Bariloche is called the ‘Switzerland’ of South America as it’s surrounded by lakes, snow-capped mountains and has the best chocolate in Argentina. We’d left Patagonia and were now in the Lakes District, and with such beautiful scenery on offer, we were planning to continue our hiking spree. But almost as soon as we crossed the border into Argentina, it started to rain. And it continued to rain every single day of our stay in Bariloche. So much so that Bariloche had its average annual rainfall in the week we were there. It was crazy.
But still, we had reason to be excited. For 2 days we were meeting up with our friends from the Antarctica trip, Erin and Craig, fellow lovers of adventure and wine.
The first day we were in town, we hired a car together and did the 7 lakes drive to San Martin de los Andes and back. It was a lovely drive in the mountains, past the 7 beautiful lakes. And despite the overcast conditions, the colours of the lakes and the colours of autumn were still incredible. We could only imagine how stunning they would look if you could see the full height of the mountain, and with more depth in colour of the water from the sun.
Part way through, we took a detour down an especially bumpy road in an attempt to find some food in nearby Villa Traful, which had been described by the Lonely Planet as ‘achingly beautiful’. We spent almost an hour trying to avoiding potholes and giving way to horses on route, only to find nothing open in the off-season and a pretty average looking lake. Nothing like the ones pictures above. Lonely Planet fail.
For most of the drive, the roads weren’t in the best conditions. And the drive itself was a bit stressful for the driver (me!), as it’s been 5 months since I last drove. It was bait of a challenge having to drive a manual car in Argentina, with Spanish signage and road rules and on a different side of the road.
I’m happy to say I passed the test as we drove over 300km around the lakes. I even threw in a killer reverse park on the steepest hill in town once we got back to impress the passengers. It was actually the only space left after circling the surrounding block a few times, so I had no choice.
Our last day with Erin and Craig was another rainy day, this time perfect weather for our plans. Erin and Craig offered to cook us lunch in their hostel after we’d complained about how little veg we’d had in our diet the last few weeks. Not only did they share our love of wine, but also our love of food. We sat down to one of the nicest meals we’d had in a long time and had such a great afternoon/evening. Over 12 hours later, and after a lot more wine and too many card games to count, we left firm friends and with plans to meet up again very soon.
We had two further days in Bariloche after Craig and Erin left, but there was no let up to the rain. I wish I could say we ended up hiking anyway, and took in the amazing sights and autumn landscapes despite the rain, but we didn’t have it in us. It didn’t seem worth it without the views.
So we devised a back-up plan and took the time to enjoy the local breweries and chocolate shops Bariloche is famous for. The beer was tasty and the claims regarding chocolate from Bariloche are true – it’s delicious.
So while the weather may have been unkind to us in Barilcohe, in the end we couldn’t have asked for more – good friends, wine, beer, food and chocolate. Perfect.
When we visited: 5 nights early April 2014.
How we got here: Bus from Puerto Montt
Where we stayed: Perikos Youth Hostel. Really nice place, fantastic double room and really good kitchen. Only let down was the shower which was a dribble at best. Not good. It had been weeks at this point since we’d had a decent and HOT shower. Not fun given how cold it was.
Food & Drink recommendations: The chocolate! And Cerveceria Manush had some great meals.