San Carlos de Bariloche, more commonly known as Bariloche, is often referred to as the Lake District of Argentina. Balanced on the shores of the huge, glacier lake, Nahuel Huapi, with the spine of the Andes mountains separating it from Chile Patagonia, Bariloche is one of the most stunning towns we have been to. Every way you look you are met with the most picturesque views.
The town is full of hiking shops, craft breweries, chocolateries, and restaurants and pubs serving hearty Argentinian food. If you have been to Zermatt in Switzerland and the Lake District in England, put the two images together in your head and you have Bariloche! If you haven't been to these places, just think cute, wooden ski chalets, meets sparkling lakes and lush mountainsides. You can spend a couple of days just enjoying the centre of town before you even start to consider all there is to do outside it!
We spent 5 nights here and definitely could have stayed longer, maybe indefinitely! It has the feeling of remote wilderness with endless hiking and nature to explore, yet also has everything you need to indulge in delicious food, enjoy a good night out or simply relax with a book lakeside.
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Bariloche weather - Best time of year to visit?
There isn't a bad time of year to visit Bariloche to be honest! The main question is what do you want to do in Bariloche?
Catedral Alta Patagonia is Argentina's biggest ski resort with its peak winter ski season running from July to September. If skiing isn't for you there is nothing to stop you marveling at the snowy peaks and enjoying the après-ski!
As the snow begins to melt and signs of spring start to appear hiking becomes the top activity. So from December to March, you can don your hiking boots and explore the local trails; Refugio Frey, Cerro Llao Llao, and Cerro Campanario to name a few.
January and February are the hottest months in Bariloche so now is the time to bronze on one of the many beautiful lake side beaches.
June and July are the coolest, wettest months so if you are visiting during these months be sure to pack a rain coat and bring layers. We are from England so are no strangers to the rain and assure you that you can still enjoy yourself in the rain! It will be dry inside the craft brewery 😉
Things to do in Bariloche
Before anyone hits the comments, no we did not do all of these. We visited in the summer so it would be extremely difficult to ski at 30oC! Try to do 1-7 in the summer & 2-8 in the winter 😁
The town sits just outside Nahuel Huapi National Park and there many single day or multi day hikes to take on. For information on the trails you can visit the rangers office for the national park, Intendencia Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, at San Martín 24, San Carlos de Bariloche.
There are also a few trails you can do closer to town. To get the information on these you need to go to the tourist information office instead, which is also in town. Secretaría de Turismo Bariloche which can be found at Libertad 56, R8400 San Carlos de Bariloche.
We opted to do two single day hikes. The first to Cerro Llao Llao which is an easier walk outside the national park. The walk can include an uphill section to a lookout where you will be rewarded with incredible views & you can even incorporate some lake side beach time and swimming if you desire. The second, more challenging hike to Refugio Frey, is in the national park. A really lovely walk, a lot of which is through forest but once again you are met with incredible views when you make it up to the refugio. I don't think you will be doing any swimming here though, unless you can brave the freezing melt waters in the glacier lake at the top!
2. Sample the craft beer
This region has been making craft beer for over a century but in recent years popularity has rocketed and there are now over 25 start-up breweries each producing a different product. The centre of town is lettered with taprooms showcasing an array of beers and ales to try and trust me there are some really good ones! We've included a couple of recommendations in the 'where to eat & drink in Bariloche' section below, but you can't really go wrong, pick a bar and a beer and give it a go!
3. Indulge in artisanal chocolate
"Beer and chocolate??" I hear you exclaim. I know, could it get any better?! I honestly didn't think Dave would ever agree to leave here!
In 1948, Italian couple Aldo and Ines Fenoglio, settled in Argentina following the war & established the chocolatery Rapa Nui. Using recipes and techniques their ancestors had used for generations they introduced delicious, artisanal chocolate to Bariloche. Rapa Nui still stands in the centre of town serving thousands of delighted chocolate lovers and over the years have been joined by many other chocolateries who now enjoy a slice of the action.
4. Cerro Campanario Chairlift
The 360 degree panoramic views from the top are stunning but for me the fun was in the chairlift itself. Approximately 10 minutes of sheer calm bliss whilst marvelling at the tunnel of trees on the way up and the breath-taking views of the lake and surrounding mountains on the way down. It costs $ 2,000 (£5/$6.20) per person.
You can also walk up and down on a small path to the left for free which takes about 30-40 minutes each way. We considered doing this but I'll be honest and say I had a hangover and so the chairlift was the favourable option!
To get there take the number 20 bus from Av. San Martín in the centre of town. They run every 20 minutes, the journey takes approximately 25 minutes and costs $ 100 (£0.25/$0.30). You need to use a SUBE card on the buses here, which is like a pre-paid travel card. Read more about SUBE cards on our Argentina overview page here. It is the same bus route which takes you to Cerro Llao Llao, so if you are short of time you could squeeze both into a day pretty easily.
5. Swim in the lakes
There are lots of swimming opportunities along the bus route 20 and in Villa Llao Llao (at the end of the bus route) so grab your swim wear and brave the cold, refreshing water.
6. German presence & Nazi history walking tour
If you want to hear more about the myths & stories surrounding the Nazi migration at the end of World War II the German Footprints & Nazi Presence walking tour is for you. They even talk you through the evidence that Hitler lived out his days in Bariloche.
Be warned it isn't a free walking tour, prices are currently $23(USD) per person.
7. Check out El Bolson
El Bolson, is a small, laid back town that has a vibrant hippy market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays. There are a handful of nice restaurants and craft beer bars which regularly host live music. Surrounded by some fantastic hiking opportunities, walking the main activity here but if that is too much for you, join the locals, grab a juice and chill in the park! Whilst El Bolson is doable on a day trip from Bariloche, as it is on the bus route to El Chalten, which was our next destination, we spent a couple of nights in El Bolson which you can read about here.
8. Skiing Mount Catedral
If you are visiting Bariloche in winter months it is time to hit the slopes. Catedral is the largest ski resort in Argentina & it's really easy to get to from Bariloche. To get the bus to Catedral you need to jump on the 55 bus which leaves from outside Manush & takes about half an hour. Click to see the up to date 55 bus schedule on the MiBus website.
We were there in summer so can't vouch for how good it is.
Where to stay in Bariloche
We stayed at Bariloche Hostel, it was stunning and we would highly recommend it. We had a beautiful private room with incredible views over the lake, breakfast was included and it was only a 5-10 minute walk from the main street (uphill on the way back though I’m afraid!). The owner was friendly and very knowledgeable about the area & the place was spotlessly clean.
Where to eat and drink in Bariloche
There is lots of choice when it comes to eating in Bariloche, suiting all budgets and tastes & as I have already mentioned there is no end of craft beer pubs to enjoy. Here are a few of the places we tried and would recommend.
A really popular brewery pub, so much so you may have to wait for a table, that serves a wide variety of its own beers and a comfort food menu of things like loaded fries, burgers & chicken wings.
Alto el Fuego Parilla
A small but bustling steak restaurant that is busy from 6pm to well after 11pm. Again, it is not uncommon to have to wait for a table but the wait is well worth it. Serving up delicious cuts of steak and varied side dishes I would highly recommend fitting this into your stay in Bariloche. The staff also know a thing or two about the wine and can recommend a fantastic accompaniment to your steak from their plentiful cellar.
Chimi Bar de Choris
We didn't eat here just sampled the brews but there is a food menu should you wish to partake. We enjoyed the beers here the best out of the breweries we tried in Bariloche.
More beer & pub food menu!
Really nice pub with gorgeous beer garden you can soak up the sun while enjoying the brews on offer. We didn't eat here but there is a nice menu of burgers and sandwiches.
Getting there and away
Unfortunately Bariloche is quite remote and unless you fly in it is going to be a long bus journey from wherever you are coming from.
We arrived in Bariloche on a bus from Mendoza. CATA & Tramat both service the route and it takes between 18-19 hours. You can look at the journeys on www.busbud.com but to take advantage of the blue chip rate (if you don't know what this is you can read more about it here) you'll want to book your bus at the bus station so you can pay in cash. It is a long journey but the buses in Argentina are really comfy, especially if you go for the Cama seats so with a book or a film to occupy you you'll survive the journey! Click here to read more about South America buses and the different seat options.
If you are working north and are travelling from El Chalten it's a similar story I am afraid. The journey is only serviced by one company called Marga Tasqa and the journey takes a whooping 24 hours! We continued onto El Chalten so did this journey from Bariloche and although it sounds bad it was actually okay. There are a number of stops on the journey where you can stretch your legs and buy food if you haven't brought any.
The town of El Bolson sits on the route between Bariloche and El Chalten so if you are stopping there it breaks up the journey slightly taking a couple of hours off the long route between the two.