San Carlos de Bariloche – or simply Bariloche – is a mountain town located in the northern part of Argentina’s Patagonia region.
Bariloche is famous for its German influence, its chocolate, and its beautiful mountain landscapes.
The area surrounding Bariloche is known as Argentina’s Lake District because of the many beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains. Bariloche itself is located by the southern shore of the massive Nahuel Huapi Lake.
In the wintertime, Bariloche is a popular destination for skiing and other winter sports. While in the spring and summer, the mountains are ideal for hikes, trekking, and camping.
In this post, I wanted to share some of the activities and things to do in San Carlos de Bariloche.
Let’s get started!
Argentina Travel Guide: What to Do in Bariloche?
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#1 Circuito Chico in Bariloche
A traditional Bariloche activity is the so-called Circuito Chico, a circle-sharped road passing by many of the lakes closest to Bariloche.
Circuito Chico is famous for taking you from one astonishing scenery to another. Throughout the road, you pass through several viewpoints and places for longer and shorter hikes.
What to Visit on Circuito Chico
Viewpoint Panoramic and Restaurant Punto Panorámico
From the panoramic viewpoint on Circuito Chico, you have one of the best views in Bariloche overlooking both Lake Moreno (Lago Moreno in Spanish) and the mountains. The viewpoint is free of charge and publicly accessible.
However, if you want a bit more private experience, not far from the viewpoint there is a small restaurant. From here you have the same amazing views but in a more quiet setting.
The restaurant is called Punto Panorámico, and it is the perfect stop for lunch or for a cup of coffee while enjoying the beautiful views over the lakes and mountains.
I definitely recommend dropping by if you are in Bariloche!
Viewpoint Bahía Lopez
Following the road of Circuito Chico around for another 4.5 miles (7.4 km), you have another viewpoint. This time overlooking Lopez Bay, or Bahía Lopez in Spanish.
The viewpoint is located by the side of the road and is easy to access.
Viewpoint Lago Escondido
Another couple of kilometers following the road of Circuito Chico, there is another stop: Lago Escondido, or The Hidden Lake.
While apparently hidden, it is clearly marked from the road where to enter. You have to walk a couple of meters inside the forest to find a pier to the lake.
This seems to be another mandatory photo stop for everyone doing Circuito Chico.
Viewpoint Lago Moreno
Follow the road for another mile or so, and you will find the entrance to the next viewpoint, Mirador Lago Moreno.
It’s a small hike through the forest to get to the viewpoint over Lake Moreno. The walk doesn’t take more than 10-20 minutes and is not hard at all! The trail is very well-marked all the way through.
If you are on for a little bit more walking, you can follow the trail for another hour or so, and it will leave you close to another landmark on Circuito Chico: the iconic Llao Llao Hotel.
This trail is called Sendero Arrayanes (the trail of the Arrayanes) after the forest it passes through. Read more about the trail on Bariloche Trekking (link in Spanish).
Puerto Pañuelo and viewpoint Mirador de los Navegantes
Following the road for another 2.5 miles (4 km), you will get to Puerto Pañuelo. A tiny river port from where you can onboard boat trips to the nearby islands in Lake Nahuel Huapi.
Behind the port is a viewpoint called Mirador de los Navegantes or the outlook for the navigators.
The viewpoint is easily accessible with stairs up and down the small mountain behind the port. The viewpoint offers some great views over the crystal clear lakes.
The historic Llao Llao Hotel
Opposite Puerto Pañuelo is another Bariloche landmark: The luxurious Lla Llao Hotel. The enormous hotel building can be seen from the road and the viewpoint behind Puerto Pañuelo.
The hotel is located just between the lakes of Nahuel Huapi and Lake Moreno. It was first opened in 1940 but closed in the 1970s due to a lack of funds for its maintenance. In the 1990s, the hotel was renovated, and it nowadays is considered a luxury hotel and resort in Argentina.
You can stay at the hotel or go and drink a cup of coffee in their restaurant if you wish.
You can either rent a car or a bike and do the circuit yourself. Or you can sign up for a tour of Circuito Chico:
#2 Cerro Otto: Cable Cars & Viewpoint
The Cerro Otto mountain is located just around 3 miles (5 km) outside the city center of Bariloche. From the bottom of the mountain, you can take a cable car up to the top which is located around 1,000 meters above sea level.
From the top of Cerro Otto, you have a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
On the top, there is also a small visitor center with souvenir shops, a zip line, and the possibility to try paragliding.
The visitor center also includes a rotating cafeteria with a panoramic view over the mountains. However, the service at the cafeteria is terrible and pricey, and really not a recommendable activity. You get the same views as the cafeteria offers from walking around the visitor center and its terraces.
#3 Bariloche City Center: the Civic Center & the Cathedral
A symbol of Bariloche is its town hall, Centro Cívico Bariloche or Bariloche’s Civic Center. Around the town hall square, you will find buildings in Alpine-inspired architecture in stone and wood.
You have a great view over Nahuel Huapi Lake from the Civic Center. Just down by the shore of Nahuel Huapi Lake from the Civic Center, you have a nice little restaurant Almado with amazing views over the lake.
The town hall square is connected to the main street in Bariloche: Avenida Mitre. On Avenida Mitre you will find some of Bariloche’s famous chocolate shops (see below) and many souvenir stores.
Bariloche’s cathedral, Catedral Nuestra Señora del Nahuel Huapi, is also located close to the main street. It’s the main Catholic church in Bariloche. It’s open to the public Monday through Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm and again from 4 pm to 9 pm.
Bariloche’s city center doesn’t have too much to offer. You can easily cover it in one day or less. So, the recommendation would be to plan plenty of day trips to the surrounding areas if you are staying in the city.
#4 Daytrip Trekking & Hikes
In the surroundings of Bariloche, there are plenty of different options for doing lighter trekking trips and long hikes.
When we visited, we drove out to the camping area, Camping Lago Gutierrez, and did the trekking trails to the waterfall Cascadas de los Duendes and continued up to a viewpoint over Lake Gutierrez, Mirador Lago Gutierrez.
You can find more inspiration for trails around Bariloche with different difficulties on Bariloche Trekking (link in Spanish).
Cascadas de los Duendes
The first part of the trail to the waterfall is super easy and straightforward. When you arrive at the parking lot in front of Camping Lago Gutierrez, you will see the entrance to the forest clearly marked with signs.
Follow the marked trail until there is a sign pointing to Cascadas de los Duendes. Shortly after you will start to hear to sound of the waterfalls.
Read more about Cascadas de los Duendes (link in Spanish).
Viewpoint Lake Gutierrez
After visiting Cascadas de los Duendes, follow the trail back to where you turned towards the waterfalls. From there, follow the other trail in the forest towards the viewpoint over Lake Gutierrez.
The first part of the trail is pretty easy. But as you get closer to the top of the mountain, the harder it gets. The last part of the trail is steep and you have to work to get up.
The good thing is that the trails are clearly marked and it is very easy to find your way – just keep in mind that you’ll have to work for it!
Read more about the viewpoint of Lake Gutierrez (link in Spanish).
#5 Colonia Suiza in Bariloche
Between Bariloche and Circuito Chico, you’ll find the Swiss Colony or Colonia Suiza in Spanish. The first European colony in the area. It was founded towards the end of the 19th century by Swiss immigrants that arrived in Argentina in search of a new life.
Today, the colony is a weird mix of souvenir shops, restaurants, and chocolate shops.
The charm of Swiss-looking houses in Patagonia seems to have turned into more of a touristic circus.
#6 Taste local Chocolate
In Argentina, Bariloche is famous for its chocolate. The tradition of chocolate was brought to the area by European immigrants and has been kept alive in the region ever since.
Some of the most well-known chocolate shops in Bariloche:
#7 The Havanna Chocolate Museum
Bariloche also has its own chocolate museum by the locally well-known chocolate and alfajor brand, Havanna.
The museum is small. All information is in Spanish, and they only offer guided tours in Spanish. So, keep that in mind if you visit with limited Spanish knowledge.
The museum’s highlight is definitely one of the last rooms where you can see several sculptures of Patagonian animals made exclusively in chocolate.
A fun fact is that the chocolate and alfajor brand, Havanna, is not originally from Bariloche. But from the Argentine coastal town, Mar de la Plata.
The museum is located outside the city center but can easily be reached by foot or taxi.
#8 German-themed Walking Tours
Bariloche is well-known for its huge European – and especially German – influence. European immigration to the area dates all the way back to the foundation of the city. But throughout history, different waves of German immigration have formed Bariloche. Including a Nazi wave following the end of the Second World War.
If you are interested in history and learning more about the German’s influence on Bariloche, the walking tour German Footprint & Nazi presence in Bariloche is an excellent afternoon activity. Diego that runs the tours is a great storyteller and knows a lot about Bariloche and its history.
The tour takes place Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 7 pm from the Civic Center in front of the tourist information.
Tickets can be brought on Viator.com.
#9 A Boat Trip on Lake Nahuel Huapi
A boat trip is another popular activity when in Bariloche.
With the many different lakes in the area, it isn’t hard to imagine how a boat trip is an ideal way to explore the area.
Many of the tours embark on Victoria Island, a huge island in the middle of Lake Nahuel Huapi.
#10 Skiing (in the Winter)
In the winter (June through August in Argentina), Bariloche is a super popular skiing destination for both international and local tourists.
Even outside the skiing season, you are able to visit Cerro Catedral on a tour.
Have you visited Bariloche? Or would you like to visit? Or maybe you are already planning a trip here? Share your thoughts and knowledge below!
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