A new step in our trip in Patagonia, and the least we can say is that it is a pretty nice piece (and no, I’m not talking about Argentinian beef… although…)!
After a first taste in the region of Pucon, in the north of Chilean Patagonia, then in the magnificent Chilean National Park of Vicente Perez, this time we are on the Argentine side!
Bariloche is a small town in Argentinian Patagonia, in the heart of the Nahuel Huapi National Park and on the shores of the lake of the same name.
Bariloche, also known as Little Switzerland
The city is known in Argentina and Chile as Argentina’s little Switzerland, and it is also one of the most popular ski resorts in South America!
But here we are, the seasons being reversed in the southern hemisphere, it is currently summer in Patagonia, thus, no skiing for us… snif…
but we couldn’t miss the opportunity to discover a little more about the region and all the hiking spots!
Argentinian Patagonia: Bariloche, chocolate, beer and hiking!
During our trip through Peru or Bolivia we met several travellers who had already passed through Patagonia. And, since in our opinion nothing beats the opinion of other adventurers, we tended to ask people for their advice on Patagonia, their good addresses, etc… Something we heard quite often was:
“ Well, Bariloche is nice, but for you who are Swiss it’s not really that interesting. The landscapes are the same as in Switzerland, with lots of chalets and chocolate “
Hmmm…. The thing is, that with Benoit we’re very stubborn. We thus decided to come anyway and have a look!
So dear readers, let me tell you something… there is, indeed, a “little Swiss flair” in the area. But to say, that the region is of no interest to the Swiss seems totally crazy!
The city of Bariloche? Mehhh… It’s the surroundings you have to see!
To be quite frank, we found the city of Bariloche quite ugly. The wooden houses, the kitschy little Tyrolean music played on every street corner, the St-Bernards in front of the monuments waiting to be photographed with tourists… all of this is quite a joke.
But, Bariloche, you don’t come here to kiss Bethoven or the falsely typical atmosphere, oh no!
Personally, go for a coffee on a terrace with a good piece of chocolate in the morning, go for a hike, enjoy a good homemade beer at sunset and then go eat a delicious steak with a good Argentine wine, is not something I’ll get tired of anytime soon.
In this article we propose a small selection of activities and hikes to do in one day from Bariloche, and at the end of the article you will find our good addresses to finish the day with a nice meal or something sweet!
In this article we only talk about hikes and visits that are accessible by public transport. Moreover, for our part, we have chosen to see everything by bus and we did so without any issues. The only thing was to organize ourselves a little according to the schedules.Nevertheless, we have met many travellers who prefer to rent a car for more flexibility, if you want to visit several spots in the same day it is probably easier and if you are a group of several people it will not necessarily be more expensive. For a car rental in Bariloche it is necessary to count between 30€ and 50€ the day according to the season (and the duration of rental)
Hiking in Bariloche: The Cerro Campanario
To get a first glimpse of the surroundings of Bariloche, nothing beats cerro Campanario Viewpoint.
There are several “Cerros” in the surroundings of Bariloche, but Campanario is by far the one that offers the best effort/reward ratio if you want our opinion! Btw: cerro means hill
Located 18km from the centre, you can access its base by bus (the information is below). Once at the foot, 2 options are available to you: Go up in 5 minutes by chairlift for 450 pesos per person (7€ more or less), or climb for 20-35 minutes on foot!
Knowing that for 200 pesos we can already afford a nice piece of meat and a glass of red wine, we let you guess which option we have chosen!
The climb is certainly a little steep, but if you are used to hiking then it won’t take you more than 25 minutes!
Panorama at the top of the Campanero
Once at the top the view is simply splendid! A 360-degree panorama on the lakes and peaks in the area!
A word of advice: get there early in the morning (around 8:30am-9am) or at the end of the day for sunset. At these times there are not so many people, but from 10 am tourist buses start arriving and it quickly tends to become really busy at the top, especially in high season!
- Get there: Bus number 20 in the direction of Llao-Llao. Exit at kilometre 17.5.
- Chairlifr: 450 pesos per person for the round trip.
- On foot: free ! 😉 allow between 25 minutes and 1 hour for the ascent.
The municipal park of Llao-Llao
A very nice and not necessarily very well known walk in the surroundings of Bariloche is the loop in the municipal park of Llao-Llao.
After warming up our calves to climb the cerro Campanario we couldn’t stop for the day. Thus, we took the bus until it’s terminus and set off to discover this small trail. A nice walk of about 10-12km that can be done easily in 3 or 4 hours.
Well yes, we take our time for the beautiful pictures and have a snack by the lake with our feet in the water… Well, no, feet were actually not IN the water since the water there is ice cold… but you get my point, right?
Here are some pictures from this walk:
Map for the walk in llao-llao:
Hike to the Refugio Frey, a paradise for climbers
Initially, we wanted to do a 4-day trek: the Nahuel Huapi crossing. But as it was the case when we were in Pucon a few weeks ago, we were still a little too early in the season. The trails were still closed due to snow… 🙁
Note for the hikers among you: for the crossing it is necessary to wait at least until mid-December, and some years even until January.
In other words, we decided to opt for a day hike to the Refugio Frey. (which is the first stop if you do the whole crossing).
Beginning of the hike at Lac Goutierez
The hike begins near Lac Gutierez. At the bus exit you must first follow the lake for 2km to reach the actual entrance to the national park.
Once in the park the trail is very well marked and the path is extremely well maintained!
The first few kilometres are all flat and run along the lake before attacking a first climb through a forest that unfortunately burned down a few years ago. The charred trees give a strange atmosphere to the place….
After a good 2 hours of climbing we start gently but surely to pass over the tree line. We can observe the landscape changing. The trees and yellow flowers give way to rock and snow! After a last little effort on a last steep stretch, we reach the Frey refuge, nestled on the shores of Lake Toncek and surrounded between Cerro Catedral Sur and Norte.
Getting to Refugio Frey
The Frey refuge is also the meeting place for many climbers from all over the world. They come together to challenge the different peaks and try out the different walls for all levels.
In fact, on the day of our visit, two guys had even had fun stretching a slakline between two of these peaks!!!!! Absolutely crazy people if you want my opinion… No, but seriously? Walking on a band, at least 50m from the ground, with a crazy wind blowing is madness! 😀 Obviously they knew what they were doing… but could have given 1 million dollars that day, this would not have made me try this…
Descent to Catedral Ski Area
For the return trip we opted for a slightly different itinerary that led us to the Catedral ski resort. A mecca for skiing in winter!
This alternative route not only offers the advantage of varying the landscapes a little, but also of limiting a little the negative difference in altitude on the way back!
- Difficulty of the hike: average
- Distance: about 26km if you go back and forth during the day like us. But it is possible to divide in two by spending the night at the refuge
- Duration: Allow between 3h30 and 5h for the ascent from Lac Gutierez, and about 2h30-3h for the descent to Catedral.
- elevation gain: 940m
- elevation loss: 700m
- To get to the start of the hike: Take bus 50 (every 20 minutes) and get off at Lac Gutierez.
- To get back from Catedral: Catedral bus that connects the ski resort to the centre of Bariloche once an hour (departure from Catedral at 15h10, 16h10, etc… last bus at 21h10).
Hiking Map for Refugio Frey
Topographic map (you can download the gpx by creating a (free) account on AllTrails):
Other hikes around Bariloche
Are you looking to do some more hiking around Bariloche? Then, head over to our next post, where we detailed our hikes around Pampa Linda, 70 kms from Bariloche.
Some good addresses in Bariloche
Eat a good steak
One and only address, el Boliche de Alberto! Well ok, in fact they have 2 addresses, one of the restaurants is in the center and the other at km 8.6 on Bustillo (it is in the latter that we have been… several times…) 🙂 On the menu? Well, meat of course. And what a meat!!!!! Frankly one of the best steaks of our lives! Prices are quite expensive. But considering the size of the portions you can easily share it with 2 people… We let you judge on the pictures!..;)
Hostel in Bariloche
we told you above, Bariloche is not really crazy in terms of the city’s flair…. So we preferred to stay slightly outside, and frankly we don’t regret anything! We stayed almost 10 days at the Alaska hostel, which is 7.5km from the center.
Price: in dormitory 120 pesos per person, double room (shared bathroom) 320 pesos. These are the prices in high season. When we arrived (end of November) the double was still 280 pesos. The hostel is super nice, the staff is great and the location is ideal for hiking. See availability online
Enjoy a good piece of chocolate
the best address (but also the most expensive) is Rapa Nui (on the main street).
But don’t worry, the streets of Bariloche have cheaper and (almost) as good alternatives.
Bariloche’s speciality is “Ramen chocolate”, a kind of thin layer chocolate branch that melts in the mouth.
Mmmm, believe me, the best way to forget your post-hike aches and pains!
When travelling in South America it is always better to know how to speak 2-3 words of Spanish! For example, we decided to take Spanish courses in Quito. So to be perfectly honest, Bariloche (and Argentina in general) is probably not the cheapest spot to learn Spanish in South America. For the cheapest courses, you will have to go to Ecuador, Bolivia or Peru.
But after that it remains quite reasonable compared to the course prices we find in Europe…. In Argentina it is roughly 8€/hour. But anyway, Bariloche is a really nice area to do so!
End of stay in Patagonia
Well it’s nice, but you’ve probably noticed that lately our program is quite a lot of hiking?!
So certainly Patagonia lends itself rather well to it, and let’s face it, we like it. But that’s not the only reason! [Small teasing…]
The end of our world tour is approaching, and in order to finish the trip in style we have saved a choice piece for the end! This last trek promises to be sublime, but on the other hand a real physical challenge too! So I think Benoit is just trying to train me a little bit more so I don’t flinch mid-trek… ouch ! 😉
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