Bariloche, otherwise known as San Carlos de Bariloche, is a small city in Argentina’s Patagonia region. It’ a twenty-two-hour bus journey (yes bus journeys in Argentina are looong!) south-west of the capital, Buenos Aires.
The perfect escape from the bustling capital, Bariloche offers the freshest of alpine air which carries with it the faint scent of chocolate as an added delight! Follow your nose and you’ll soon find the centre of town where the streets are lined with chocolate shops and chocolate cafés, each a wonderland in its own right.
Like an Aladdin’s cave of edible treasures, there’s an overwhelming choice of chocolate truffles, chocolate fountains, chocolate flakes and chocolate cakes. Some lie hidden within shiny packaging whilst others are left bare to entice your taste buds. The best part is that there are so many of these shops competing for your custom, that they all serve free samples to capture your interests. Don’t mind if we do!
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However, you don’t need to be a complete chocoholic to appreciate the true beauty of Bariloche. Situated at the footfall of the Andes and on the shore of the Nahuel Huapi lake, Bariloche’s scenic views are simply breathtaking. Like an enormous mirror, the still, serene lake water reflects the world so perfectly that it’s entirely indistinguishable from the scene itself.
The quaint wooden huts and log cabins which decorate the hilltops look as though they’ve been plucked straight from Switzerland, particularly against the skyline of snow-capped mountains. In the winter months, Bariloche transforms, serving as a popular gateway to the Cerro Catedral ski resort.
Where to Stay in Bariloche
Salta Road is no more than a couple of minutes walk away from the main street, San Martin, and is home to a number of good, affordable hostels for backpackers. Alternatively, Tronador offers quiet and relaxed accommodation by the beach which is far enough away from town to avoid the hustle and bustle but still easily accessible by bus. Some good options for accommodation in Bariloche are…
Patagonia Jazz Hostel – A cheap and cheerful choice, Patagonia Jazz offers dorm beds from $7 USD and privates from $20. There’s a nice atmosphere here and great views from the rooms.
HOPA-Home Patagonia Hostel & Bar – A friendly, colourful place with stylish installations and friendly staff. Breakfast is great, as are the facilities. As the name suggests, there’s a bar on site. Again, dorm beds start around $7 USD.
Fortaleza Hostel Bariloche is positioned a little way outside the main hub of Bariloche, however, this is good if you’re there for trekking, as it is closer to the start point of many of them. Its super-stylish wooden decor makes it a very popular choice. The breakfast is fantastic and the setting is simply divine! A little bit more expensive than the previous options, beds start around $10 USD.
Things to Do in Bariloche
Hire a mountain bike and cycle the Circuito Chico for some fresh air, exercise and incredible views around the lakes. The entire circuit takes around four hours to complete and there are plenty of good places to stop along the way including waterfalls, beaches and the famous Hotel Llao Llao.
Ride the Cable Car
For the very best views of Bariloche catch the bus to Campanario and take the cable car to the top of the mountain. It’s beautiful at any time of day but sunset is particularly spectacular.
The steak restaurant chain, El Boliche, is so popular that they’ve had to open several in Bariloche, all within close proximity of one another. The meat can be quite pricey but the side dishes are so large that you can easily share one between a table of four to keep the overall costs down.
Take a stroll down Mitre Street and visit as many chocolate shops as your sweet tooth desires. Then take a well-deserved break at a chocolate cafe where you can try authentic hot chocolate or a chocolate fondue!
Treat yourself, the chocolate here is amazing!
Try watersports on the lake
Get a closer look at the lakes by getting involved in some water sports. You can try anything from kayaking to white water rafting, depending on your budget.
Arts & Craft market
Pick up souvenirs from the local crafts market near the Main Square. There are hundreds of bargains to be had on knitted clothing, wooden ornaments and much more.
Getting to Bariloche:
- By Bus: Plenty of companies run sleeper coaches from surrounding cities to Bariloche bus station. Shop around for the best deals as fares vary quite considerably.
- By Train: The Train Patagonico runs from Viedma to Bariloche train station which is next to the bus station.
- By Plane: San Carlos de Bariloche airport caters for both domestic and international flights. Particularly during high season, there are several flights a day coming into this airport from various cities around South America.
Where to go Next?
- El Calafate: Further South in Patagonia, this city is used as a base to see the Perito Moreno ice glacier.
- Torres del Paine: Over the border in Chilean Patagonia, Puerto Natales is a National Park with astonishingly beautiful mountains, lakes and glaciers.
- Mendoza: North of Bariloche, Argentina’s wine region is known for its endless vineyards and world-famous wine.
- Buenos Aires: The Argentinian capital, can be reached in two hours by plane or twenty-two hours by bus and offers great shopping, crazy nightlife and an array of cultural hotspots.
Written by: Chiara Pelizzari is an English Graduate turned Advertising Executive who has taken a year out to travel the world. Check out her travel blog for more great info and inspiration for you South America adventure.