What to do in Bariloche. San Carlos de Bariloche is located in southwestern Argentina, in the heart of the country’s lake district.
Located on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi and its corresponding national park, Bariloche offers travelers exciting outdoor activities, as well as a pretty Swiss-style town full of chocolate shops and boutiques.
What to do in Bariloche
In addition to its beautiful landscape and national park, Bariloche is famous for the chocolate box architecture found in the center of its city, the Centro Cívico. Any visitor who has been to Switzerland will immediately remember its pretty alpine houses when walking through the city.
The log and stone buildings house souvenir shops, upscale boutiques, and outdoor activity stores that cater to Bariloche’s main tourist demographic.
The center is small enough to take a nice walk and is full of restaurants and cafes. The highlight is the cathedral, with its great stone walls in a commanding position, looming over the lake.
Nahuel Huapi National Park
Bariloche’s greatest attraction is its national park, Nahuel Huapi. Visitors can simply drive up and admire the scenery from the car, or they can park and take a stroll along one of the many hiking trails.
The more adventurous visitor can raft or kayak on Lake Nahuel Huapi, a lake that was formed from melting glaciers and is surrounded by impressive snow-capped mountains. Visitors can usually book tours and activities through their hotel, or alternatively they can jump in the car and take a drive through the park, seeing what’s on offer when they get there.
Nahuel Huapi National Park Ⓒ Yoavlevy10/WikiCommons
A day trip to El Bolsón
Close to Bariloche is the small town of El Bolsón, to which you can make a day trip (about two hours by car from Bariloche). Its first non-native inhabitants came from Germany and consequently it has become famous for its cheese and beer production.
It prides itself on its focus on green living and organic farming and is therefore a popular destination for liberals. There are also several nearby hiking trails, one of the most popular of which is Cajón de Azul, a small, vibrant blue lake where swimming is possible.
Blue Drawer Ⓒ Henri Girboux / Flickr
Further from the city of Bariloche is the Lanín volcano. Not in Nahuel Huapi, but on the edge of the Lanín National Park, it can be seen from the entire area due to its height of 3,776 meters.
It is possible to climb, but only by experts or within an official guided tour group, and even then it is not recommended for the faint of heart. While the volcano is not believed to have erupted for around 10,000 years, it has not been officially declared extinct due to occasional tremors. The crater itself is not visible and is believed to be under the glacier that sits on top of the mountain.
Lanín Volcano Ⓒ Aleposta/WikiCommons
A day trip to Villa La Angostura
Another small town that can be visited on a day trip from Bariloche is Villa La Angostura, high in the mountains and home to Los Arrayanes National Park.
An arrayán is a species of tree that is native to the Argentine-Chilean border, and was important to the native Mapuche people as a source of medicine. Visitors can bike or walk through the woods, or alternatively take a boat across the lake to reach the park. Nearby hiking trails also offer fantastic views of Lake Nahuel Huapi.
Arrayán Trees Ⓒ Matías Callone / Flickr
Inside one of the Swiss chalets of the Civic Center is the Bariloche museum. It contains a number of exhibits related to the history of the national park and its surroundings, specifically archaeological finds, natural history, and indigenous artifacts.
Most interesting is the Sala Pueblos Originarios , which examines the natives who lived in the area, particularly the Mapuche whose practices are still common today, just across the border from Chile. For a break from the great outdoors, this museum offers plenty of information that visitors will find to add to their appreciation of Bariloche and what it has to offer.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. M. To 12.30 p.m. M., from 2 p.m. M.A 7 p.m. M. Sat 10am-5pm
To match Bariloche’s famous Alpine architecture, there are numerous specialty chocolate shops in the city center for visitors to enjoy.
Most are located on the main shopping street, Bartolomé Miter, making them difficult to avoid and resist temptation. The most popular store among locals is Chocolates Rapa Nui, which has existed in the city for generations since it was first established in the early 20th century by an Italian immigrant.
Cerro Tronador in the Nahuel Huapi National Park is the highest mountain in the lake region of Argentina. At the foot of the mountain, visitors can see the glaciers, which can be heard crunching, especially when large chunks of ice fall.
It has three distinct peaks, called Argentino, Internacional, and Chileno, making it easy to identify. It is an extinct volcano, and the surrounding area is full of small lakes and green forests to explore.
The Manso River, which visitors will pass through when traveling to Cerro Tronador from Bariloche, is a popular spot for whitewater rafting. It is only a couple of hours from Bariloche and most hotels offer day tours.
Cerro Tronador Ⓒ VT Polywoda / Flickr
Within the Nahuel Huapi National Park is Isla Victoria, a small island in Lake Hahuel Nuapi that can be reached by a short boat ride. The island is approximately 31 km² in area, but only about a third of it is walkable due to the difficult terrain.
In the past it was inhabited by indigenous people, evidence of which can be seen in cave drawings scattered around the island. It is a charming place to take a leisurely stroll through its forests, as it is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. The trails are also on the boardwalks so it’s not too strenuous and perfect for families.
Victoria Island Ⓒ Chris Atto/Flickr
Skiing on Cerro Catedral
This activity is not possible throughout the year, but it is certainly worth it when the snow is still on the ground.
Cerro Catedral is the most popular ski destination in the Bariloche area and is just a short bus ride from the city center. It’s a typical ski resort, but its standout feature is the views of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the surrounding national park.
The staff at the ski center at Cerro Catedral are mostly from Bariloche and the nearby area, so have a good understanding of the mountain, its preservation, and how to ski responsibly.
By Bethany Curry