Bariloche is famous for its chocolate, and you can’t go more than a few feet without coming across one of the city’s many chocolateries. If you want to give the chocolate experience a fun spin, why not start at the top of Mitre Street and make your way down, stopping into each of the chocolate sellers along the way and doing a taste test to determine which one is the winner.
While Bariloche might have a decidedly Alpine feel, if you visit in the summer you’ll have a hard time finding any snow around. However, if you want to fool yourself into thinking it’s winter, head to chocolate haven Rapa Nui where, tucked all the way at the back, past the ice-cream counter and café, you’ll find an ice-skating rink where you can while away a few hours doing triple axels, or just clutching the side rail as you inch your way around the perimeter.
Out of Bariloche on the Circuito Chico you will find Colonia Suiza, or the Swiss Colony. This Argentine interpretation of a Swiss village is somewhat comical, as the one-horse settlement pertains to the European enclave in name only. There are some Swiss-esque elements to Colonia Suiza, such as the Alpine architecture, waffle stands, and chocolate shops, but if you have never been to Switzerland, you could definitely be fooled into thinking that this is similar.
Bariloche’s most famous hotel is the Llao Llao, located outside the city on kilometer 29. This hotel is where the rich and famous stay, and inside you can see pictures hanging on the walls of all the famous foreign presidents who have stayed in the hotel over the years. Movie and horror film buffs might also be fans of Llao Llao due to its cinematic feel, and it reminds many visitors of The Overlook Hotel in the Stanley Kubrick movie The Shining, except a little less scary and a lot more luxurious.
Bariloche is also reminiscent of famous film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. El Bolsón, a hippy village to the south of Bariloche, in particular calls to mind the setting of this fantasy tale, and is often called the Andean Shire because of its resemblance to the books’ location. El Bolsón is full of houses that look like hobbit holes, and most of the buildings are constructed with large timber logs, giving the area a very definite and fantastical character.
While you’re in El Bolsón, why not take a trip to the Bosque Tallado, or the Carved Forest. The Bosque Tallado gets a bad rep from locals, but if you’re looking for weird, wonderful, and slightly creepy experiences in Patagonia, then this sculpture park is for you. Strange gremlins, tree creatures and goblins all come to life (ish) in this mountain art project, where the burnt remains of the lenga forest damaged by fire in 1982 were transformed by local artisans into 31 statues. If you’re not into the statues, definitely check it out for the view.
No trip to Bariloche and El Bolsón would be complete without heading to the Labirinto Patagonia, a manmade labyrinth right in the middle of the Patagonian mountains. This is a great option for a day out with the kids, who can run around and get lost in the labyrinth while their parents search for them. OK, this might not sound like a parent’s idea of fun, but it’s definitely an unusual experience!