El Bolsón is a very seductive little place. With its laid-back atmosphere, sprawled out in a broad fertile valley 130 km south of Bariloche, it is contained within huge mountain ranges on either side (hence it’s name ‘the big bag’), and it makes a great base for relaxing for a few days, and for hiking in the tempting peaks around. The great serrated ridge of Cerro Piltriquitrón (2284 m) dominates the town, apparently emitting healthy positive ions, which might be why you feel so relaxed while you’re here. Certainly it’s a magical setting, and it’s not surprising that it inspired thousands of hippies to create an ideological community here in the 1970s. What remains is a young, friendly place where the population make lots of handicrafts, and with the sparkling Río Azul running close by, and a warm sunny microclimate, you’re likely to want to stay for a few days to try the home-brewed beers and fruit for which the town is famous. A craft market is held in the semicircular plaza on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 1000-1600. Argentina’s finest ice cream is made at Jauja, also the town’s best restaurant, with organic milk and local berries: there are 11 flavours of chocolate alone.
Nearby there are many beautiful mountain walks, a couple of waterfalls and rafting on the Río Azul. The small national park of Lago Puelo is within easy reach 18 km south, for fishing, swimming and walking. And there’s a small family orientated ski centre in the winter, at Centro de Ski Perito Moreno (http://www.bolsonweb.com/aventura/ski.htm) . For more information, see http://www.elbolson.com.
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