If you look at a map of Argentina, it’ll probably take a while to find San Carlos de Bariloche. In fact, chances are you’ll completely miss this tiny city and its 133,500 residents.
Argentina is a massive country, with an area of 2,780,400 square kilometers, making it ten times bigger than Great Britain and the world’s eighth-largest country. Such vast space gives the country diverse climate zones, ranging from deserts and mountainous terrains with epic waterfalls, to glaciers and a nearly 5000-kilometer coast.
Bariloche, however, makes for an amazing stay and provides everything you need for a fun vacation: water and wild nature. Not to mention the stunning Andes Mountains!
It’s also on the Argentine-Chilean border and 1,200 kilometers away from the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires – a small distance considering Argentina’s immense size!
These factors make it the perfect starting point for a trip through Patagonia, the southern region of Argentina, and the neighboring Chile.
Want an introduction to the best hiking trails and highlights of the city? Then read on and discover why people call Barlioche the “Switzerland of Argentina”.
Getting to Bariloche
You’ll likely land in Buenos Aires’s coastal airport. You can spend a few days here before heading to Bariloche.
The fastest way from Buenos Aires to Bariloche is by plane. The flight will take around two and a half hours, with several airlines to choose from. Bariloche is then just a 25-minute taxi ride away.
If a road trip sounds exciting, rent a car and drive the 1,200 kilometers to experience the Argentinian scenery in a new light. The bus is another popular mode of travel. While it’s usually the most time-consuming, it’s also the cheapest. So if you don’t mind spending 21 hours on a bus, go ahead! Twenty-one hours may sound like a lot, but since Argentina is so big, it’s virtually nothing. You have two options when traveling by bus: either take the “Semi Cama”, where the chairs recline slightly, or go “Cama Ejecutivo”, where the seats recline completely, nearly becoming a bed. This option often includes snacks, blankets, and pillows. The bus station in Bariloche is about 5 kilometers away from the city center, just a quick cab or bus ride away.
Of course, the highlight of a trip to Bariloche is the nature and the boundless activities on offer. Be it kayaking, fishing, hiking, or cycling, the tiny city has everything you need for the adventure of a lifetime. A visit during the Northern Hemisphere summer will mean it’s winter in Argentina – a great time to visit the Cerro Catedral for some skiing and snowboarding.
The possibilities are endless; you could spend a week here and there’d still be things to do and nature to enjoy!
You’ll get to hike some of Patagonia’s most scenic routes in Bariloche. Thanks to its solid bus network, most starting points are easily accessible. You can even buy a chargeable bus card (“SUBE”) to prevent worrying about fare changes.
The hike to Refugio Frey is probably the most famous and the busiest during tourist season. To get to the starting point, take bus line 55 from Bariloche to the terminal at Cerro Catedral Ski Resort. Your 4-hour hike to the mountain lodge will begin there. We recommend heading out early in the morning to make the most of your day. If this sounds too long for your liking, there’s also a shorter route, just as scenic.
Our top choice is the hike along the Los Duendes Waterfall, Muñoz Beach, and the Lago Gutierrez lookout platform. To get there, take bus line 50 from Bariloche to Los Coihues. Then, it’s only a two-kilometer gravel route until the trail’s starting point. It only takes an hour to complete, so we recommend taking the time for a picnic and a walk along the beach.
If mountain biking is your thing, you’ll be blown away by the countless trails around Bariloche. First up is the “Circuito Chico” path, which you can conquer without much experience.
The name “Circuito” reveals its round shape. You’ll pass by breathtaking nature, lakes, mountains, and even the world-famous Patagonia Brewery. The route takes two to three hours, so make sure you plan enough time to enjoy the scenery.
On the way, you simply have to stop by the amazing Patagonia Brewery! Since the bar opens at 12 PM, we suggest starting the trip at 11 AM.
To get to the trail, take bus line 20 from the office of Nahuel Huapi National Parks in the heart of Bariloche. Don’t forget to rent a bike at Circuito Chico Adventure!
Did Someone Say Kayaking?
A kayak tour will give you a completely different perspective on Bariloche. Many lakes and rivers surround the tiny city, ranging from tranquil areas to rapids. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re sure to find something to your liking.
Several adventure agents organize kayak tours all year round – that’s right, you can even go for a paddle in winter! Embark on days-long kayak trips to enjoy a truly breathtaking adventure in the heart of nature, and camp each night under the starry sky.
Culture of Bariloche
Bariloche’s fascinating nature and local culture are beyond captivating! You’ll notice European influences throughout, like in the chocolate, a worthy rival to the Swiss equivalent, or in the authentic Italian-style pizza and gelato. A few cafés even sell apple strudel, should you fancy a German delight.
Of course, we can’t forget about the Argentinian Asado. The grilled meat and fish specialty straight from the nearby waters is positively otherworldly.
Moreover, the nightlife in Bariloche is nothing short of wild! The bars here attract locals, Argentinians from Buenos Aires, and backpackers around the world – the perfect formula for a night full of crazy fun! Many spots also have mini-breweries, a cultural experience not to be missed.
Best Time to Travel
When planning the trip, remember that Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the seasons are switched. Their spring begins in November, and fall begins in May. From November to April, temperatures lie around 19 degrees Celsius (ca. 66° Fahrenheit); from May to October, the average is 9° C (ca. 48° F).
Whether you’re skiing, hiking, kayaking, or riding around on a mountain bike, Bariloche is the place to be! It may be a tiny city on the Argentine-Chilean border, but it’s abundant with activities.
After landing in Buenos Aires, book your ticket to Bariloche. The trip will take 21 hours, but the ride will be comfy, and the scenery will mesmerize you. Alternatively, you can also get to Bariloche by plane or even a rental car. Fancy a road trip?
All this gallivanting is bound to leave you hungry. No worries! Bariloche offers many traditional specialties like the Argentinian BBQ, as well as worldwide delicacies like pizza, ice cream, and smooth chocolate.
Remember that Bariloche is south of the equator, so seasons are different from the Northern Hemisphere. Spring starts in November, and it gets chillier in May. If you travel during the Southern Hemisphere winter, Bariloche will impress you with its extravagant ski resorts and wonderful snowboarding opportunities.
Up for an adventure? Then what are you waiting for? Get planning, and visit Bariloche ASAP!