The Top Things to Do and See in Bariloche, Argentina

A visit to the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi is one of the many glorious sights to see in Bariloche
A visit to the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi is one of the many glorious sights to see in Bariloche | © Alexander Trybushny / Alamy Stock Photo
Bethany Currie

At the heart of Argentina’s Lake District is the alpine-style town of Bariloche. Its culture is Patagonia-meets-Switzerland – with lakeside log chalets a stone’s throw away from Nahuel Huapi National Park – where adventures in the Andes mountains await.

1. See the Swiss Architecture

Architectural Landmark

Bariloche Alpine style Centro Civico building
© Stuart Black / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

The Alpine-style architecture of Bariloche’s town center could easily fool you into thinking you’re in Switzerland. Inside the log and stone buildings, you’ll find souvenir shops, exclusive boutiques, and outdoor activity stores. In the central square, you can’t miss the Bariloche Civic Center (Centro Cívico) – it’s the town’s most obvious relic from its German and Swiss heritage, down to the slate roof and wooden balconies.

2. Venture into Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi

Park

View over Lake Nahuel Huapi, Nahuel Huapi National Park, The Lake District, Argentina
© Stuart Black / Alamy Stock Photo
Nahuel Huapi is one of Argentina’s most visited national parks – and Bariloche sits at the edge of its glacier lake. This spectacular mountainous landscape covers an area of 7,500 sqkm (almost 2m acres) between the southwestern Neuquén and western Río Negro provinces. You can explore its lakes, waterfalls, forests and snowy mountains if you hire a car – or book one of the guided tours, such as a half day’s guided hiking up the Cerro Lopez peak.

3. Drink Pilsner Beer in El Bolsón

Architectural Landmark, Natural Feature

Take a day trip to the bohemian town of El Bolsón, around a two-hour drive from Bariloche. Priding itself on ecological living and organic farming, it’s become a popular destination for the liberal-minded. The town’s first non-native inhabitants came from Germany, and a happy hangover from that time is the high-quality production of cheeses and beer. There’s a meeting of cultures at the Cerveceria Otto Tipp microbrewery, where you can sip Gringa pilsner as you tuck into tender Patagonian lamb.

5. Take a Day Trip to Villa La Angostura

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Villa La Angostura
© Walter Bibikow / Alamy Stock Photo
Just north of Bariloche is another small town that’s well worth a visit – Villa La Angostura, high in the mountains and home to the Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. The park gets its name from the arrayán trees that are native to the Argentinian-Chilean border and were important to the native Mapuche people as a source of medicine. Hiking in the forests is possible as long as you have a good map – check out theMisión race route.

6. Museo de la Patagonia

Museum

Inside the Centro Civico building, you’ll find the Museo de la Patagonia. It provides a great overview of the development of the national park and the surrounding area, with exhibits on natural history and indigenous cultures. Highlights include a diorama of a prehistoric habitat, taxidermied creatures and artifacts from the ancient societies of the Mapuche and Yamaná people. This eclectic and slightly old-fashioned museum is going through an upgrade, so watch this space.

7. Visit the Chocolate Shops

Cafe, Coffee, Tea , Dessert, Pastries, Fast Food

In keeping with Bariloche’s Alpine architecture, European-style specialty chocolate shops are dotted across the town center, with a concentration of them on the high street of Bartolomé Mitre. The most popular is Chocolates Rapa Nui, which has existed in the town for generations – since it was first set up in the early 1900s by an Italian immigrant. The shop is also home to a café serving ice cream, desserts and other patisserie items.

8. Get Close to Cerro Tronador

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Aerial view on Cerro Tronador
© Katarzyna Druzbiak / Alamy Stock Photo

Cerro Tronador in Nahuel Huapi National Park is the highest mountain in Argentina’s Lakes region – its triplet of peaks – Argentino, Internacional and Chileno – forming part of the Andes range. But you don’t have to summit this 11,410ft (3,478m) giant to experience its beauty. Many day trips from Bariloche venture close to Cerro Tronador for activities, such as white-water rafting and hiking among the surrounding forests and lakes.

9. View the Cave Paintings of Isla Victoria

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Isla Victoria, a small island on Lake Nahuel Huapi in the Nahuel Huapi National Park, is reachable by a beautiful boat journey across the clear water. The island was once inhabited by indigenous people – in fact, their artwork from seven or eight centuries ago can still be seen in at least a dozen of the caves. Hiking is leisurely here, with its tranquil forests and boardwalk around the shore for your viewing pleasure.

10. Ski on Cerro Catedral

Natural Feature, Ski Resort

Skier in the forest after a heavy snowfall in Cerro Catedral Argentina.
© Javier Corripio / Alamy Stock Photo

Cerro Catedral is the biggest lift-accessed ski area in South America – around half of which is off-piste – and it’s just a short bus ride away from Bariloche’s town center. It has 75mi (120km) of slopes over a vertical drop of 3,773 ft (1,150m), but the stand-out feature is the view of the Nahuel Huapi lake and surrounding national park. The ski season here usually runs from mid-June to early October, so be sure to book your stay nearby in advance.

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