Introduction to Bariloche
Nestled among the lakes and mountains of the stunningly beautiful Patagonian Lake District, Bariloche serves as a well-developed base for visitors coming to explore the surrounding countryside. Perched right on the edge of Lake Nahuel Huapi and backed by snowy peaks, you can easily forgive Bariloche’s slightly messy growth from small village to buzzing tourist center. There is an alpine feel to this region of the lakes, which is not just down to the terrain. During the 1800s many German and Swiss immigrants arrived from Chile and settled in the region. Their influence can still be plainly seen in the architecture, the family names and in the traditional German and Swiss produce that can be found here, such as smoked game (trout, venison and boar), cheeses, artisan beer and chocolate. All of which go down very well after a full day of fresh air out in the great outdoors.
For a slower pace head to the pretty little town of San Martin de los Andes, which sits quietly amidst the spectacular and grandiose landscape of the Patagonian Lake District, very close to Argentina’s border with Chile. Development in town has advanced at a much slower pace than in nearby Bariloche, and the town has a low-key charm with Swiss-style chalets and town houses. During winter the mountains around Bariloche offer some of the best skiing in the country and in mid-June to August the whole place is packed out with teenagers who come to enjoy the slopes and the lively après-ski nightlife. The rest of the year visitors to the region can hike, boat or bike surrounded by the beauty of the lakes and the National Park, which stretches all the way through the rolling countryside and Andean peaks to the Chilean border.
What not to miss in Bariloche
The Seven Lakes Route
The Seven Lakes Route takes you on one of the most spectacular road trips in Argentina, leading you through both the Nahuel Huapi and Lanin National Parks. If you’re driving, be prepared to make plenty of stops to admire the view as you pass azure lakes backed by ancient forests and soaring Andean peaks.
There is some great hiking to be enjoyed around Bariloche and the lakes. To help you make the most of it we’ve put together a hiking guide for you detailing all of our favorite routes.
Explore the lakes by kayak or cruise
Whether enjoying a beautiful Nahuel Huapi Lake cruise to Victoria Island and the ancient Arrayanes Forest or an adventurous kayaking excursion on the glistening waters of Lake Gutierrez; you’ll be surrounded by Bariloche’s outstanding scenery.
The Nahuel Huapi National Park
The Nahuel Huapi National Park is so big and beautiful that it’s best to spend a few days exploring it by car or to take a tour. You can visit the El Tronador glacier, hike, swim, go horseback riding or river rafting – just get out there!
In winter the mountains surrounding the lakes offer some of the best ski and snowboard slopes (mid-June to August) in the country and in summer the views from the top of the ski-lifts are breathtaking. Bariloche has 2 ski resorts: one near Bariloche (Cerro Cathedral) one near San Martin de los Andes (Chapelco).
From regular chocolate bars to chocolates stuffed with all kinds of nuts, grains and fruits; Bariloche is a chocoholic’s paradise! The majority of Bariloche’s chocolate shops are located in the center along Calle Mitre.
Lake crossing to Chile
This is one of the most popular excursions in Bariloche and a pleasant way to cross the border to Chile in case you are heading that way. The tour lasts one full day, or two (in case you decide to spend the night in Peulla) and crosses the Andes alternating bus trips with ship voyages, and making several stops at some of the best viewpoints.
What you need to know
When to go
The Lake District can be visited all year round, but of course when you choose to visit depends very much on your interests. Spring, summer and fall are the domain of the hikers, when blue skies, sunshine and mountain breezes make the whole area perfect for exploring. Be it an easy summer stroll or a full-on hike, the best time to visit is between September and May. If you are a dedicated snow baby and want nothing more than to hit the slopes of Patagonia’s winter wonderland, then the Southern Hemisphere winter from June to August is the opportune time.
How to get there
Flights at Bariloche’s Teniente Luis Candelaria airport arrive daily from Buenos Aires, and also other local cities, such as Esquel, El Calafate, Trelew and Mendoza City. Direct flights also connect Bariloche with Santiago de Chile.
Getting to San Martín de los Andes by airplane is possible by flying from Buenos Aires to the Aviador Carlos Campos airport in Chapelco.
Buses reach all sites in North Patagonia. The ride from Buenos Aires takes between 20 and 24 hours, and there is a wide range of prices and service quality.
Where to stay
Being one of the first and most important tourist sites in the country, Bariloche offers a wide range of possibilities in lodging. From five star hotels, to beautiful B&Bs by the lake, or very comfortable cabins by the Cerro Catedral resort.
San Martín de los Andes, in a smaller scale, has also a very complete lodging proposal in town, or by the Chapelco ski resort.
In Villa La Angostura, cabins, aparthotels and B&Bs are the most frequent type of lodging. This has much to do with the village’s peaceful atmosphere.
The best way to move around this region is by car or 4×4 vans. This will allow you to choose your own routes and stop when and wherever you wish. Several car rental outlets are available in Bariloche, San Martín and La Angostura.
Tour shuttles are also a good option to know the highlights around one area, while regular buses are OK to move from one place to another.
Within the cities, walking is the best option to move about.