Bariloche, located at the northern edge of Patagonia, is one of Argentina and South America’s top travel destinations. This beautiful town is situated on the shores of several different lakes and surrounded by mountains. It is a nature-lover’s dream. The area feels like a mirage, a lush oasis in the otherwise desolate Patagonian steppe. With its stunning mountains and serene lakes, Bariloche is a perfect destination for both adventure-lovers and those looking for something a little more peaceful.
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How To Get To Bariloche
Although Bariloche serves as one of the main hubs of central Argentina and Northern Patagonia, it is quite distant from other parts of the country. When I was planning my southerly route down to Ushuaia, Bariloche seemed like the ideal spot to start my Patagonian adventures. Little did I know that once I got to northern Argentina, the northernmost point of Patagonia was still a hell of a way south.
Running low on time, I flew to Bariloche from Buenos Aires to avoid what would have been an expensive and lengthy bus ride. For those taking the bus down to Bariloche, the most sensible stop before would be either Mendoza or Buenos Aires. However, those buses are pricy and will cost you nearly an entire day. I actually found the flight (including luggage) to be cheaper than taking the bus. Normally, I wouldn’t even check flights but with buses being as expensive as they are in Argentina, it is worth double-checking to see if you can save some time and money.
Once you touchdown in Bariloche, you will either find yourself at the airport or at the bus terminal.
From Bariloche airport, you can take the bus into town for 65 pesos if you already have the Sube card. If you don’t, you can take a shuttle to the town center or to the bus terminal for 250 pesos. A private taxi will cost about 650-850 pesos, depending on where you are going. If you don’t have a Sube card, I recommend going to the bus terminal and getting one there. It will save you a ton of money in the long run.
From the bus terminal, it is really easy to get into town. If you have the Sube card, then just hop on one of the buses headed towards the center. The ride will cost 35 pesos. If you don’t have the Sube card, the kiosco inside the terminal sells them for 350 pesos. It costs 200 for the card itself and then it comes already loaded with 150 pesos. These cards can be used throughout all of Argentina, so get one as soon as possible.
Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy whenever you’re out adventuring. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $40 a month.
Where To Stay in Bariloche
Bariloche has no shortage of incredible hostels to choose from. However, it is worth noting that there are several different regions to Bariloche. The city center is where most of the happenings are and you shouldn’t have any problem finding hostels there. The thing with Bariloche is that it is quite spread out. If you stay in the downtown area, you will be about 45 minutes from some of the best attractions. If you stay closer to those attractions, then you might not experience the small but bustling city of Bariloche to its fullest.
I stayed at Gravity Eco Hostel for the majority of my stay in Bariloche, before moving to a more central location for one night to be closer to the bus terminal. Gravity Eco Hostel was a perfect location because it was only about 10-15 minutes by bus to most of the incredible hikes in Bariloche, like Cerro Campanario, Cerro Otto, and Cerro Llao Llao. It was also close to two supermarkets and two different bus stops, as well as a laundromat, restaurants, and kioscos so that you could have everything you need. There is even a Western Union inside the La Anonima supermarket about 3 minutes walking distance away.
Having all of those at my disposal while never having to venture too far for an adventure made Gravity an absolutely perfect location. Its location further out of town also makes it a much more tranquil and peaceful area. The hostel also had the best common kitchen I have encountered throughout my travels. I ended up saving a ton of money on food by cooking for myself as opposed to eating out which I definitely would have been more tempted to do in the city center.
Getting Around in Bariloche
Even without a car, you should have no problem getting around in Bariloche. The main road is serviced by the local buses all day until midnight. For the flat rate of 35 pesos per ride, you can get anywhere along the main road, including all the way to the airport and the bus station. The buses also go to the destinations that are further out from town, like Villa Llao Llao and Colonia Suiza. For a more complete guide on the routes, lines, and timetables of the buses, check out the official site of Bariloche Tourism.
Another common way to get around that I’ve seen among travelers and locals alike is by hitchhiking. You just pop onto the side of the road, stick your finger out, and hope for the best. If you have the patience, this can be a great and cheap way to get around Bariloche. If you have the money but not the patience, you can also book taxis, known as remises around these parts. They aren’t always driving around like you’d see in a big city, so if you want a guaranteed ride, you will have to go to a Remises Agency and book one. Most of them will have their number posted outside so you can just jot it down and save it for when you need a taxi.
The Best Things To Do in Bariloche
Where do I even begin? There is so much to do in Bariloche. The city has so many outdoor activities that cater to all types of people, so it would be silly for me to try and list everything that you can do here. Honestly, the ideas are infinite. You can go kayaking, golfing, hiking, sailing, cycling, or whatever your heart desires. There are so many different trails and lakes and beaches that again, it would be silly to list them all. I only spent one week in Bariloche and I guarantee that people who have lived their lifetimes in Bariloche are still finding new things to do each week.
Here are my highlights from my time in Bariloche, but in no way is this even close to an all-inclusive list.
Arguably the best thing to do in Bariloche is to hike up to Cerro Campanario. This is one of the most incredible views you will get in Argentina. The hike only takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace but the payoff is absolutely incredible. From Cerro Campanario, you can see the whole of Bariloche and the surrounding region. The pristine lakes, dense forests, and in the wintertime, snow-capped peaks in every direction make for an unbeatable view.
One of the only beaches that I actually went to on purpose, Playa Serena was my first taste of what life was going to be like in Bariloche. A lot of soaking in the sun and living the lake life. With this beach being a bit further out of town than the other beaches, it definitely lives up to its name. It is much more peaceful and much less crowded than those closer to town.
My favorite hike that I did in Bariloche took me to beautiful, crystal clear waters of Lago Moreno. I took the bus towards Llao Llao and followed the Sendero De Los Arrayanes just past the start of the Circuito Chico. This trail ran alongside Lago Moreno, but make sure to stray off the trail to check out the lake itself. The waters are absolutely stunning and the views of the mountains in the background are remarkable. Lago Moreno is quite big, and you can access it from a number of different places, but this view was my favorite. From Gravity Eco Hostel, it was about a 15 minute walk to the other side of Lago Moreno where there was a lengthy beach and a beautiful view of the setting sun.
Lago Nahuel Huapi
This is the main lake that Bariloche is basically centered around. Most of the city is just a few blocks at most from the shores of this beautiful lake. With the mountains in the background and fiery sunsets to be had every night, I made sure to be here for almost every sundowner. You can do a lot of stuff on this lake, from chilling at the beaches to kayaking and sailing.
Cerro Llao Llao
In a close race for best view in Bariloche with Cerro Campanario is Cerro Llao Llao. After hiking about 12 kilometers already that day, I was pretty sure Cerro Llao Llao wouldn’t give me anything new. I was wrong. This view is one of the best panoramic views in all of Bariloche, if not the best. You get an incredible view of the mountains, the lakes, the dense forests, and the setting sun.
The hike itself doesn’t take too long but with so much to do in the area, one could easily make a day-long adventure surrounding Cerro Llao Llao. I followed this Cerro Llao Llao circuit that starts with the Sendero de los Arrayanes and then passes through Lago Escondido, Villa Tacul, and a few other cool spots before capping off the day at Cerro Llao Llao.
Museo de Patagonia
This museum smack dab in the center of Bariloche’s Civic Center is actually quite intriguing. For the small entrance fee of 150 pesos, you can learn a lot about the history behind Bariloche, Patagonia, and Argentina. The rooms and exhibits range from the native tribes of the area, the geology of Patagonia, and dozens of unsettling taxidermy fauna. I actually was very intrigued by this museum and highly recommend it on a lazy day that isn’t spent out adventuring.
One of the spots that I visited on my Cerro Llao Llao circuit that I mentioned above is Villa Tacul. There is a stunning viewpoint that was one of my favorites in all of Bariloche. After completing the 30-45 minute trail, you end up along a beach with another beautiful view. I chilled here for a while before continuing on with my lengthy trek. It is a perfect spot to rest your feet or even ice them down in the glacial lake on a hot day.
Once you finish the Sendero de los Arrayanes and Lago Moreno, you can continue along the Circuito Chico about half a kilometer to end up at Lago Escondido. It is a beautiful viewpoint, although there isn’t much else to do here. It can be a nice swimming spot, but doesn’t have a beach to chill out on. However, there is a beach a bit further down the trail that you can visit after stopping by Lago Escondido.
The main historic square of Bariloche is where all the action happens. Every time I stopped by here, there was something going on. A band playing, a motorcycle show, an outdoors fair, or whatever Bariloche feels like giving you that day. When nothing is going on, the locals will take it upon themselves to put on a show, whether it’s a jazz saxophonist or a family band with drums on their back. Yeah, it gets weird. It’s also beautiful and right along the lake, making it an ideal and scenic spot to chill.
Below are things that I didn’t actually get a chance to go and do but that I’ve heard good things about.
- Cerro Otto
- Refugio Frey
- Mount Tronador
- Cycle the Circuito Chico
- Visit Colonia Suiza
- Isla Victoria
- Lago Gutierrez
- Playa Bonita
How To Visit Bariloche On A Budget
Bariloche is quite pricy, as far as South America goes. I ate out one time. That isn’t including my several trips to McDonald’s, though. Although I definitely had the treat yo’self attitude while ordering that one meal, I still regret spending $25 on a single meal, no matter how good it was. In Cordoba, I was paying less than 30 pesos per empanada. In the center of Bariloche, I couldn’t find any quality empanadas for less than 80 pesos. I was paying double the price for cold, flaky, underwhelming empanadas. Everything is more expensive in Bariloche, except for the McDonald’s which was basically the only constant. That goes for the hostels, restaurants, bars, taxis, and so on.
However, Bariloche doesn’t have to be expensive. Save for the $25 meal, I reckon I spent only $20 on food total during my week in Bariloche. When you can buy a kilo of steak for $3 and stretch it out comfortably over three days, you can still be living large on a budget. You can even treat yourself to one of the $.75 bottles of red wine to go with your fancy $1 meal.
Cooking Your Own Food
This is the best way to save money in Bariloche. On average, dining out in Bariloche will cost you at least $10. I used to buy $1.50 sandwiches from a bakery to save money back in Buenos Aires. Bariloche forced me to start cooking my own food to save money, and I quickly found out that I could make at least 4 of those cheap sandwiches for the same price as buying one. Meat is also extremely cheap in Argentina, so coupled with some cheap and heavy carbs like rice or potatoes, you can fill yourself up on less than $2 a day.
Make sure to book a hostel with a kitchen. Gravity Eco Hostel had one of the best kitchens I have ever encountered in my travels. It was spacious, new, and well-equipped with everything, down to teflon non-stick pots and pans. I never realized how much of a game changer having a great kitchen was until I was actually forced to use one.
Volunteering At A Hostel
With the abundance of hostels in Bariloche, it is surprisingly easy to find one to volunteer at. Contact hostels ahead of time just to assure they have availability for you, or keep an eye out on sites like WorkAway for volunteer opportunities. If it comes down to it, you can just hostel hop once you arrive in Bariloche and ask around. In the center of Bariloche, the hostels are very concentrated so you’ll have stretches where there are 3 or 4 hostels on the same street.
Before I got to Patagonia, I heard several tales from fellow travelers about how Patagonia is a hitchhikers’ paradise. I saw plenty of people doing this in Bariloche. There are plenty of cars going back and forth between the center and further out, so one of them is bound to pick you up if you have the patience.
If you aren’t about that hitchhiker life, then the Sube card is the way to go. If you don’t already have one, you can get one at Bariloche’s bus terminal or elsewhere in town. I recommend getting it in Buenos Aires though, if possible. It costs 90 pesos there and in Bariloche, it cost me 200 pesos. Each ride in Bariloche costs 35 pesos as of March 2020. Considering that some rides last about an hour, it definitely is worth getting one to save you the money of a taxi or gas.
Nightlife in Bariloche
You can’t spell Bariloche without “bar” or “boliche”.
Despite how small Bariloche feels, the city does add up to over 100,000 people. That means that you won’t struggle to find any of that spicy Argentine nightlife. It definitely won’t have as much of a nightlife scene as Buenos Aires, Cordoba, or any of Argentina’s other nightlife hubs but it is very easy to have fun in Bariloche.
Although you will be able to find nightclubs and boliches, Bariloche is more known for its cervecerias and beerhouses. You will have no shortage of craft beers to choose from when you decide to plop on the beach to catch the sunset or reward yourself after a lengthy hike. If you want a nice bar or craft beer house for a chill night out, then Bariloche is seriously the spot for you. Although my tight budget didn’t allow me to frequent too many, I passed at least a dozen that I would have loved to sit down at.
I was on a sort of cleanse after going out for six straight nights in Cordoba and Buenos Aires, so I didn’t do too much drinking in Bariloche. I know, I know. I’m not living up to my travel blog name. Here’s a good list of bars in Bariloche written by someone more knowledgeable than me on the topic, though.
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Where To Go After Bariloche
Bariloche is the gateway to the rest of Patagonia. Unfortunately, Patagonia is still pretty massive. However, with Bariloche being one of the biggest cities in Patagonia, it is best to start here. You can go south towards El Bolson just a few hours away, or knock out the journey to El Calafate or El Chalten right away.
From Bariloche, you can even take a boat from Puerto Pañuela and go to Chile to start your adventures on that side of Patagonia. Most of the cool stuff between Bariloche and El Chalten is all on the Chilean side. The world is yours. I can’t tell you what to do because honestly, I still have no idea what I’m even going to do. There are a few smaller villages near Bariloche where I will plop down for a bit until inspiration hits me. Villa La Angostura and Villa Traful are supposed to be fantastic, as is San Martin de los Andes.
- Villa La Angostura
- Villa Traful
- Puerto Montt
- El Bolson
- El Chalten
- San Martin de los Andes