Bariloche – The Switzerland of Argentina

We arrived in Bariloche and were amazed at its incredible beauty. After being in the semi – desert area of Mendoza, Bariloche was the complete opposite. Officially known as San Carlos de Bariloche, it is a true gem in the Patagonia region of South America. It is a magnificent region and the town itself is nestled into the mountainside overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi (Lake Nahuel Huapi) This lake is so big, that it actually looks like the sea, but of course it isn’t, it is fresh, clean and very clear mountain water. The lake itself is 529km square, so it’s a large lake and has been measured as 438m deep, but no sign of Nessie here, maybe it would have to be Jorge. Bariloche has an interesting history and even some Nazis were found to be hiding here as recently as 1995, so its an interesting place. The town is clean and the air is fresh. Right now, its summer, but its not warm (just ask Francis) and if the wind blows, woohoo, it is really cold. The wind blows off the mountains and across the lake and up into the town, if you happen to be in the crossfire when it hits the town, you freeze, good practice for Canada….

The buildings here in Bariloche seem to be influenced by European Alpine villages and look very much like Swiss or Austrian log homes. In many ways, Bariloche reminds us of Canada, on the west coast with the high mountains, huge lakes and stunning alpine scenery.

Civic Centre in Downtown Bariloche
Swiss Home in Bariloche
Swiss Influence

So, to make sure could see the view properly, Francis and I went up Cerro Otto, or Mount Otto. We had to go up via cableway, so once again Francis had to face her fear of heights and this one was quite steep and high. Once at the top though, the view was amazing. You could see a 360 degree view of the whole town and surrounding mountains. The larger mountains are still snow capped, but in winter, the whole area would be white and snow covered. We spent an hour at the top (there is a revolving restaurant there too) and then came down.

Cable Car
Francis taking in the view
View from Cerro Otto
Surrounding Mountains - Cerro Otto

Bariloche is famous for its chocolate. There is a chocolate shop literally on ever block of the main streets and each one of them MAKES their own chocolate. No Cadburys here…only hand made stuff. So we visited the chocolate museum and it was really fantastic to see how it gets made, we wanted to buy some there, but it was really expensive. We walked a bit further down the road and went into another shop and you could see them making it there too, so we watched, caved in and bought some there, a little cheaper, but wow, really tasty stuff and very fresh. The amazing thing is, every chocolate shop is full of people, the Argentinians certainly have a sweet tooth and so each chocolate shop seems to be really busy. So we bought our first chocolate and we were hooked, each day since, we now go for a choccie run at about 4pm in the afternoon.

Chocolate Museum
Chocolate Mixer
Cherries dipped in Chocolate

Also, on this same evening, we went to dinner at a local couchsurfer called Julie (pronounced Hoo – lee) She made a traditional Asado (similar to a braai) for us and prepared us some food. It was great, the meat, of course, was amazing. Argentinian beef is really good and she was a very interesting person. She is a scientist and is involved in researching the wildlife in Baricloche…so she was very interesting company to say the least.

Julie and Francis
Asado - yes, thats meat..

After dinner we headed back to our Hosteria, but here is the interesting thing. We walked down about 500m of dirt road from her house at about 11:15pm and then got to a main road where we stood for about 10 minutes and waited for a bus back to town. We then got on that bus and were dropped off safely in town about 20 meters from out Hosteria. It is incredible to think that we could never attempt this in SA and that the infrastructure here works so well…buses here, even in a small place like Bariloche, run until midnight. The next day, we went out on a boat trip, but that will be my next post, so keep on looking…should go up soon.

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