San Carlos de Bariloche

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

Following our two-night stay in Puerto Iguazu, we flew to Buenos Aires and stayed at a hotel in the Palermo neighborhood for two nights.

We had one full day and chose to stay near our hotel with the goal of chilling out and doing as little as possible to rest up for the rest of our vacation. From that point on, our vacation was going to be active. 

The weather in Buenos Aires was fantastic and we spent the day sitting at sidewalk cafes and watching the world go by. 

From Buenos Aires, we flew south to the Patagonia region of South America. At 403,000 square miles, Patagonia is the size of two Spains or the size of Texas and California combined.

San Carlos de Bariloche (“Bariloche”) was our first of three stops in Patagonia.

When planning for this trip, we debated between Mendoza and Bariloche and we chose Bariloche because we found ourselves reading many reviews about Mendoza being an overhyped tourist trap. 

Having visited many wine regions in our travels, we thought we would go against our love for wine and visit a location that could offer us a memorable experience. And it was memorable but not in a good way.

Regrets were running high by the time we departed Bariloche. 

Accommodation

We stayed at Charming Luxury Lodge & Private Spa for two nights.

The style of this hotel is one we would normally avoid and it wasn’t located in the city center so it went against all of our wants and needs.

It was a mistake choosing this hotel. It would have been less of a mistake if the weather had cooperated and we had spent less time at the hotel but it still would have been a mistake.

The internet connection was almost non-existent and we spent our time watching it rain vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

With the exception of two short outings, we were trapped inside for the duration of our time in Bariloche. 

San Carlos de Bariloche

Bariloche is known as the Argentinian Lakes District.

The photos we saw online painted Bariloche as a beautiful place, and I’m sure it is… when the weather is good, which it wasn’t during our visit, save for the two hours before we departed.

I cannot think of a trip where the weather completely derailed our plans as it did in Bariloche. The weather made our time in Bariloche miserable.

Bariloche is a medium-sized city of about 110,000 residents. Our hotel bartender (spent a lot of time with her as we were cooped up in our hotel for 24 hours) said that it is a rite of passage to visit Bariloche as an Argentinian but she did not know why. 

She explained that most school children visit Bariloche during their spring break and that she didn’t have the opportunity to do so as a child and this is why she has found herself living and working in Bariloche on a temporary basis. She said that it was still unclear to her what was magical about Bariloche, yet there she was, still searching for the magic.

In addition to being a popular destination for school children, Bariloche is a popular vacation destination for Argentinian adults. 

English was not widely spoken and due to this, we found it difficult to communicate (menus were in Spanish only) but were able to generally get by.

Bariloche is an outdoorsy destination with lots of hiking, cycling, and other “lake activities.” It’s why we chose it as a stop on our mammoth tour but due to the weather, we weren’t able to enjoy the outdoors and there wasn’t much to do in the city, nor did we feel like venturing out into the monsoon weather.

That said, we did accomplish two notable things in Bariloche.

First, we nervously participated in the Blue Dollar Market. You can read about that here.

Second, we hiked Cerro Campanario in a storm, because of course we did.

Cerro Campanario

Visitors to Cerro Campanario rave about the views. The views of the lakes, the mountains, and everything in between. It’s magical, they say. 

We had no views. There was no magic. Only rain and wind. And a short, steep, slippery, and painful hike.

We hiked Cerro Campanario as a benchmark hike to see how far we could push our injured bodies (a broken toe for me and a herniated disc for Peter). The next destination on our Argentinian tour was Patagonia where there would be multiple days of hiking and this was a good taster hike to see into our future.

We took a taxi from our hotel to the trailhead. If we were to do our visit to Bariloche over again, we would have rented a car. A car would have life easier. 

Getting a taxi to the trailhead was not a problem but getting a taxi back to the hotel posed a problem. Under normal circumstances, taxis probably would’ve been plentiful but, given the weather, there wasn’t a taxi in sight and with spotty cell/mobile service, it was a bit of a struggle to fetch a taxi.

The trail was well-marked with wooden signposts and orange dots painted on trees, however, we frequently missed the dots due to the horizontal rain and wind forcing our heads downward instead of upward.

It took about 30 minutes to reach the cafe at the top. The view was, um, limited.


The power of the wind can be seen on my lower pant leg

We sipped hot chocolates inside the cafe and waited for the weather to pass but the weather persisted for the next 40 hours, only clearing about two hours before we departed Bariloche.

Here’s proof that this region is beautiful.

Taken on the day of our departure

Below is a video I took from inside the cafe at Cerro Campanario. The swaying trees tell the story of the wind speed.

After our hot chocolates, we descended to the trailhead. The chairlift was not running on the day of our visit due to the wind which was a bummer because our desire was to get down the mountain as quickly as possible, even if it meant sitting on an exposed chairlift.

Was the hike worth it on the day of our visit? No. We were fools.

Would the hike be worth it on a clear day? Yes.

What we’d do differently

If we were to do our Argentinian tour over again, we would skip Bariloche.

We’d either allocate one of the Bariloche nights to the El Chalten segment and the other night to the Buenos Aires segment or, more likely, we’d re-do the itinerary and replace the two nights in Bariloche with three nights in Mendoza.

The next post on Argentina is here.

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