Bariloche City Travel Tips, Attractions & More
Bariloche. The city of Andean Lakes… a city so distinctly alpine that it could easily be mistaken for a Swiss town somewhere in the Alps, what with its rolling green slopes, its snow-capped mountain tops, its quaint Swiss-style architecture, and even its chocolate shops…
Established in the late 1800s by German and German-speaking immigrants from Europe, Bariloche is a picturesque city set between the foothills of the mighty Andes and the shores of deep blue Nahuel Huapi Lake and famous not only for its beautiful sights but also for its winter sports attractions. It has been long been a major watering hole for skiers, mountaineers, and tourists for decades now. Today, it continues to be one of the most visited places in Argentina.
City Logistics – Getting Around Bariloche
As a major tourism hub, the city of Bariloche is easily accessible from other cities in Argentina and the neighboring country of Chile. Depending on your budget, time, and sense of adventure, you can go into the city by plane, by car, by bus, by train, or by bus.
The San Carlos de Bariloche International Airport receives flights from Buenos Aires, El Calafate, Mar del Plata, Mendoza, and Cordoba daily so going into the city by plane is your best alternative, especially if you book your tickets in advance to get them for cheaper. From there, you can grab a taxi or catch a public bus to take you into the city.
From Buenos Aires, it takes from 17 to 22 hours to drive to Bariloche. If you’re driving with other adults, you can take turns driving and easily get there before lunch the next day. Otherwise, you can drive less than 15 hours to the city of Neuguen, stay there for the night, and then continue on to Bariloche the next day.
Buses to Bariloche takes about 19-22 hours from Buenos Aires and about 6-8 hours from Chile. There are several bus companies that provide this service, including Via Bariloche and El Crucero del Norte. These companies have different bus types with different seating options (Super cama, cama, and semi-cama), serve meals and drinks to their passengers, and takes you all the way to the city’s Terminal de Omnibus.
There is only one train, operated by the Tren Patagonico company, coming into Bariloche every week and it’s from Viedma, a city that’s all the way on the opposite side of the region. This train leaves Viedma every Friday at 1800 and offers bunk beds for $45 each or a reclining seat for $23 each, one way.
If you’re coming in from Chile, you’d probably want to seriously consider taking the $230 Cruce Andino boat-and-bus trip from the Chilean Lake District. This trip takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, includes lunch, and takes its passengers through the most scenic trip of their lives.
Getting around the city is also quite easy. Once you’re in the city center, it’s best to go around on foot to explore the shops and buildings there. Outside the city center is another story. If you want to see the city’s main attractions, which include the beaches, ski areas, and lakes of the Nahuel Huapi National Park, you’re going to have to take public transportation, going on bus tours, or rent a car. In fact, while the city’s bus system is reliable and cheap, most visitors in Baraloche rent cars – it’s faster and more efficient. The airport has kiosks for the biggest and most trusted car rental agencies – Budget, Dollar, Avis, and Hertz. Additionally, there are travel agency offices in the city center to help you with your transportation needs.
Weather and Backpack Essentials for Bariloche
Bariloche is a famous winter and summer destination. Tourists from the Northern Hemisphere flock here during their summer vacation for some quality ski time on the slopes or during their winter holidays for some fun in the sun.
As crowded as the city would be during these two seasons, summer and winter are the best times to visit. Just book your tickets and accommodations in advance!
The city has the same cool climate as the Mediterranean, with very distinct seasons, while in the surrounding mountains is alpine subpolar oceanic. Summers (December to March) in Bariloche are dry, sunny, and windy, with temperatures ranging from 79 °F (26 °C) to a brisk 36 °F (2 °C) while winter months are wet and snowy, with temperatures ranging from 46 °F (8 °C) to below freezing point at 14 °F (-10 °C).
If you’re visiting during the summertime, bring a light sweater for your day excursions and a thicker one and a scarf for the cooler nights. People love to sunbathe here during the summer months so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit with you, even if you can’t swim since the lake water is cold all year ‘round.
If you’re coming in the wintertime, then it’s all about layers. Since the temperature can get to below freezing, make sure you bring protection for your head, hands, and feet. Winter jackets, waterproof if you’re planning on skiing, gloves, beanies, earmuffs, thick socks, and thermals are recommended.
Where to Stay in Bariloche?
As a major tourist destination, Bariloche has a long string of hotels, many of which are fairly affordable. The trick is to make reservations months in advance, especially if you’re visiting during the high seasons.
For budget hotels, your best options are Marcopolo Inn Bariloche, Hostel El Gaucho, Hostel 41 Below, Hostel Achalay, and Albergue Condor del los Andes. All five of these establishments come highly recommended and offer cheap beds and rooms for $50 or less a night.
For mid-range options, the top favorites are Hotel Tirol, Ski Sur Apartments, Hotel Tres Reyes, and Peninsula Petit Hotel (which also rent out beds for $30 a night). These rent out rooms for $75 – $150 a night and are best if you’re vacationing with kids.
For a splurge, Hotel Tunquelen, Hotel Llao Llao, Charming Luxury Lodge & Private Spa, Aldebaran Hotel & Spa, Estancia Peuma Hue, and El Casco Art Hotel, which all have gotten raving reviews, are the most luxurious hotels in the city.
Top Things to Do
There’s a seemingly infinite list of things you can do and experience in Bariloche. Of course, the city center itself you can see for less than a day; but outside of town is a whole different story. The possibilities there are endless! From the beautiful alpine forests and glistening white slopes to the pristine lakes and rushing waterfalls, the area surrounding the city is a paradise waiting to be discovered.
Before you rush out into the beckoning Alpine wilderness, however, take time to explore the city. See its quaint Swiss-type architecture best represented by some of its notable structures – the San Carlos de Bariloche Cathedral, the Llao Llao Hotel, and the City Hall. Then learn more about the history of the region by visiting the Museum of Patagonia or taking a ride on their Historical Steam Train that was built in the early 1900s. During your explorations, stop at one of the many chocolate shops, like Mamuschka and La Abuela Goye, and sample the delicious goodies that the city takes pride on. And since Bariloche is home to advance scientific and technological research, visit the research facility of Centro Atómico Bariloche where they do a lot of research in the physical sciences.
When you’ve had your fill of the city, it’s time to head out to spend some time in the great outdoors. Here are the top things you can see around Bariloche:
Lake Nahuel Huapi stays cold all year long but its beaches are so beautiful that they’re hard to resist. Head to Playa Bonita or Villa Tacul for some quality time with your friends and family on the beach or have a lovely sailing expedition in its deep blue waters.
Paragliding, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, rafting, and trekking are just some of the things you can do in the Nahuel Huapi National Park. This stunning park is what really draws tourists into Bariloche and it is worth travelling thousands of miles for.
Hit the slopes at Cerro Catedral where you will find the biggest ski center in the continent, only 12 miles away from the city. It’s only known as one of the best rock climbing area in South America.
If you hike or take the ski lifts for $10 up to Cerro Campanario, you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Alpine lakes and the neighboring mountains.
Treat yourself to stunning and relaxing panoramas of the park and a delicious dinner at the rotating restaurant at Cerro Otto.
While there, really experience the Alpine wilderness by taking the 1-2 trekking route of Frey, the best and possibly most scenic route in the area. Start your journey at Refugio Frey, located at Cerro Catedral, and end it at Refugio Jakob, crossing small streams and valleys along the way.
Visit the picturesque Swiss-style village of Colonia Suiza 24 kms away from the city. Nearby are great hikes to the Cerro Lopez and Laguna Negra and the Cementero de Montanes.
An extinct stratovolcano sits in the southern Andes near Bariloche and it is flanked by 8 glaciers, including the black glacier Ventisquero Negro. The volcano, Cerro Tronador, is popular to mountaineers and a fantastic sight to see.
Take an all-day bus tour of Los Siete Lagos, the seven gorgeous turquoise lakes near the city, and the fertile lowlands of the Pampas.
Slow down and cruise along Lago Nahuel Huapi for a day to see the lake’s beautiful shoreline and surrounding landscapes, passing through an Argentine rainforest along the way with Cruises Cruce de Lagos. They also offer cruises along the jade green Lago Frias.
Get on a boat to El Bosque de Arrayanes where you will find yourself in a surreal experience surrounded by a forest of orange-colored trees so rare they only grow in one other island more than 18,000-km away in Japan.
Explore Argentina’s wild frontier on horseback with Carol Jones. She offers 2-10-day rides in the amazing backcountry, during which you will witness the most spectacular shows of nature and camp out in the wilderness like proper gauchos.
Lastly, visit the abandoned and dilapidated buildings used by Austrian scientist Ronaldo Richter as his lab and reactors for his mad and unsuccessful nuclear project in the 50s. The site is located on Isla Hoemul, a boat ride away.
Explore the popular route of Circuito Chico on foot or by bike. You will be treated to one of the most scenic hikes of your life. Most of the trail runs close to the Alpine lakes and amazing viewpoints and passes by restaurants and inns where you can take a respite. This free route is 60 km long so if you’re planning on travelling part of it by foot, make sure you’re bringing supplies like water and snacks.
Much like with many tourist destinations, the city of Bariloche has a number of shopping options. For a truly Bariloche shopping experience, however, your shopping excursions here should probably be centered on its popular local products, which are chocolates and wool. You will find a variety of local-made wool products like sweaters and socks, as well as other handmade products on Paseo de los Artesanos and at Huitral-Hue. As for chocolates, Mamuschka and La Abuela Goye are the best.
Foodies – Where to Eat and Drink in Bariloche
As is usual in Argentina, most of the restaurants in Bariloche serve fantastic meat and seafood dishes. And they’re affordable as well – you can get a satisfying meal for $10 or less, $15 or more if you’re having good Argentine wine. And Bariloche is a great city if you’re looking for good Argentine and Central European cuisines.
Some will argue that the best meat in the city is in El Boliche de Alberto while some try to avoid it because it’s too much of a tourist trap and there’s always a long wait before you get a table. Still, it does specialize in meats and waiting in life for 30 minutes or so might be worth it at least once during your visit. Others prefer the less touristy family-owned Parrilla El Refugio, which serves meat dishes that are just as good but the wait isn’t as long. Traditional Tarquino also serve excellent Argentine steak and Patagonian lamb.
Local restaurants Taberna Breogan Celta, known for its meat-n-cheese plate, which includes wild boar and venison, and its local smoked wild game, and Casita Suiza, famous for its Swiss dishes, come very highly recommended.
There are some great ethnic foods in the city as well. Sesamo, for example, serves delicious Middle Eastern food.
Looking for a quick bite? Why not try sandwiches either from Morfy’s or from Friend Bartolome.
After dinner, cap your night with terrific local beer from Antares Brewery or a pint from Wilkenny.
Bariloche and the Nahuel Huapi National Park has got to be one of the most idyllic places south of the equator so the area is already effortlessly romantic. Every spot here is melodiously singing romance so whether you are horseback riding with your sweetheart in the wild backcountry or sitting on the deck of a cruise ship taking in the sights as you sip on drinks along the lake, you’ll have the romantic vacation you’re looking for.
Nightlife and Special Events
Bariloche is a good-sized city and a popular holiday destination. Naturally, it has a vibrant nightlife mostly concentrated on Moreno. It has a good number of fantastic clubs, the best of which include Bypass, Cerebro, Rocket, Genux, and Dusk. Some of these places even stay open until 7 am during the weekend.
Skiers, loggers, crafters, and chocolatiers all get together once a year in June during the ski season for Bariloche’s National Snow Festival. There are competitions, shows, parades, chocolate pageants, music, car races, and of course, fireworks.
Best Day Trips Outside Bariloche
Have you explored and experienced all of Bariloche’s top attractions but still have some time left in your vacation? Well then, you’re in luck! There are some really cool towns nearby that you wouldn’t want to miss!
The hippie town of El Bolson, for example, is the perfect daytrip from Bariloche. It’s only less than two hours’ drive away, it’s sweetly nestled in a valley in the mountains so it’s got the best scenery, and it’s got an outdoor flea market that is open twice a week!
Farther down is the small town of Lago Puelo, another picturesque lake town 5 km away from the national park of the same name. It is known for its annual La Fiesta Del Bosque, held in January or February.
Farther still is the bigger town of Esquel, which serves as the center for travelers who want to explore the nearby Parque Nacional Los Alerces.
One hour north of Bariloche is the charming small town of Villa La Angostura, which also serves as a starting point to a 12-km hike to the surreal orange trees of Bosque Arrayanes.
A picture-perfect mountain retreat by the lake, Bariloche is the ultimate summer and winter destination for travellers and adventurers alike. Here you will find an idyllic city that will inspire you, blow you away, and take your stresses away.
If you have any tips and suggestions on Bariloche, we’d love to hear from you.