Bariloche 'The Switzerland of Argentina'
Bariloche, the Lake District of Argentina. There are seven lakes. Photo by Yoavlevy10.
Vacations in Bariloche
San Carlos de Bariloche, known more simply as Bariloche, is a delightful town embedded in a fantasyland of lakes and mountains called Nahuel Huapi National Park. In far west Argentina Bariloche is recreation central for many Argentinians and a dream holiday destination for the rest, with a huge selection of superb activities both in summer and winter.
Bariloche is in west Argentina and surprisingly in Patagonia - surprising because Patagonia is generally bleak and barren, quite unlike this lush and lovely lake district.
Lake Jakob, with a hiking refuge. Photo by McKay Savage.
Note that since Argentina is in the southern hemisphere North Americans and Europeans will be able to ski or snowboard in their summer or do traditional summer activities in their winter.
Summertime means hiking, horseback riding and biking along the huge network of magnificent trails around the lower Andes mountains, as well as camping, climbing and paragliding off piste, but also fishing, white-water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, board surfing, ship cruising and swimming in the crystal clear rivers and cold waters of this Argentinian Lake District.
Wintersports attract many visitors too, with sure snow and excellent slopes all around Bariloche and transport to reach them. Cerro Catedral, for example, the biggest wintersports centre in South America is just 12 miles away, offering the best skiing and snowboarding in the country from May to December, though not the most exclusive. Bariloche is the place for good value activities, not glitz.
Bariloche town is an activity centre itself as it has become an end-of-High-School ritual celebration spot and consequently houses a large number of funky cafés, bars, modestly priced restaurants and boisterous, very late night clubs with lashings of lasers, future decor and dance-till-you-drop ambience.
San Carlos de Bariloche, the Lake District's main town and Argentina's capital of chocolate. Photo by Dario Alpern
Bariloche offers a full range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, from luxury hotels, through rental apartments, cabins, guest houses, youth hostels to camping sites, but the town leans towards lower cost establishments and is consequently a popular student destination.
Prices are dependent on the season. Bariloche's high season months are January, February, July and August; mid season is March, April, September and December; low season is May, June, October, November.
Bariloche's port, Puerto Panuelo, with luxury Hotel Llao Llao and its golf course in the background. Photo by Stevage.
Bariloche has a cool climate with dry, windy summers from mid-December to early March when temperatures range from 18C-26C (64F-79F) during the day and 2C-9C (36F-48F) at night.
Storms appear in April and May and during May winter snows begins to fall, lasting until September. High temperatures range from 0C-12C (32F-54F) and lows from -12C to 4C (10F-39F).
Spring from October to mid December is unpredictable with possible temperatures as high as 25 C (77F) or as low as -6C (21F).
Lago Nahuel Huapi.
• buses are the cheapest way to travel around Argentina though the trip Bariloche - Buenos Aires is a long one, at least 20 hours for the 1,575 kms. On the positive side all long distance buses have aircon and some routes/lines offer special comforts such as double deckers serving hot meals with wine and huge reclining seats that may go completely flat (cama or super-cama) and are ridiculously easy to sleep in. At a price, of course. And book early, the best seats go fast!
A bus into Chile crosses the Andes mountains via the Cardenal Antonio Samoré Pass to Osorno and takes about 5 hours or to Puerto Montt about 7 hours. To reach northen cities such as Jujuy, Tucaman and Salta you have to travel via Mendoza, a 17 hour run.
• planes are fast but pricey, with a Bariloche - BA flight taking just under two hours. For best prices try buying directly from an airline office.
• car rental is a great way to explore the Lake District but a seriously long drive from BA, probably 22 hours depending on speed and boredom threshold.
• the long distance rail system seems to have disintergrated and though there are trains they're erratic and unreliable. The train from Bariloche to Viedma runs twice a week. Maybe.