San Carlos de Bariloche, more commonly referred to as simply Bariloche, is a gateway to the Andes, lying at the foot of the spectacular mountain range and inviting trekking, skiing and climbing. With lakes and mountains lining the city in equal measure, you’ll find an atmosphere that borders on European: the locals have even imported Swiss influences in the shape of St Bernard dogs (imported for tourism purposes) and the range of sweet-smelling, high-end chocolate shops.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, Bariloche is a far cry from a typical Argentine tourism destination. You might even want to leave it off your itinerary due to the costly accommodation and bizarre imported influences, but then again, the outdoor sports might just turn the spot back in your favor. Trekking (you can even take several days to head for the heart of the Andes), skiing, paragliding, rafting, kayaking and horse riding are all regular (seasonal) activities, while when you’re done with the outdoor side, you can explore the lively clubs and make the most of the local brewery.
In the summer Bariloche is a lush hillside town that invites locals to throw themselves into the lake, the perfect place to take some Spanish lessons, which even has its own mini freshwater beaches. During winter the snow comes in, the valleys are coated with white and the European style chalets look perfectly at home amongst the soaring peaks.
Most backpackers style travelers who pass through Bariloche head for El Bolson, too. The hippie town is Bariloche’s polar opposite, home to lively flea markets and sat at the base of a huge mountain valley, while the journey between the two spots is quite intensely scenic.
In a way, Bariloche is more suited to those on a week’s holiday than those on a continental scale backpacker wondering, but both will find ample charms to enjoy, as well as basking in the unusual contrast of Spanish culture and skiing.