Bariloche is busiest in the school holidays (January and July), but it’s also the destination for all graduating secondary school students in August, September and January, though these groups are now confined to special hotels (not listed here!), and rarely stray beyond the city’s bars and nightclubs for their inevitable rites of passage. Accommodation is cheaper outside of the peak periods, but the weather becomes unpredictable at the end of April. For skiing, July and August are best, though hotels are packed with mass tourism from Chile and Brazil. Try June or September instead, and always book well ahead.
Bariloche is an easy city to walk around and to orient yourself in, since the lake lies to the north, and the mountains to the south. The main street is Mitre, running east to west, and unmistakable with its souvenir and chocolate shops. Here you’ll find all the tour operators, locutorios and internet cafés, as well as banks and some food shops. The tourist information office is in the distinctive chalet-style Centro Cívico, with an open space giving good views onto the lake, and most hotels and restaurants are gathered in three or four blocks around here, with cheaper accommodation and hostels tending to be a few blocks further south on the upper slopes of town. More upmarket hotels and many restaurants are spread out on along Avenida Bustillo, the road running the southern shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi for some 25 km, as far as the famous Hotel Llao Llao, and in an area known as Colonial Suiza. This is a viable place to stay even if you haven’t got a car, since frequent local buses, run by 3 de Mayo, run along its length. Take No 20 to Llao Llao, for lakeside hotels and restaurants and Puerto Pañuelo; No 10 to Colonia Suiza and Bahía López for trekking; No 50 to Lago Gutiérrez, via the base for cable car to Cerro Otto; and the bus labelled ‘Catedral’ for Cerro Cathedral.
The airport (T02944-405016) is 15 km east of town, taxis charge US$9. A bus service meets each arriving flight (US$4). Bus and train stations are both 3 km east of town; a taxi costs US$2.50, or there are frequent buses (Nos 10, 20 and 21) to the centre, US$1. The bus terminal (T02944-432860) has toilets, a small confitería, kiosko and locutorio. Left luggage costs US$1.50 per day. If you are staying in one of the many hotels on the road to Llao Llao, west of town, expect to pay a little more for transport to your hotel.