When planning a visit to Argentina, most people would list Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and the Iguazu Falls. For the adventurous, the list may include Patagonia and Salta. And if you are not an avid skier, chances are you will bypass Bariloche altogether when visiting Argentina.
Bariloche, a city located on the southwest of Argentina has lots to offer in every season. It is a two hour and 10 minute flight from Buenos Aires and a one hour and 40 minute flight from Mendoza. Its official name is San Carlos de Bariloche but most travelers and locals call it the Switzerland of Argentina because Bariloche’s scenery is comparable to the Swiss alps.
Planning a trip to Bariloche? We suggest these 5 things to do in Bariloche:
1. Bariloche small circuit (Circuito Chico) tour
The small circuit or circuito chico tour can be done on a bike, a self-drive tour, a private tour (with your own driver) or on a group guided bus tour. Tours include a drive along Lake Nahuel Huapi to San Eduardo Chapel, Puerto Panuelo, Llao Llao Hotel and Cerro Campanario. This tour is the best introduction to the historic buildings of Bariloche and the natural beauty (forests, lakes, mountains) of the area.
You’ll need to be reasonably fit to bike 37 miles (60 km) on Circuito Chico. Some travelers follow part of the route by taking bus number 20 to Cordillera Bike Rental shop and renting a bike at Cordillera Bike Rental and Tours, located at Avenida Bustillo Km 18.60. This bike route is 15.5 miles (25 km) instead of 37 miles.
It is fairly easy to drive along the lake and there are plenty of parking spaces at the points of interest on Circuito Chico route. Self-drive gives you the flexibility to explore the area.
2. Explore the city’s square, chocolate and coffee shops by foot
Start your walking tour at Centro Civico or the Civic Center. It is Bariloche’s town hall and main square. The Swiss-inspired stone and wood building in the Civic Center houses a museum, tourist information center, and the municipal offices.
After Centro Civico, walk to Calle Mitre, Bariloche’s main street and explore the chocolate shops and cafes. Here’s a list of chocolate shops to visit:
- Frantom Chocolates
- Rapa Nui
- Chocolates del Turista
- Bonifacio Chocolates
- Abuela Goye
- La Mexicana
3. Chair lift to Cerro Campanario
With a height of 3,444 feet (1,050 meters), Cerro Campanario offers one of the best views of Bariloche. Most guided tours in Bariloche include a stop at Cerro Campanario but chair lift tickets are not included.
We suggest purchasing the tickets while you are there. Take the two-person chairlift to the top of Cerro Campanario. You can also hike for about 30 minutes to the top of the mountain and take the chair lift down. While you are there grab a beer or coffee with dessert and enjoy the magnificent view from the cafe.
Note: The hike is not easy as some parts are steep.
If you could only do one more thing besides exploring the chocolate shops of Bariloche, we recommend taking the chairlift to Cerro Campanario.
4. Stay or have lunch at the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort
Llao Llao Hotel and Resort is one of the most famous hotels in Argentina. It overlooks two lakes – Nahuel Huapi and Moreno lakes and is surrounded by two mountains – Cerro Lopez and Tronador. Stay at the hotel and enjoy all the amenities at the hotel like the spa, health club, swimming pools and golf course.
Non-guests can dine at one of the restaurants but an advance reservation is highly recommended.
5. Sightseeing cruise on Lake Nahuel Huapi to Puerto Blest and Los Cantaros Waterfall
Nature lovers and photography enthusiasts will enjoy this sightseeing cruise as there are plenty of photographing opportunities. See and photograph the different types of Patagonian trees and animals. This cruise is actually the first leg of the Cruce Andino boat and bus trip from Bariloche to Puerto Varas in Chile for passengers going from Bariloche to Puerto Varas Chile.
You’ll sail through scenic sights along Lake Nahuel Huapi and stop at Puerto Blest and Los Cantaros Waterfall.
Tips for traveling to Bariloche:
- Check out Travelmath’s currency converter. At the time of writing USD1= 14.9 ARS.
- Combine your visit to Bariloche with Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Read 5 Things to Do in Buenos Aires and Mendoza Argentine Wine Tours.
- Airlines flying into Bariloche – Aerolineas Argentinas, LAN Airlines, and TRIP Linhas A.