For a small and relatively isolated resort town, Bariloche has quite a history: A heady mix of conquistadors, Nazi war criminals, secret fusion reactors and President Dwight Eisenhower. But the city’s one dominant trait is tourism.
Today, the small city serves as the main base for entering Nahuel Huapi National Park, as well as the wider Lake District in the northwest of Argentine Patagonia.
It has developed into a Swiss-style alpine resort town, perfectly situated for exploring the spectacular surrounding area with its lakes, forests, hot springs and mountains. People come from across the globe to trek, ski, climb, fish, and go whitewater rafting. Then there are the chocolate shops, chic cafes and restaurants that cater to the year-round influx of tourists, from affluent holidaymakers to less well-heeled backpackers.
Bariloche is at its busiest during the ski season in the winter months from June to September. Just a few miles southwest of Bariloche stands Cerro Catedral, a mountain that’s home to one of the largest ski centers in South America.
Summer brings a whole different set of charms. Lakeside beaches like Playa Bonita soon fill up with sunbathers; some brave souls also swim in the frigid waters. Summer hikers and horseback riders hit the trails in Nahuel Huapi National Park, and birdwatchers come to spot Magellanic woodpeckers, blue-eyed cormorants, Andean condors and more.
Further afield, the Lake District as a whole offers many opportunities for adventure. About 65 miles directly north of Bariloche lies San Martín de los Andes, the main rival to Bariloche. Its glacier-fed lakes and rivers are a sport-fishing hotspot (primarily trout and salmon), while the bordering Lanín National Park attracts hikers and climbers.
Head further south and you’ll come to El Bolsón, another popular base in the Lake District for ecotourism and outdoor adventure. Despite a rise in commercialization, El Bolsón still has a reputation for being the “New Age” option in the region, and has a more laid-back feeling. It’s also a cheaper alternative to Bariloche.
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