From the town of Puyehue, Chile there is the border of Chile and Argentina and access to the region of Patagonia. Here many people escape to the beautiful surrounding mountains to hike, camp and breathe mountain air. The main hub in this region is the town of Bariloche, where I stayed for 3 nights.
Day 4 – Arriving in Argentina
I took a bus on Andesmar from the city of Puerto Montt. This is probably the smartest way to go to Bariloche since air travel is expensive and renting a car is expensive. Because the journey takes a whole day I opted to go for first class with leather seats and reclined seating. I got a sandwich, which was alright and pretty gross coffee.
The journey takes around 7 hours to complete but it goes through the Andes mountains and there is a beautiful scenery along the way. Also the border crossing is at least an hour break. Make sure to keep you entrance ticket you received when you first arrive into Chile. You absolutely need it leaving Chile as well and I had to dig underneath the carriage of the bus to find my ticket. I was pretty upset over the ordeal.
Arriving in Bariloche, I was or what I thought, 2 hours late and had no way of calling up my Airbnb host. I realize now that travelers should always find wifi somewhere and I should have researched before I arrived. Luckily this nice woman, near where I was staying, helped me out and called my Airbnb host. She met up with me to give me the keys and it was really a perfect place.
After checking in, I noticed that my fancy adapter was missing. I’m almost positive that it was lost while I was getting out documents at the border crossing. Luckily I was told about this electrical shop where I could pick up an adapter. I also remember trying to figure out the wifi password, and she wrote it down so horribly, but it turns out it was already printed from a computer on another part of the fridge. I felt stupid trying to figure it out for 20 minutes. Next time I should look around more!
That night I went out on the main part of the city and eat some Argentinean food and drink some Argentinean wine. For about 15 dollars, (Bariloche is not really that cheap), I had a great bottle of wine and a huge beef sandwich at this restaurant called Friends. In Argentina beef is typical in a lot of meals, especially in Patagonia.
I walked the streets as the sun came down and then went back to my Airbnb. The breeze felt amazing from the 4th floor apartment overlooking the Centro Civico. At night, even in the summer, nights could be in the 40s and 50s.
Day 5 – Cerro Campanario
The next day I woke up, got dressed and did my usual scrambling to find a place to eat. Surprisingly it’s hard to find a good breakfast in Bariloche. Also meals are heavy and meaty, meaning they are really high in calories.
I found a cute restaurant designed all in wood decor, ordered my morning panini sandwich with tea, and had a chance to look up ways to get to Cerro Campanario. Which, by the way, there are no easy ways to get there. First you could take a bus but let me tell you, it’s kind of confusing to buy the tickets and the buses are crowded with tourists and locals. The other option is rent a car which is actually the way I recommend because then you could carry on and see other sites. I took the expensive cab route and I don’t regret it but yeah it was a splurge
Cerro Campanario is a fantastic miniature mountain with a nice chairlift that whisks you up the mountain in under 10 minutes. At the top there are stunning views of the surrounding Lake Nahuel Huapi, the Andes, and the surrounding Patagonian lakes. There is also a small restaurant and gift shop. I decided to tour the top first, take some photos, and just enjoy the views. I then had a small cake and talked to an older couple from Buenos Aires. Because I was by myself I got many questions on what I was doing and why I was traveling alone.
Cerro Campanario can be completed in about 2 hours and it’s why I recommend that you get a rental. With your rental you could continue on the Circuito Chico, the road that tours the Llao Llao region. There are many restaurants and places to snap photos and is an easy drive. I didn’t have the option so I just went back to Bariloche.
This time I kept my trip lighter than usual. I didn’t plan for a lot of activities and I didn’t splurge to do something I wasn’t really up for. Like the day I went to Cerro Campanario, when I got back, I walked around Bariloche and took pictures of their famous church, found a grocery store where I could get cheap Argentina wine, and scoped out souvenirs.
Day 6 – Cerro Catedral
I planned my days in Bariloche according to the major activity of that day. Day 6 I wanted to go to Cerro Catedral, a taller mountain with chairlifts to the top. The only problem was that I didn’t know what the weather would be like. I didn’t want to take a taxi all the way out there to find out that the chairlifts weren’t operating.
I took a risk and paid $40 to take a one way taxi to the base of Cerro Catedral. On the way my taxi driver communicated with me through broken English, sign language and my basic Spanish. In a 30 minute drive we actually had a decent conversation using basic methods. It was nice to get a basic understanding of Bariloche and what life is like for the average citizen.
When I arrived the area was pretty cloudy and the parking lot was empty. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see the surrounding mountains and that the gondola to the top would be closed. Luckily both were conditionally open. I paid the somewhat pricey tickets, and then took the first gondola up.
It’s about a 10 minute gondola ride to a base point below the mountain top. This area offers great views of surrounding Bariloche, a restaurant and more activities. From here you can take the last chairlift up to the highest point. I decided to continue and take the chairlift. At the top there is also a restaurant with amazing views, hiking trails and ski runs.
I arrived at the top and there were patches of snow even in the middle of summer. It was probably in the 30’s and 40’s, the weather was still cold but not enough to be too annoying. I decided to walk around the mountain edge and check out the views. It was somewhat rocky and I definitely wore the wrong boots for hiking. Regardless I followed some people up this slope to get even higher and I’m glad I did.
The trail to the top was actually quite long. In the winter, this would have been a ski trail. I hiked past some scary looking rocks and up a part of the mountain that was somewhat easier to climb. I didn’t think there was anything worth while to view past the edge; well I was wrong! At the edge of the mountain the view was absolutely stunning and I took a video when I first discovered the view.
Being there, it was the type of experience where it leaves you breathless. The mountain is huge, the clouds are moving fast over my head and the surrounding area was quiet. It was eerie and powerful. What surprised me was that nobody from the trail followed me up. I was completely alone and it was nice for a change. After all the hiking, being cold and getting over my infection in my eye; it was nice to have such as powerful surprised. To me this what traveling is all about. Sometimes you suffer a lot during your journey but the result can be spectacular.
I stayed for around 15 minutes and left because the clouds looked ominous. If it rained I would have been screwed and I didn’t want my expensive cameras to be ruined. I then walked the 30 minute walk back to the chairlift area where I had a nice cup of hot chocolate and enjoyed the view before heading back down the mountain. All and all I really enjoyed Cerro Catedral. It’s one of the most accessible mountains close to Bariloche and in the winter is one of the top ski resorts in the area.
Back in Bariloche I finished out my day with souvenir shopping, walking through the main street and heading to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi. The church is pretty accessible and really marks the eastern point of the main downtown area of Bariloche. The shopping area really isn’t that large and can be achieved within an afternoon. The main souvenir to buy in Argentina are wooden items, chocolate, and winter gear. Prices are pretty high in this part of Argentina so it was hard to justify some purchases.
Day 7 – Cerro Tronador
Cerro Tronador is a mountain that is a 2 hour drive through a national park south of Bariloche. I rented a car and headed out pretty early in the morning to avoid the rush of tourists. The drive will be paved for the first hour or so and then it’s dirt road through pretty remote parts of the park. Make sure you have a car that can handle these types of road because you would lose hours if something were to happen to your car. A normal car is fine, just check over your tires before you start your journey.
There are many picturesque parts through the park and it’s pretty easy to stop on the side of the road to take some photos. You’ll see a lot of tourists doing the same so some spots can be really crowded. Also food is pretty limited throughout the park and if I was smart I would have brought food with me instead of buying a crappy sandwich in the park. There is a restaurant at the end of the journey but they only take cash! Also in the morning there is only one way traffic towards the mountain. In the afternoon they switch the road to the opposite way.
On Cerro Tronador there are huge glaciers that are seen from the bottom of the mountain. Actually the top of the mountain is really in Chile and part of the mountain serves as the border between Chile and Argentina. The view and glaciers are pretty breathtaking. It’s possible to view a glacier up-close if you drive to Ventisquero Negro, a glacier that comes down the mountain into a lake. It is possible to go to the end of the trail where you will find a restaurant and hiking trail to get closer to the mountain. I only went part of the way here.
I spent most of my time at this local restaurant located not far from the base of Cerro Tronador. It has a beautiful view of the mountain and glaciers that lie on top of it and perfect place to sip on some beer. Nobody can head the other direction until a certain time so once you’re in the park you really have to stay until they reverse the road. Like I said the facilities are kind of lacking so it’s probably best to bring food with you. There isn’t much to do here besides hiking and admiring the view but it’s certainly worth the drive.
Because of the long drive and the fact they don’t let you out until later, I didn’t get back to Bariloche until later in the evening. Being outside all day and driving for 4 hours I was actually ready to just chill out at the Airbnb apartment.
Bariloche is a fantastic mountain town. Yes it’s kind of touristy. Yes it was pretty expensive. But as a whole it was all worth it given the views, and how relaxing the surrounding area is. It is a struggle to get to Bariloche but if you love mountains and the outdoors than this is a great place to start in Argentina. It’s like a little Swiss city in South America.
Argentineans are helpful, more knowledgeable of English than their Chilean neighbors, and this area of Patagonia was pretty clean. I guess the worst thing about Bariloche are the prices. In Argentina, Bariloche is known as a couples getaway city and the prices show that. Compared to cities in the USA it’s about the same as going out for a meal so it’s not crazy but it’s certainly not cheap. Also beef is the main food item, so prepare yourself to eat a lot of it.
Also I only spent 3 nights in Bariloche but there is way more to do in Bariloche than what I did. I saw the highlights and really focused on the mountains. I also kept the journey more chill and didn’t rush to do something I didn’t want to. Personally this is how I travel now and I like it way more.
Argentina became one of my favorite countries, along with Chile, and yes I do plan to come back!