Bariloche sits on the Argentinian side of the Andes, on a vast lake. We travelled via bus and boat from Chile’s Torres del Paine to reach Bariloche – 4 boats and 5 buses and a border crossing in the middle of nowhere with a replica exhibition of Che Guevara made for an unforgettable way to cross the Andes through stunning scenery. Bariloche’s town centre has a familiar alpine look. The buildings don’t look like typical Argentine architecture and they could almost have come straight from Europe – apart from the massive size of the pieces of wood used. Rough hewn branches frame windows and massive trunks support the buildings . The rocks and wood give Bariloche a traditional European look.
This, the climate, the winter skiing and lovely summer days attract tourists to this part of Argentina and the stunning countryside that surrounds it. Bariloche is visited by Argentines and foreigners all year round, but for us Northern Hemisphere golf their summer months have the most appeal to escape our winter.
Visiting the traditionally built civic center, and stop by the Tourism Office to receive maps and free information. Also worth a short visit is the Francisco P. Moreno Museo de la Patagonia where you can learn all about the history of Bariloche. Most of the information is translated into English, so this is a great opportunity to soak in all the history
On your walk around town, visit La Catedral de San Carlos de Bariloche, “Nuestra Señora del Nahuel Huapi” (The Cathedral of San Carlos de Bariloche, “Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi”) sitting beside the lake. Peak inside to see the unfinished, yet beautiful interior. Especially don’t miss the many stained glass windows which depict traditional scenes from the bible as well as historical scenes of Spanish colonization of the Americas.
You cant visit Bariloche and not taste a bit of chocolate. How does a city gain a reputation for chocolate? It the european influence again, and they certainly do it well. Calle Mitre is lined with chocolate shops of different brands and specialties. Ask around for people’s favorite and you will get assorted answers: the hot chocolate at Mamuschka, the chocolate covered raspberries from Rapa Nui, the chocolate gelato at Abuela Goye. Walk down the street, sampling a bit from each to decide your favorite.
For the ultimate chocolate experience, visit the Havanna Museo de Chocolate where you learn how chocolate is made, see some of the Havanna factory at work, see sculptures of animals made of chocolate, and most importantly, get to taste some delicious hot chocolate. Plus, part of the price of admission goes towards your purchase in the gift store. (Unless there is an English speaker working, this tour is only offered in Spanish.)
Don’t limit yourself to the town. Hiring a car is a must – its not expensive and is the only way to get out and see the gorgeous scenery, visit the view points and try a few out of town centre restaurants. Hertz has an office in the town centre. There is a circuit which you can bike around too, but we found the car got us to places that bit more unspoilt and untouristy.
Make sure you buy a map as road signs are not in plentiful supply. We ended up on the scenic route, that is unmade roads, but it was so worth it, and for some reason it wasn’t very busy!
Where to stay? well there are lots of hotels but i would highly recommend the Designer Suites about 2 miles out of town, overlooking the lake. There is ample parking,