Beautifully situated on the steep and wooded southern shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, surrounded by high peaks, San Carlos de Bariloche (it’s official name) is an ideal base for exploring the Lake District. It’s right in the middle of Nahuel Huapi National Park, and there’s so much on offer from the town itself that you’d be quite content to spend a week or so around here. There’s hiking and adventure sports of all kinds in the mountains behind the town, fantastic restaurants, and some wonderful boutique hotels on the lakeshore heading west.
The town was founded in 1902 but really took off in the 1930s when the national park was created. The chalet-style architecture was established at this time by early German and Swiss settlers. The famous hotel Llao Llao (http://www.llaollao.com) and the Civic Centre were designed by major Argentine architect Bustillo, who set the trend for ‘Bariloche Alpine Style’, with local stone, brightly varnished wood and carved gable ends, now ubiquitous throughout the region.
Bariloche is well set up for tourism, with the main street, Mitre, bustling with tour operators, outdoor clothing shops and chocolate makers. There are also many restaurants serving fondue as well as delicious local trout and wild boar, some of them bordering on kitsch, but appealing nevertheless. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in the town centre, but the best places are sprinkled along the shore of lake Nahuel Huapi, towards Llao Llao, where Argentina’s most famous hotel enjoys a spectacularly beautiful setting. To the immediate south of Bariloche there are fabulous walks in the mountains, and up giant Mount Tronador, reached from Pampa Linda further south. On the way are two gorgeous lakes: Gutiérrez, with Estancia Peuma Hue on its shores for excellent horse riding and relaxing; and Mascardi, with access to rafting on the Río Manso. In summer there are good bus and boat services to reach these mountains and lakes as well as cable cars up two of the peaks behind Bariloche. Ski resort Cerro Catedral is arguably the best in South America, and makes a great base for trekking in summer. For more information, see http://www.viajeabariloche.com (in Spanish). For listings.
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