As for Buenos Aires? It has San Carlos de Bariloche — or more simply, Bariloche. Located in the southern part of Argentina and in northern Patagonia, the low-key mountain town hugs Nahuel Huapi, a startlingly crystalline glacial lake centered in the national park of the same name.
Early in the 20th century, Swiss, German, and Austrian settlers decamped here, lured in by the invigorating alpine air and knee-buckling natural beauty. And today, European flourishes continue to abound in Bariloche, from the rustic wood chalets to the popularity of craft chocolate. Thankfully, all these charms are well within reach for porteños, as the two-hour flights from Buenos Aires to Bariloche are as plentiful as they are affordable. Below, how to make the most of a visit to the alluring Patagonian destination.
What to Do
Since Bariloche is one of those increasingly rare spots that transitions through four distinct seasons, there’s never a bad time of year to visit. World-class skiing and snowboarding at Catedral Alta Patagonia (Argentina’s largest ski resort) are the area’s biggest draw — the peak winter season extends from July through September — but there’s plenty of other ways to spend time outdoors.
For staggeringly expansive views of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the surrounding mountains and forests, take the chairlift, which runs all year long, up to the top of Cerro Catedral. Given the topographic diversity of Bariloche, hiking — Refugio Frey, Cerro Llao Llao, and Cerro Campanario are among the most popular treks — is a sublime way to pass the time. If you prefer a more leisurely pace, fish or horseback ride.
The actual town of Bariloche is easy to explore on foot, and takes but a few hours. Start by strolling down La Calle Mitre, which is lined with lots of little shops for picking up souvenirs and chocolate. (Bariloche is considered the chocolate capital of Argentina.) Then make your way to to the main square, centro cívico (civic center), and cathedral designed by Alejandro Bustillo for a dose of history and architecture.
Where to Stay
If you’re seeking a wallet-friendly, yet well-appointed stay, book the newly opened Selina Bariloche. From the accommodations — ranging from shared community rooms to private suites — to the light-drenched common areas, it’s all about fostering bohemian, communal vibes. Tuck into local favorites (including empanadas, pizza, and medialunas) at The Playground (the hotel’s signature multi-purpose space), and kick back with cocktails and a live DJ set at the lounge downstairs.
Llao Llao Hotel
Centrally located in Nahuel Huapi and surrounded by unparalleled beauty everywhere you turn, Llao Llao Hotel is a stately 1930s resort featuring 205 rooms and suites, an 18-hole golf course, four restaurants, and a bevy of outdoor activities (like archery, mountain biking, and kayaking). Partake in local tradition by booking the “Llao Llao Tea” — imagine a sumptuous spread of custom-blended tea, indulgent sweets, and delicate sandwiches — hosted in the Winter Garden.
Where to Eat and Drink
Though the local craft beer trend kicked off about 15 years ago, Cervecería Patagonia remains the most popular spot to kick back with brews and views. The regular offerings (such as the Pale Ale, Weisse, and Porter) and specials are listed on the chalkboard, and while the kitchen’s beer-friendly bites are no slouch, it’s the golden, thick cut fries you shouldn’t miss.
Alto El Fuego Parrilla
Don’t be fooled by the humble-looking house. Because inside, you’ll discover one of Bariloche’s coziest and most popular parillas, Alto El Fuego Parrilla. Watch the chefs braid entraña (skirt steak) in the open kitchen, before searing it to order and pairing it with one of hundreds of exceptional wines from the basement cellar.
La Cabrona Food Truck
At kilometer two of Bustillo Avenue (one of Bariloche’s main roads) you’ll find the popular food truck La Cabrona. Run by Julieta Caruso, it whips up hearty, hand-held snacks, like burgers and bao buns stuffed with lamb, chorizo, and vegetables.
Specialty shops are all over town, but for the best, locals recommend Mamuschka. The bright, cherry-red cafe is stocked with hundreds of chocolate treats, from bark to bonbons, and there’s a sit-down area in the back where you can sip hot chocolate, or dig into ice cream.
El Boliche de Alberto
While there’s no shortage of quality steaks at this ever lively restaurant — reservations are a must — El Boliche de Alberto is just as dependable for toothsome, made-from-scratch pastas. As for what to get? Order the house Lasagna Alberto, generously layered with meat sauce, ham, cheese, and vegetables.