Things to Do in Bariloche
Stretching over 1.8 million acres, Nahuel Huapi National Park is Argentina’s oldest national park. Centered around the region’s largest lake, Nahuel Huapi, and encompassing the popular resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche, this enormous park offers mountain and forest hikes, and the opportunity to cruise the lakes.
With a surface area of 210 square miles (338 square kilometers) and extending over the Chilean border, Nahuel Huapi Lake is Argentina’s largest. At the heart of the Lakeland region, visitors come to explore the beaches, islands, and lakefront towns of Nahuel Huapi against a backdrop of the Andes Mountains.
Rising 11,660 feet (3,554 meters), Tronador Hill (Cerro Tronador) is Bariloche’s highest mountain. It sits on the border between Argentina and Chile, nestled between two national parks. The mountain’s name comes from the Spanish word for thunder, a reference to the rumbling icefalls from the area’s seven glaciers, which are audible from a safe distance.
Otto Hill (Cerro Otto) is a mountain that stands on the outskirts of Bariloche. With several activities and attractions in addition to the cable car ride up, sweeping vistas, and 360-degree revolving mountaintop restaurant—the only one of its kind in Argentina—Otto has turned what was formerly just a lookout point into a tourism center.
Arrayanes Forest (Bosque de Arrayanes), named after the rare Arrayán trees that grow along the northern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, is Los Arrayanes National Park's star attraction. Covering more than 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) along the Quetrihué Peninsula, it’s a picturesque spot for hiking and wildlife watching.
Victoria Island (Isla Victoria)—the largest island in Nahuel Huapi lake—lies at the heart of the eponymous national park. The island is characterized by rugged coastline, volcanic black-sand beaches, and pine forest, and features a backdrop of snow-capped peaks; all of which make it one of the most picturesque spots in Argentina’s Lakelands.
With its tufa-brick façade, slate roof, and wooden balconies, the Bariloche Civic Center (Centro Cívico) pays homage to the town’s German and Swiss heritage. Dominating the central square, the complex is classified as a National Historic Monument and offers great views of Nahuel Huapi Lake.
Glacial Lake Moreno (Lago Moreno) lies in the Río Negro province of Argentina, near Bariloche. It covers more than 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares), and its waters are warmer than other lakes in the area, making it a popular destination for water sports and swimming. Along its shores are two small resort towns, Colonia Suiza and Villa Llao Llao.
In Patagonia, north of Bariloche, Argentina, lies a glacial lake called Lago Traful. It is a popular place for hiking as well as other typical water activities. Along the hiking trail is a lookout point called Mirador del Traful which offers spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding area. The view point is on a cliff that marks where glaciers pierced the basin thousands of years ago and strong winds continue to erode the rocks. The cliffs form a natural wall where the winds collide, resulting in a strange boomerang effect.
Mirador del Traful can be reached by a wooden walkway which has two balconies where you can stop, admire the view, and take photos. On the balconies there are signs pointing out different landmarks and providing information about the lake, the landscape, and the geographical characteristics of the area.
The snow-blanketed peak looming on the horizon south of Bariloche is the 7,800-foot-high (2,388-meter-high) Cathedral Hill (Cerro Catedral), one of the city’s most memorable landmarks. A paradise for hikers and site of a popular ski resort, the mountaintop affords spectacular views over the Lakelands.
More Things to Do in Bariloche
Mascardi Lake is a glacial lake in the province of Rio Negro south of Bariloche, Argentina. It was named for a Jesuit priest named Nicolas Mascardi who did missionary work in the area during the 17th century. The lake is within Nahuel Huapi National Park, which is the oldest national park in Argentina and covers an area of almost 2 million acres. Mascardi Lake is divided into two sections by a peninsula. From the lake, you can admire several peaks of the Andes Mountain range. There are several good beaches along the shores of the lake, and swimming is a popular activity here. Other activities include boating, kayaking, fishing and hiking around the lake.
Many animals can be found near Mascardi Lake and in Nahuel Huapi National Park. These include river otters, deer, foxes, cougars, and guanacos. There are also several species of birds, such as ducks, geese, swans, Austral Parakeets, cormorants, and Andean condors. Some sections of the park are covered by temperate rain forests, and most of the trees you will see in the area are the lengas, coihue and the ñires.
Capilla de San Eduardo, or San Eduardo Chapel, was built in 1938 in Bariloche, Argentina. It was built with neo-gothic and European influences by architect Alejandro Bustillo, who also built the Hotel Llao Llao next door. It was built with stone and cypress logs from the area, and the stained glass windows depict religious scenes and stories. The chapel lies within the boundaries of the Nahuel Huapi National Park, and from the front of the building, you can enjoy beautiful views of the forest, mountains such as Mount Tronador, and several lakes including Lake Nahuel Huapi and Moreno Oeste.
The chapel is one of Bariloche's most famous buildings and a popular tourist attraction, and it's a local favorite for weddings. Hikers often stop at the chapel to take a break and enjoy the views while hiking the Circuito Chico.
With its alpine peaks, crystalline lakes, and wealth of artisanal chocolate, Bariloches is a dream destination for South American travelers. In summer, the hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing are some of the best in Patagonia, and the accessibility and ease of access make them easy for travelers to enjoy.
In terms of hiking and views of Bariloches, one of the best trails in northern Patagonia is the climb up Cerro Lopez. This 7,178-foot mountain towers above Bariloches, and offers unparalleled, panoramic views of the entire Argentinian Lakes District. Standing atop the windswept summit, gaze out towards active volcanoes that rise from the spine of the Andes. Down in the valley, thousands of feet below, the outline of Lake Nahuel Huapi shimmers and weaves through the hills, and the summit holds an inspiring and energizing sense of alpine freedom.
To reach the summit of Cerro Lopez—or at least get near the top—there are a number of different options for travelers depending on fitness and skill. Making the climb all the way to the top requires 7 to 8 hours of hiking, with a short stop at Refugio Lopez at 5,300 feet. From here, it’s an hour-long scramble up Pico Turista to an area close to the summit, or simply finish at Refugio Lopez and order a meal and drink. Alternatively, there’s a 4x4 road that climbs its way up the bumpy spine of the mountain, which is used by tour companies accessing the refugio or ziplining their way back down.
Because its waters are warm and teem with fish, Lake Gutierrez is one of the most popular destinations near the Argentinean resort city of San Carlos de Bariloche. Situated within Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina’s oldest protected land, the lake has two common access points that sit on opposite shores.
Villa Los Cohiues is the closest access point to the city and it’s where most people access the lake. Swimming, kayaking, and sport fishing are popular on the lake itself, while both hiking and horseback riding offers visitors the chance to explore the surrounding forests.
Fishing is best at the opposite end of the lake, where the Torrontegui river flows into Lake Gutierrez. Declining fish populations encouraged the national park service to restock the lake, so rainbow, brown and brook trout are plentiful once again. Two seabirds—the Kelp Gull and Blue Eyed Cormorant—also live on Lake Gutierrez and throughout Nahuel Huapi National Park. It’s an unknown curiosity, as this region is the only known fresh water habitat for either species.
Patagonia is a popular region of Argentina for exploring nature, and many people base themselves in Bariloche for some time due to the many lakes and mountains in the area. If you enjoy hiking, this is the place to be. There are many hiking trails with gorgeous views of Bariloche and the Nahuel Huapi National Park, but the best view is from Cerro Campanario, or Belfry Hill. It's an easy hike, and the elevation is 3,442 feet.
From the top of Belfry Hill (Cerro Campanario), you will enjoy spectacular views of Lake Moreno, San Pedro Peninsula, Llao Llao Peninsula, several mountains, and other parts of the national park. Signs help visitors identify the different landmarks that are visible from the viewpoint. At the top there is a cafe with a view offering cake and other sweets.
Lake Steffen is a glacial lake in the providence of Rio Negro near Bariloche, Argentina. The lake was named for geographer and explorer Hans Steffen, who was hired in the late 1800s to investigate the border dispute between Chile and Argentina. Lake Steffen covers an area of more than 1,450 acres and is fed by the Manso River. It is located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, in a region where the Andean Patagonian forest remains intact and free from degradation by urbanization or farming. The lake is a good place for trout fishing.
Lake Steffen is a favorite destination among tourists who know the area well since it is not easily accessible. Activities in and around the lake include hiking, boating, swimming, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting on the river. A section of the Manso River near Lake Steffen is a class III. Another option is to head west from Lake Steffen to Lake Martin. Adventurous travelers can enjoy hiking trails of varying difficulty levels in the surrounding areas.
The glittering lakes of Nahuel Huapi, Espejo, Correntoso, Villarino, Falkner, Machónico, and Lácar are the star attractions of the aptly named Road of the Seven Lakes (Ruta de Siete Lagos). Running through the heart of the Patagonian lake district, the 65-mile (108-kilometer) drive is one of the most spectacular in Argentina.
Perched on the northern shore of Nahuel Huapi Lake, and surrounded by the forests and snow-capped peaks of the Lakelands, Villa La Angostura is nicknamed the Garden of Patagonia. Ideally situated for exploring the Argentina’s lakes and mountains, the small resort town makes a popular alternative to Bariloche.
Puerto Blest is on the western end of Nahuel Huapi Lake. It is part of the Nahuel Huapi National Park in the Rio Negro province of Argentina. Nahuel Huapi Lake is divided into different sections, and the western arm of the lake is the Blest section. The Blest branch of the lake covers an area of about 14 square miles. At the entrance to the Blest section of the lake is Centinela Island, where explorer Francisco Moreno is buried. He came to this region of Argentina in the late 1800s and later founded Nahuel Huapi National Park.
From Puerto Blest, you can reach Los Cantaros Waterfall as well climb the steps near the waterfall to Los Cantaros Lake which feeds into the falls. While hiking in the area, you will find cypress and coihue trees that grow in this area's rainforest micro climate. This region receives more rainfall than any other part of Argentina, and plants and fungi grow here that you can't find in other parts of the country. From the lake, you can also see several peaks of the Andes Mountain range.
El Bolsón is a town in the southwest section of the Rio Negro province of Argentina. Despite its southern location, it has an unusually mild climate due to the valleys towards Chile and the Pacific Ocean. The town was originally settled by German immigrants, and in the 1970s, hippies from Buenos Aires moved there. Today El Bolsón's economy is based on tourism. Visitors come to see the outdoor artisan market, and to participate in activities such as fly fishing, trekking, rafting, climbing, and other outdoor activities in the surrounding lakes and mountains. There is also a significant production of cheeses, smoked trout, locally brewed beer, regional chocolates and ice cream, as well as organic and wild crafted jams and preserves. North of El Bolsón is the Rio Azul Natural Protected Area, which forms part of the world's largest UNESCO Temperate Biosphere Reserve and has trails for tourists throughout the mountains.
El Bolsón is a very environmentally-friendly town. It has been declared a non-nuclear zone and an ecological municipality. It's an excellent place for hiking and enjoying nature. Visitors often appreciate the down to earth atmosphere, which is in contrast to the commercialism of Bariloche.
Cerro Bella Vista is a mountain in the province of Rio Negro near Bariloche, Argentina and falls within Nahuel Huapi National Park. It is 5,577 feet high and fairly easy to climb, but a hike to the summit can take between two to four hours, and descending can take two to three hours. It's not as well-known as some of the other peaks in the area, but it is visible from Bariloche and from the nearby heights. It also offers spectacular views of the nearby peaks, Nahuel Huapi Lake, Lake Moreno, and sections of Nahuel Huapi National Park. During the climb, you will hike through a forest of coihue trees and lenga trees. You will also have the chance to see flowers and birds that are native to the Patagonian Andes.
The best time to hike up Cerro Bella Vista is during the summer, which runs mid-December to mid-March. The weather should also be mild from November to May. Snow is possible during the winter months.
The Patagonia region of southern Argentina is known for outdoor activities. Due to the mountainous terrain, skiing is a popular sport during the winter. Near the city of Bariloche is the ski resort Cerro Catedral, or Mount Cathedral, which is located within the Nahuel Huapí National Park. It is one of South America's biggest ski resorts with over 64 miles of ski runs and ski lift capacity of up to 35,000 skiers per hour. Cerro Catedral has also hosted several ski competitions and winter festivals.
About 60 percent of the runs are for intermediate level skiers. But if you're new to skiing, give Punta Princesa a try. The Punta Princesa ski run is designated for skiers of all levels. The Cerro Catedral ski resort also has several runs for advanced skiers, such as De la Garganta, Pista Seis and Del Bosque. There are also special areas for off-piste and freestyle snowboarding.