San Carlos de Bariloche

Growing up in Maputo-Mozambique I recall series of commercials on CNN where they would show a landscape and flash possible location names on it which would then all be wrong and it would turn out to be a small town you’d never heard of before and the tagline was something like “CNN is everywhere”. The reason I recall these ads so well is because one of them depicted a gorgeous lake with snow-covered mountains/volcanoes on the background that wasn’t the Swiss Alps or Mount Fuji, instead it was Osorno-Chile, the town where my father was born.

The first and only time I set foot in Osorno, and the whole outstanding lake region in Chile, I was 27 and  I remember thinking “this is even more beautiful than in the ads!”.  Well, it was on that trip and amidst all those breathtaking landscapes that I first heard of San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina.

San Carlos de Barriloche lies 230kms from Osorno in the Argentine side of the Patagonia so its no surprise that every single tourist I met on that trip was either coming or going to Bariloche. Hearing so much about it really made me want to go but alas it wasn’t possible on that trip. So when years later mid December 2014 my cousin proposed a mad 3000kms road trip to Argentina including Bariloche I knew I couldn’t say no.

Bariloche proved to be stunning. The town is on the margins of the “Nahuel Huapi” and, for me at least, this breathtaking lake stole the show. For those of you that like numbers the Nahuel Huapi is situated 770 meters above sea level and covers an area of 557km²  with a measured depth of 439 mts. But nature’s beauty can’t be understood in numbers, and I’m no Emily Dickinson or John Keats to even try to describe the simple pleasure obtained from standing at a view-point admiring this magnificent lake and its surrounding vegetation. All I can do is share with you some of my photos, still, I’m no professional photographer and unfortunately it was overcast the entire time we were there so even the photos don’t really do it justice.

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However Bariloche isn’t just about the lake so let me tell you a bit about the town. The first thing that will jump out at you is the number of accommodation options. Seriously, every other house is either a hostel, B&B or a hotel. The few that aren’t lodgings are either restaurants, souvenir shops, chocolate stores or ski rentals.  Yep, I almost forgot to tell you that the main reason Bariloche exists is because the skiing is supposed to be superb. I don’t ski and I went in summer so I really don’t know but hey,if everyone else says it is I’ll believe them.

Nonetheless don’t be fooled by the whole ski resort town and expect it to be calm in summer because it turns out that Bariloche in summer is the favourite spot for school trips… I counted 6 different school groups in the first day!!  The students and most everyone else there in summer go for the hiking, cycling trails and a few for windsurfing or sailing on the lake.

Anyway, back tot he the town, the houses are mostly wooden or stone and because nothing is perfect you’ll find a few buildings in the town centre that almost spoil the charm of this little town but even those buildings aren’t more than 6 or 7 stories high.

Outside the town center the houses tend to blend in and disappear into the hills.

All said and done I think Bariloche is charming and full of activities of every kind so regardless of your preferences you’d be hard pressed to say you were bored whatever season you decide to go. All the same there is one activity I would recommend to everyone, and that is to go up “Cerro Otto” (Otto Hill) and enjoy the superb views it offers of the lake, the town and the surrounding  area. To reach the top of the hill you can either use the cable cars, drive up, or simply pick a trail and hike or cycle up the hill. Once on top you have 2 huge viewpoints and a rotating restaurant. 🙂

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