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Bariloche, Argentina

Get a taste of Europe’s Alpine region while in Argentina

Visitor drinking yerba mate tea, a typical Argentine’s drink.

San Carlos de Bariloche, more commonly called Bariloche, is a town in Argentina’s Patagonia region. 

Patagonia is a large southernmost region of South America shared by Chile and Argentina and divided by the Andes Mountains. It borders Nahuel Huapi, a large glacial lake surrounded by the Andes Mountains. 

The town of more than 100,000 was founded more than 100 years ago by Germans and other Europeans who emigrated from Chile. They fell in love with the mountains, lakes and the look of their European home. Travel and Leisure magazine recently named Bariloche “Patagonia’s most charming town.” 

The city is known for its alpine-style architecture and chocolate. The chocolate is sold in shops lining the main street, dubbed the “Street of Chocolate Dreams.” 

There are so many chocolate stores it would be impossible to sample all them but luckily many of the stores hand out free samples. 

Most stores have a specialty or different twist on their chocolate. Abuela Goye is a family brand of chocolate. (Abuela is “grandmother” in Spanish). It is easy to find because of the life-size figure of Grandmother that stands outside the store enticing customers to enter and try the chocolate from Grandmother’s own recipe like caramel-covered chocolate. Boniface Chocolates is another family chocolatier; their specialty — chocolate liquor. 

During the winter Bariloche is a popular base for skiing in the nearby mountains. The most popular Argentine ski resort is Cerro Catedral only 12 miles from the town. It has a good mix of runs for all ability levels. The chairlift runs year round offering expansive views of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the surrounding mountains. There are several other ski areas not too far away. There are also many opportunities for hikers to explore the area. Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi is the oldest national park in Argentina and one of the biggest. It surrounds Naheul Huapi Lake. There are short and one-day hikes plus multi-day treks. For multi-day treks many of the trails have mountain huts for public use. 

There are several beaches on Naheul Huapi Lake but the water temperature of the glacial lake might be a bit brisk for most people. 

Fishing is popular. Instead of going to the beach, buy some chocolate and sit in the park in the center of Barichole and enjoy the scenery. There will be taxi drivers, ladies and others carrying little gourds and taking a sip of Argentine tea (mate) through a straw and sharing it with other. The popular drink is a caffeine-rich infused drink made from dried leaves called yerba mate mixed with hot water. 

Abuela Goye is a family brand of chocolate. Abuela is “grandmother” in Spanish. Bariloche is famous for its chocolate stores.

Getting to Bariloche is easy from Buenos Aires, Argentine’s capital. There are direct flights then a short taxi ride into the city. There is a bus connection but it is not for the faint hearted as it is a long journey. 

The most relaxing and fun way to get there is between Puerto Varas in Chile and Bariloche. It is called “Sail the Andes.” It involves sailing the Alpine Lakes across the Andes. Buses provide transportation between the lakes; a total of five buses and four boat rides. There are stops along the way. It can be done in one day but it is best to take two days and stay in Peulla for the night. 

Even though the area has a strong connection to the Alpine region of Europe, very few still speak any of the European languages. Because it is a popular tourist site many speak English. Spanish is the official language. There are several language schools in the area. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Sandra Scott along with her husband, John, traveled the world for over 50 years. With John’s passing, Sandra has moved to Oswego and continues to travel.