Bariloche, Argentina: Swiss Flair at the Top of Patagonia

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man sitting on ledge looking at lake

I took the 22-hour bus ride to the northern tip of Patagonia, San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina directly after arriving at Buenos Aires from Uruguay. Due to the extended travel time, I paid around 100 CAD for the first class experience with the bus company Via Bariloche.

  • Hot tip: if you pay with cash at the counter in the bus station almost all bus companies will give you a 20% discount to the rates posted online.

The bus ride was comfortable with wider seats that folded down 160 degrees. It also included 3 meals, one of which was a delicious hot dinner and to my surprise, I was served two bottles of excellent Malbec. They even played English language movies on the bus with Spanish subtitles. Every other long-distance bus ride I’d taken through Peru and Chile played English movies dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles, which is not a pleasurable viewing situation. I was impressed with Via Bariloche, but it was also the most I’d paid in South America for a bus trip.

 

Bariloche, Argentina and Patagonia

 

landscape of Patagonia
Patagonia

I arrived in Bariloche during the day and was immediately taken with its picturesque views of the Lake Nahuel Huapi.

people on a beach in Bariloche, Argentina
Lake Nahuel Huapi

 

view of lake in patagonia
View of Lake Nahuel Huapi from the city of Bariloche

 

a tree made of skis in Bariloche, Argentina
A ski tree in Bariloche

I was now in Patagonia. I reached the city center and felt like I was transported back to Europe with a gothic cathedral,  cobblestone streets, and buildings made of stone and wood. I later learned the city center had been built to look like a traditional European alpine town and refers to itself as ‘Little Switzerland.’

old looking central plaza in bariloche
Central Plaza in Bariloche

One thing that caught my attention in Bariloche was all the chocolate shops on that seemed to be scattered on every block in the city center. There were stores that had hundreds of types of chocolates I’ve never even heard of. Out of all the chocolates I tried, the most mouth-watering one was called ‘mani,’ which contained a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter like Reeses Pieces, but completely different tasting. My favorite chocolate shop was Rapa Nui, which also had amazing ice-cream. As I suspected, it turns out Bariloche is the chocolate capital of Argentina.

street with lake view in bariloche
A city street leading to the lake

The main allure of Bariloche was not the city itself, but the surrounding areas within the Nahuel Huapi National Park. The park is filled with forests, lakes, and mountains.

landscape of lakes in patagonia
Views of Nahuel Huapi National Park

 

landscape of mountains and lakes in patagonia
Nahuel Huapi National Park

 

landscape of mountains and lakes in patagonia
More National Park vistas

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay in a cabin outside of the city near one of the lakes.

people about to kayak on a lake
Lake near the cabin

I spent most of my days exploring the National Park, hiking up mountain paths and relaxing on the beaches of the many lakes. It was the waning days of summer in late March so the sun was still hot and the lakes warm enough to swim in.

lakefront
An invitation to get in

 

man in lake
Enjoying a swim in supremely clear water

 

lakefront with hotel
Lakefront near Bariloche

 

beer on the beach
A fresh Quilmes on the beach, a cheap Argentinian staple

One day I also went to a place called ‘Colonia Suiza,’ which is a small village with heavy Swiss and German influences.

a street sign saying zurich
A sign in Colonia Suiza

There was a large market there selling artisanal goods as well as another food court style market selling traditional Argentinian and Swiss/German foods to grab for lunch.

food on the ground
The making of curanto, a traditional Argentinian/Chilean dish

Most of the buildings were log cabin style and again had European mountain town vibes. There was also an excellent craft brewery called Berlina, where I enjoyed a few pints of fresh Patagonian beer.

photo of a brewery
Berlina Brewery

 

dwarfs on grass
Some drunk looking lawn dwarfs near Berlina

I ended up staying for a week in Bariloche, Argentina. It served as a nostalgic reminder of the Rocky Mountains and was such a chilled out beautiful place I wish I could have stayed longer. The only caveat was Argentina is already an expensive place and in a picturesque tourist town such as Bariloche, costs are magnified. Nevertheless, I am certain I will return to Bariloche when I return to Argentina and Chile to do a tour of all of Patagonia.

pint on the beach
Cheers to Patagonia and pints on the beach

 

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