On our recent trip to Argentina, we were lucky enough to have time to visit several destinations spread out in different parts of this vast country. One of the destinations we wanted to visit was Bariloche in the Lake District (officially, San Carlos de Bariloche in the province of Río Negro).
Bariloche is known for its serene Alpine scenery, lakes, and its exquisite artisan chocolate – which we felt obliged to try out in as many variations as possible. It’s a small town located right by the lake Nahuel Huapi. In the winter, you can ski in the nearby resorts, but we visited in spring – a good time for some biking along the mountain roads.
Rental bikes are available e.g. at the starting point for Circuito Chico, a scenic bike route where we saw some absolutely stunning views of the lake’s turquoise and blue water, mountains, pine trees and ferociously blossoming yellow flowers, which I soon noticed I was allergic to.
Most of the photos in this post are from our nice 27 km bike ride. Families were enjoying lakeside picnics and the bravest children were wading in the water, which must have still been chilly. It was so pretty and quiet, I could have stayed right there…
As everywhere in Argentina, we encountered domestic tourists visiting the country’s attractions, apparently taking small breaks from their big city lives to explore – it was nice seeing people take an interest in what their own country has to offer, especially since there’s so much nature to see in Argentina.
In Bariloche, many hotels catered for honeymooners or couples on romantic getaways, offering rooms with private jacuzzis and lake views for competitive rates.
Rather confusingly, beautiful Bariloche with its Swiss cottage inspired buildings also has a reputation of having been a Nazi refuge… Another fact to confirm that paradise doesn’t really exist, is that arriving in Bariloche by long-haul bus we saw first some spectacular scenery for several hours (e.g. tiny El Bolsón looked tempting) and then as we approached our destination, we saw a sort of shanty town, reminding us that not everyone can afford to go on vacation like us.
It was quite strange to imagine those probably very hard-working people living like that while just a few kilometers away, in all directions, you had the most spectacular scenery, which they just couldn’t access. Not to mention the lavish hotels. The contrast was striking – though unfortunately not rare in this world. A little reality check.
Today, the small town of Bariloche has a rather touristy feel to it and we felt that we would get the most of our experience by staying in one of the peaceful hotels outside of town along the lakeside road, Bustillo. We found many good hotel deals to choose from since it wasn’t high season.
Before booking our hotel, we had read on various sites that walking along Bustillo would be impossible and so getting around would be difficult if we stayed at one of the hotels there. This was partly true, since Bustillo didn’t have any sidewalks and the traffic was rather busy. But we did do some walking.
We noticed that taxis were much cheaper in Bariloche than in some other parts of the country and a very good option for short travel in the area. We also took the local bus (you need to buy tickets in advance at the bus kiosk in the center of town).
A fun fact about Bustillo is that the road has no street numbers; instead, people talk of kilometer marks. For example, we got off the bus at km 18,3 to do our Circuito Chico bike ride.
We also met other foreigners biking around the same Circuito Chico route, some of them staying in accommodations or camping grounds further away from town than we were, closer to nature. One guy was rollerblading the bicycle route and some people were hiking along nature trails. The mood was sunny and cheerful.
Next up, I’ll be posting some views from Cerro Otto and Cerro Catedral, two summits we visited – we even did a little hike at Cerro Otto.
Bariloche with its lakes and mountains was stunning and such a relaxing place to visit. There’s probably a lot more we could have experienced in the area, but we were on a budget and couldn’t do everything imaginable. There’s no point in stressing about seeing absolutely everything everywhere you go, I’d rather enjoy what I do get to experience and make the most of it.
And I always say, Maybe next time!