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  • Writer's pictureDave and Becca

El Bolson Travel Blog | Is El Bolson, Argentina worth a stop?

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

El Bolson is a small Argentinian town in northern Patagonia. Similar to it’s larger neighbour, Bariloche (need inspiration for a trip to Bariloche?), it is set in the foothills of the Andes mountains. El Bolson has a laid-back vibe and it often referred to as a ‘hippie town’. El Bolson was put on the map as the “hippie town of Argentina” back in the late 60’s when there was the big hippie movement in the states & a large number of the cast & crew of Hair (a big hippie film), settled in El Bolson & started their own colony.

El Bolson today specialises in arts and crafts, hiking and craft beer! Your time here can be as action packed or as chilled out as you want. If you are trying to work out whether to add El Bolson to your Patagonia Itinerary this blog will tell you all you need to know about El Bolson, Patagonia.

El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina
El Bolson central green

Table of contents


1 - Best time to visit El Bolson

The best time to visit El Bolson is in the summer months from December to February. Though the shoulder months including November & March are still nice, but the chance of rainfall does start to increase. Throughout this time you can expect average daily highs of around 20°c, and night time lows are a little chilly, averaging below 10°c. December to February brings 3 or 4 rainy days on average each month, whereas the shoulder months have double that.

2 -Things to do in El Bolson

Shop for arts and crafts at Feria Artesanal (El Bolson Hippie market)

This chilled artisanal market in the heart of the town is definitely worth a stroll. Shop for souvenirs or just grab a juice or snack and sit on the grass and watch the world go by. Held every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from around 10am running into the evening. El Bolson has a very relaxed pace about life so don't expect all the stalls to be fully set up at 10am.

Grab an ice cream from Helados Jauja

Even without reading a "what to do in El Bolson guide" or "the best places to eat in El Bolson" you will come across Helados Jauja. El Bolson isn't very big, so you'll stumble across this place as it's the only ice cream shop in town with a humongous crowd outside. Don't worry about the queue though as it goes down quickly & the ice cream is definitely worth the wait. One bit of advice though, ice cream good, chocolate not so much!

Ice cream from Helados Jauja, El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina
Ice cream from Helados Jauja

El Bolson craft beer

El Bolson, along with Bariloche, is home to Argentina's craft beer scene, in the same way that Mendoza & Cafayate are for wine. Although Bariloche does have more breweries than El Bolson (around 25 to 15), if you consider that there are only 19,000 residents & 15 breweries that's one hell of a ratio!

El Bolson is considered Argentina's hop capital, so where better to try a cold one on a hot summers day that there. El Bolson's first brewery was opened back in 1890 by Otto Tipp, a German immigrant that taught the locals to grow hops. The extremely fertile mountainous region proved perfect for growing making the beer scene successful. Today El Bolson doesn't just have the memory of Otto Tipp, it also has Hostel Otto Tipp & Cerveceria Otto Tipp for his legacy.

If you are fancying trying something a little different, El Bolson is not just known for growing hops, it also has quite the name for itself growing fresh fruits like blackcurrant, raspberries & cherries. So why not combine the two? Cerveceria El Bolsón has some great fruity numbers if that is your thing.

Hike to El Cajon de Azul

Distance - 17.5Kn

Difficult - Moderately challenging

Total elevation gain - 767m

Time to allow- 6 hours (more if you are planning to have a swim).

The El Cajon de Azul, along the Rio Azul, is the most popular day hike in the area. It takes around 6 hours so well worth taking a packed lunch & plenty of water. There are several popular swimming spots along the route so pack your swimming gear too.

How to get the bus to El Cajon de Azul trailhead

The trailhead for the El Cajon de Azul hike is in the neighbouring town of Wharton. The bus between El Bolson & Wharton runs three times a day & I would recommend getting the 8am from Plaza Pagano. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Walton. The Oficina de Turismo El Bolsón Río Negro were very helpful in giving bus times so it would be worth dropping in there to get up to date times. As of December 2022 the buses left from Plaza Pagano at 8am, 1pm & 6:30pm.

Unfortunately the return bus times are not idea, so unless you are a really quick hiker, or you don't mind hanging around in Wharton after your walk, you may end up getting a taxi back. The current schedule departing from Wharton leaves at 9am, 2pm & 8pm & again takes 30 minutes.

The buses in El Bolson do not operate on the SUBE card system so make sure to take cash.

3 - Can you visit El Bolson on a daytrip from Bariloche?

The short answer is yes, but I probably wouldn't recommend it. The whole thing about El Bolson for me is slowing down & chilling out. Does grabbing a 2 hour bus from Bariloche to rush round the market, grab an ice cream from Helados Jauja & a quick pint of craft beer before jumping back on another 2 hour bus sound like a nice relaxed day to you? No, it doesn't to me either.

4 - Where to stay in El Bolson

So, we have to be honest here and say that we wouldn’t totally recommend where we stayed in El Bolson, but it is right in the centre of town and looking on Hostel World the majority of hostels are not. It was called Pousada Del Buscador and was certainly different to the other places we have stayed in Patagonia. When you read the cons to the hostel you will definitely question why anyone would even consider staying there despite it’s great location, but I promise they weren’t as bad as they sound, there just aren’t any other words I can use to describe it!


  • It is located in the centre of town

  • There is a kitchen you can use to prepare meals if you choose

  • There is a lovely balcony you can sit and enjoy your breakfast on looking out on to the mountains

  • The beds were comfy

  • The bathrooms were clean

  • And I've saved the best until last..... You’ll meet Estell from Friend’s doppelganger! As soon as we got to the room & out of earshot of the owner we both said, who does she remind you of?! Her whole persona is Estelle!


  • The place feels like you have stepped back in time. It is very dated, carpets are threadbare and the common areas are clutter to hell with ornaments and tat!

  • The bedrooms were also dated and the bedding had seen better days, but I am certain it was clean, just old.

  • The owner has 3 really hairy cats, and they go everywhere. If you are allergic to cat hair, do not stay here.

  • The owner & her son, smoke a lot too. Although they smoke outside on the terrace, you can definitely smell it inside.

It’s up to you! Would we stay again? Yes, possibly, as we love a central location. But we would definitely consider the hostels a little further out of town, there just wasn’t another option for our dates.

5 - Where to eat & drink in El Bolson

We had some nice food here & some that was okay but nothing overly special. These are the places we enjoyed the most.

Patio Cervecero

Really nice bar with big outdoor area, craft beer, really good burgers & more often than not, live music. Definitely the best and most popular bar in El Bolson.

Live music at Patio Cervecero, El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina
Live music at Patio Cervecero

La Republica

Another craft brewery that has a nice outdoor area and good food.

Café Delirante

Really good place to get coffee & either sit and admire the view of the mountains or they are happy for you to sit with a laptop so this is the perfect spot for a digital nomad.

Best coffee at Cafe Delirante in El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina. Perfect spot for a digital nomad
Cafe Delirante - perfect spot for a digital nomad

6 - How to get to & from El Bolson

From Bariloche

If you are coming from Bariloche in the north there is only one bus company that services the route, ‘Via Bariloche’. It runs extremely frequently, every day from 8am to 8.45pm. You can check the actual times using the busbud website, but you’ll have no problem getting a bus that suits you. The journey takes approximately 2 hours from the main bus terminal just outside of Bariloche and drops you right in the centre of El Bolson town.

If you are doing this journey in reverse, from El Bolson to Bariloche, the same bus company runs frequent buses in the other direction too. They start at 6.30am and run right up until 8.30pm.

From El Chalten

If you are travelling north, from El Chalten in the south, again there is only one company that services the route, ‘Marga Taqsa’ & sorry it’s a pretty long journey! It runs every day, leaving El Chalten at 8.20pm and arriving in El Bolson the following day at roughly 5.30pm. Yes, that’s over 21 hours! We did this journey in reverse and it was surprising okay. I would advise paying for the more comfortable cama seats (if you are unsure about South America bus seat classes you can read more about it here) & taking a packed lunch/dinner/breakfast (although it does stop a few times at places you could buy food).

Travelling from El Bolson to El Chalten, again it is Marga Tasqa that services the route. The bus leaves El Bolson at 2pm and arrives in El Chalten the next day at approximately 12.30pm. The bus stop leaving El Bolson is not the most obvious. It stops outside the travel agency office Grado 42, (Av. Belgrano 406, R8430 El Bolsón). We had already pre-booked our ticket in Bariloche but this travel agent sells tickets for this bus too.

In order to take advantage of the blue dollar rate it is important to pay for your bus tickets in cash (you can read more about the blue chip rate situation here) so by all means use busbud & the bus companies websites to check departure times and prices, but make sure you go to the bus station to book and pay with cash.

7 - Summary

Whilst I wouldn’t say El Bolson is an absolute must on your Patagonia itinerary, we thoroughly enjoyed chilling out for a couple of nights after a jam-packed schedule up until then. We can’t quite articulate why it was nice to chill there; maybe it was that there isn’t a huge amount to do so you didn’t feel pressured to see the “must sees”? Or maybe we picked up some chilled vibes from all the residual hippies from the hippie movement? Or maybe, it was the passive smoking 😉, there was often a sweet smell of smoke in the air!

Either way, if you are travelling long term & are planning to bus between Bariloche & El Chalten (read here for El Chalten travel inspiration) (25 hours) you are probably putting aside a month to tackle Patagonia and so can probably fit EL Bolson in for a night or two. It’s just nice to chill a little sometimes. El Bolson allows you to break that beast of a journey (well, knock 2 hours off anyway) & just chill. Go it won’t be life changing, but you won’t regret it.


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