is not overly busy.
Where to stay in the center of Bariloche
This hostel is literally right next to Lago Nahuel Huapi. The views are ridiculously nice. There is a patio and bar that extends over the water so you can enjoy a craft beer and burger as the sun goes down over the lake. Heavenly experience.
While this hostel is not in the center of town, it is directly across the street from the bus terminal. If you arrive late, or have a really early bus to catch, this is the absolute beset place to stay. The facilities are clean and you get a great view of the lake.
Selina Hostel is reliable. The prices may be a bit higher but the facilities are incredibly nice, and it is easy to meet people and make friends here, not to mention the free breakfast, swimming pool, and fitness center.
Hospedaje Penthouse 1004
This hostel has easily the best view in all of Bariloche, as it is a very tall building so you can see everything. They serve free breakfast as well. It is a popular destination with backpackers and travelers, so make sure to book as soon as possible.
Activities Outside of Bariloche and How to Get There
This is one of the most popular and well known hikes, and it’s easy to see why. You can do this as a day hike, or you can even spend the night up top. If you bring a tent, no reservation is required. If you want to sleep in the refugio, it’s best to book in advance as it fills up pretty quickly.
The main hike starts in the parking lot at Villa Catedral, which you can reach by taking bus 55 from the bus stop in the center of town, directly across the street from Manush. The schedule seems to be a little erratic though. Supposedly it comes every 30 minutes, though I waited an hour before sharing a taxi with other travelers I had met at the bus stop. Word is, the bus came 5 minutes later. The bus stop is a small hut near the entrance to the parking lot.
The hike up to Refugio Frey from Villa Catedral takes about 3 hours, the first half giving you amazing views of Lake Gutierrez. If you go back down the same way, it takes about 2 hours. If you prefer not to come back down the same way, you can follow the path on the side of the Laguna Toncheck up top, and then make your way around the back to Cerro Catedral.
An alternate path to Refugio Frey: Take bus 50 to Villa Coihues, and get off when you see Lago Gutierrez. Walk 30 minutes down a dirt road, and then follow the well marked signs up to Refugio Frey. You’ll pass by the Playa Muñoz as well. If you go this way, you can also make a quick stop at the Cascada de los Duendes and the Mirador Lago Gutierrez. It will be obvious how to find these additional spots as the area is very well marked.
Stupa de la Iluminacion
If you’re needing a leisurely, day while in Bariloche, Argentina, but still want to get out into nature, this is the perfect plan. It’s not far from the city, it’s easy to reach, but you’ll still find yourself alone in the forest, with a stupa and prayer flags to keep you company. I stayed for an hour to enjoy the view and didn’t see a single other person until I was about to leave.
Getting here is easy. Take bus 50 or 51 from the city center. Get off at the stop Avenida de Los Pioneros – Nilpi. It’s just 1-2 stops after the Cerro Otto Teleferico stop. Follow the dirt road that leads uphill. You’ll zigzag back and forth along this main road as you make your way up. It only takes about 35 minutes to reach the Stupa. I recommend using Google Maps or Maps to follow along. me as you. There are many other smaller streets that branch off the main road, and could cause some confusion. I had no problem getting reception in the area.
The Circuito Chico is a 27km loop just northwest of Bariloche, Argentina. You can walk, bike, or drive it. If you decide to walk, be prepared for a very long day. Also, you’ll be walking along the road which can get busy.
If you choose to bike, then I suggest the Cordillera Bike Rentals & Tours. It is right at the start of the Circuit Chico loop. You can get there by taking taking bus 20 from the center of town to km 18. The bike rental is 5000 pesos for the day. They are open from 10am to 6pm, but you need to return the bike by 5:30. I suggest getting there once they open to give yourself the entire day on the loop without stress.
If you prefer to go by car, you have a lot more freedom to make stops when you want. You can hire a driver, tour, or rent a car. Luckily I made a friend who had rented a car, so a few of us piled in and did the loop on our own.
This is a very easy (but kinda steep) 30 minute hike up. You can also take the chairlift up. Getting there is easy by bus- just take bus 10 or 20 up to km 17.5 Campanario. The bus stops near the start of the trail. If you go by car, put “Aerosilla Cerro Campanario” into your Google Maps. You can get back down the same way- hike or chairlift.
At the top you are treated to absolutely incredible views of several lakes all around you. There is also a cafe up top, so enjoy your coffee while you take in the views.
Llao Llao Hotel
This is a 5-star luxury hotel that sits on a large plot of land along Circuito. Even if you don’t stay here, you can stop off to have a drink in the lobby and be fancy for a few minutes. While it is a 5-star hotel, the prices are not as bad as a you might expect. Of course it is more expensive than the rest of the housing in the area, but not so bad if it’s a special occasion. If you’re looking to splurge while in Bariloche, Argentina, make a booking here.
Sendero de los Arrayanes/Cerro Llao Llao
This is a great hike that is not too challenging. It makes its way around a big loop, offering views of multiple sides of Lago Nahuel Huapi- beaches, and rocky cliffs. As you reach the start of the climb to Cerro Llao Llao, things start to get steeper. However, I would still say the hike is at a beginner to intermediate level hike. It’s not that challenging, in my opinion.
Cerveceria Patagonia 24.7
It goes without saying that this stop is an absolute must if you’re making your way around the Circuito Chico. This Patagonia Brewery is one of the most famous in the entire country, and arguably has the best views of any brewery ever. There is a restaurant, a beer tent, a garden growing hops, a merch shop and some fantastic seating with lake views out back. They offer tours as well as a dome experience. However, you can also just show up and have a beer on tap.
Colonia Suiza is an old Swiss inspired town. You can take bus 10 to get here. But be aware that the bus 10 schedule is very sporadic and comes every 2 hours, so if you miss the bus, you’ll be waiting a while for the next one. It takes about one hour each way between Colonia Suiza and Bariloche. In the end, I ran out of time and didn’t go here. But truthfully, it was low on my list as I hadn’t heard great things about it. I heard it was a bit cheesy and not worth it. If you’re passing by, stop and take a look. But if you’re short on time, then maybe cut this one out.
You can take a boat trip on a catamaran into the Lago Nahuel Huapi to the Isla Victoria, where you can also find the Arrayanes Forest. For more info, head to the Cau Cau office in the center of town. There are two trips per day. Check with Cau Cau for the schedule, as it changes per season. The trip lasts around 4-5 hours, and leaves from the Pañuelo Port. The basic cost of the trip is 10,400 pesos. However, the price will increase easily by adding additional services such as transport from Bariloche to Puerto Pañuelo (2300 pesos), or VIP service (5700 pesos). Snacks will be served depending on which service you have paid for.
Where to stay just outside of Bariloche
If you’re looking for some luxury and prestige, the obvious choice is the famous Llao Llao Hotel.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit more modest around the Circuito Chico, here are a few great places:
This is a beautiful vacation home with beautiful lake front views and a wrap-around patio. It’s off the main road so you should have a car if you decide to stay here.
These cabins feel like they are right in the center of the forest. There is free private parking here, as well as a full kitchen, living room, and dining room.
Cabaña Patagonica de la laguna
This chalet is beautiful in both summer and winter seasons. The living area is cozy and even has a fire place for the winter. There are beautiful views of the lake, a fully equipped kitchen, as well as a patio with a bbq. If you’re looking for peace and relaxation, this is the place.
Places to Visit Outside of Bariloche, Argentina
El Bolson is a small town about 2 hours south of Bariloche. The bus to get there (via Via Bariloche) costs 1250 pesos. The bus terminal in El Bolson is right in the center of town (Onelli & Gral. Roca). It’s not a very big place so you will most likely be able to walk to your accommodation from there.
There is a market in the center of town (around Plaza Pagano) every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Though it is best on Sundays when it tends to be fuller with stalls, food trucks, and live music.
There are quite a few restaurants and craft beer places in the center, along Av. San Martin and its side streets.
You could probably visit El Bolson as a day trip if you come early, and only want to see the town. If you do want to stay longer, however, there are several sleeping options. I stayed in an eco-hostel called Earthship where they have community vegan dinners (1500 pesos), and breakfast is included. I highly recommend this hostel as it has a super relaxed vibe, and a lovely garden full of hammocks. The food every night was incredible.
There is also a great hike called Cajon del Azul. It’s about 20 minutes from the center of town. You can take the Wharton bus to the base of the hike, though you should ask about the schedule once you get there, since the times seem to change often. If you drive there, there is a donation based parking lot. It takes about 3 hours to reach the peak. About a 15 minute walk from the parking lot along the trail, you’ll see a fantastic brewery called Mystic Fog. It’s owned by a family from Los Angeles, but have been in the area since the 90’s. Have a beer next to the river.
San Martin de los Andes
San Martin de los Andes is about 3.5 hours north of Bariloche along Ruta 40. The town has a very cozy mountain feel to it. There are a ton of fantastic restaurants, cafes, and even food trucks with a lake front view. The center of town has an artisan market. If you’re looking to do some hiking, check out Cerro Colorado. It is about a 30 minute drive down dirt roads from San Martin de los Andes. From the parking “lot” (a dirt patch), it’s 3 hours to the peak, and another 1.5 hours coming down.
About 12km more down the road, you can find the Playa Yuco. It is a small peninsula that is actually 5 smaller beaches, aptly labeled 1 (Turquesa), 2, 3, 4, & 5. Some are sandy, some are rocky, but all are beautiful. There is a food truck near beach 2 where you can get some snacks and/or beer.
Out of all the surrounding towns (Villa La Angostura, Bariloche, El Bolsón), San Martin de los Andes is easily my favorite.
I stayed just ouside of town in an A-frame cabin with a shared kitchen and bathroom. The owner of the cabin was very kind, and it came with a lovely cat.
Ruta de 7 Lagos
If you head to San Martin de los Andes, I highly suggest renting a car to get there from Bariloche.
The section of the road along Ruta 40 between Villa La Angostura and San Martin de los Andes is called “Ruta de los 7 Lagos,” for the seven lakes you’ll pass by. However, if you have a car, you’ll have a bit more freedom to see even more than just those 7 lakes. While officially there are 7, there are actually about 11. It’s possible to do it all in one day, but you might be rushing it. Without stops, it’s 3.5 hours between San Martin de los Andes and Bariloche.
I suggest spending at least 1-2 nights in San Martin before turning around to drive the route back. We made stops at the first 3 lakes, and Villa La Angostura on the way up. Once it started getting late, we drove directly to San Martin for dinner. Two days later on our way back down to Bariloche, we stopped at all the lakes we missed on the first day. I preferred to do it this way so I didn’t feel rushed to see them all in one day.
The 7 “official” lakes are:
- Lago Nahuel Huapi
- Lago Correntoso
- Lago Espejo Grande
- Lago Escondido
- Lago Villarino
- Lago Falkner
- Lago Machónico
The other spots to stop and see:
- Lago Traful
- Lago Espejo Chico
- Lago Hermoso
- La Cascada Vullignanco
- Lago Lácar
- Many many other ‘miradores’
The route is truly stunning. Each lake is unique and has something new to offer. The lake district is one of the most beautiful parts of Patagonia, and you would be remiss to not see it.
Final Thoughts on Bariloche, Argentina
While I spent just two weeks in the areas surrounding Bariloche, Argentina, you could easily spend two years and still not have seen all the beauty and nature there is to see. The biking, hiking, walking, beer and wine drinking possibilities are endless in Bariloche, Argentina.
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