Since the 1930s skiers, nature enthusiasts and tourists alike have flocked to the gorgeous town of San Carlos de Bariloche (commonly known simply as Bariloche) in Río Negro, Argentina. Nicknamed “Little Switzerland” for its mountains, Swiss-style architecture and amazing chocolate, Bariloche is a must-see for anyone traveling in Argentine Patagonia.
Bariloche is surrounded by the Andes Mountains, making it an ideal spot for skiing during the winter. The largest and most popular ski spot in the area—and perhaps in all of South America—is on Cerro Catedral, which provides an impressive view of the Nahuel Huapi Lake. When you’re planning a skiing trip to Bariloche, remember that in the Southern Hemisphere winter occurs during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months.
But whether or not you’re a skier, taking one of our Bariloche tours is sure to be an unforgettable experience. The 38-mile Circuito Chico is a popular route that stretches all around the town and the beautiful Nahuel Huapi Lake, offering a very inclusive overview of what Bariloche has to offer. The city is surrounded by Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina’s oldest national park and the site of many forests, glaciers and rivers.
Bariloche is the largest city in the Argentine Lake District, which means, as you might have already guessed, that it’s surrounded by a number of beautiful lakes. However, out of these lakes, the Nahuel Huapi Lake is definitely the most gorgeous. None of our Bariloche tours is complete without a visit to its shimmering waters. Kayaking across Nahuel Huapi is a lovely way to meditate and enjoy the natural scenery. Fishers will swoon at the possibility of catching a rainbow trout in the lake, and during the summer sunbathers will be in heaven on Playa Bonita (meaning Pretty Beach). However, swimming-enthusiasts might be in for a bit of a rude awakening if they try to dive into Nahuel Huapi: due to the constantly-melting snow, the water is always extremely cold, averaging at 57 degrees Fahrenheit during the summertime.
A surprising amount of mystery and history surrounds Nahuel Huapi Lake. When visiting the Playa Bonita during your Bariloche tour, look out across the water and you’ll see a small island known as the Isla de Huemul. There, in the early 1950s, famous past Argentine president Juan D. Perón attempted to construct the world’s first system of energy using nuclear fusion. This was a secret project, concocted with the non-violent aim of modernizing the country’s metal production. However, the project was never successfully completed, and what’s left of the facility still remains today on the Isla de Huemul. In fact, tourists are welcome to kayak across the lake to visit the island and its historic remains if they so desire.
But the scattered ruins of a nuclear facility aren’t Nahuel Huapi Lake’s only mysterious attraction. If you’re really lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of the famous Nahuelito during your Bariloche tour! The Nahuelito is Argentina’s take on the Loch Ness Monster: although it’s never been officially discovered, it’s been described by many as an enormous serpent with a huge hump that lives in the lake. Many alleged witnesses of the creature believe it to be the result of a nuclear experiment gone horribly wrong.
Hikers and mountain-climbing enthusiasts will love to explore the mountain paths surrounding Bariloche. Generally speaking, most of the trails in the area are untamed, making them more ideal for trekking than laid-back hiking. However, some trails, such as the Refugio Frey/Nuñez Trail, are more ideal for relaxed exploring. This trail, high above the city, stretches through a forest and past a flowing river before finally opening up onto a small beach on Lake Gutierrez.
Bariloche tours in one of Argentina’s most historically interesting areas is something you won’t soon forget, regardless of what season of the year you decide to visit. Even Argentines get excited about the prospect of traveling to this mountainous wonderland.