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Top 6 Things To Do In Bariloche In Summer 2024

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3 months ago

Bariloche or (San Carlos de Bariloche, as it is officially known) is a town right in the heart of Argentina’s stunning Patagonia region. The unmissable backdrop of Bariloche town is the impressive Nahuel Huapi Lake, the biggest of the seven lakes in the region, with its turquoise water clear down to the bed.

Hikers and skiers will know Bariloche as the base for easy access to the Andes Mountains, but the town and the surrounding lakes make it worth a trip in and of itself. There is an unmistakable mark of Germanic influence which informs everything from the Swiss-alpine architecture of the buildings to the Bauhaus letter on shopfronts lining Calle Mitre, the main street in Bariloche.

Boat on the Lago Moreno in Bariloche with turquoise waters

It truly is one of the hidden gems in Latin America, and is well worth visiting during its summer (note: that’s December, January and February). Make sure you allow at least three days in Bariloche to really soak up its delights.

But before we get to the definitive list of the best things to do in Bariloche in the summer, you’ll want to know exactly when you should plan your trip to the region.

Lago Moreno in Bariloche with the Andes Mountains in the background

Best time to visit Bariloche

Bariloche is the perfect escape from northern hemisphere winter in December, January and February. Located in the southern hemisphere, Bariloche is nestled in between the beautiful snow-capped mountains of the Andes.

The weather in summer in Bariloche is perfect for outdoor activities because of the very low humidity. A lot of the best things to do in Bariloche in the summer are outdoor activities, so it helps that you won’t have to deal with the type of sweaty humidity that is characteristic of cities like Buenos Aires and New York.

View of land with a house from a lake in Bariloche

It can be hot when you’re standing right in the sun, but taking a few minutes of respite in the shade is enough. The town is also built to be enjoyed in different seasons, so you’re guaranteed a comfortable stay irrespective of when you go.

6. Visit Isla Victoria and Bosque de Arrayanes

There are a number of companies which run boat trips to Isla Victoria (Victoria Island) and the Bosque de Arrayanes (Arrayanes Forest). It’s mostly a day of sitting on the boat and taking in the views, and then light walking when you arrive in each of the two places.

The forest is particularly enchanting, especially with the Arrayan “shrub” which actually grows to the size of a tree. They’re in bloom during summer, so it’s the only time to catch them.

Arrayan shrubs in the Arrayanes forest

On Victoria Island, you might want to take the trail that leads to Playa de Toro where you’ll find cave paintings etched by indigenous people. It’s quite a magical site to visit and makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Boat at port in Bariloche

5. Eat lunch at Feria Regional Artesanal in Colonia Suiza

Colonia Suiza is right up our alley in that it’s basically one big food market. There are food trucks, food stalls and restaurants. If you’re doing the Circuito Chico, it’s at the start of your route – so don’t have breakfast or lunch before you start (leave room to eat at Colonia Suiza!)

The food market that you’re looking for within Colonia Suiza is called Feria Regional Artesanal. It’s filled with unique fusion European foods, many of which we didn’t find elsewhere.

House in front of manicured garden in Bariloche with Argentinian flag in the background

There are so many choices for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike in Colonia Suiza. But, being a Swiss colony, expect a lot of German food like sausages and sauerkraut.

Trout is the special catch of the area so you’ll see a lot of places selling trout. It really is so delicious because of the freshness and the Argentinian spices (chimmichurri is always the right choice). If you haven’t tried it elsewhere, Colonia Suiza is a great place for trout.

You’ll be overwhelmed with the offering of desserts and drinks, but the best for us was the rogel cake at a stall called Del Bosque. It’s made of layers of pancake with dulce de leche between each layer. It’s not an uncommon dessert in Argentina but what makes Del Bosque’s so special is that it’s crunchy. You can also try the Torta Alfajor in the patio de comidas.

Rogel cake with two forks in it pancake layers with dulce de leche
The rogel cake itself

4. Explore the many lakes by kayak

It’s tempting to drive around the lake district, but the best way to explore the lakes is to go kayaking. You’ll see the majestic scenery of the region up close and personal, and really get to enjoy the serenity of the mountains and lakes without the sounds of cars roaring by.

There is a range of difficulty, all the way from calm waters to challenging rapids. Make sure you choose a guided kayaking tour that matches your ability.

Local tip: The Argentinian dialect of Spanish is quite different to other Spanish dialects. When Argentinians say “kayak”, they’ll say “kashak” instead. This is because “y” is pronounced as “sh” in Argentinian Spanish. (Same applies to New York: Argentinians will say “Nueva Shork”!)

View of Lago Moreno from Circuito Chico

Leave about three hours for the average kayaking trip. You can kayak on many different rivers, but likely the best of them is the Manso River which could seek you get close to the border with Chile. You’ll get to see white-sand beaches and waterfalls on your journey. Lake Moreno is also the beautiful lake that is the backdrop for the Circuito Chico.

3. Uncover Bariloche’s surprising Nazi history

You might know that Argentina (and specifically Bariloche) became a safe haven for many Nazis following the end of the Second World War. Then-President of Argentina Juan Perón was known to be a Nazi sympathizer and so he allowed many high-ranking Nazis officials to move to Argentina following the Holocaust. The Argentinians were known for organizing some of the ratlines (escape routes from Europe) for Nazis.

House in Bariloche that Josef Mengele stayed in

There are a number of excellent walking tours of Bariloche that are about Bariloche’s history in relation to Nazis. The best of them should include a visit to where Josef Mengele (the SS officer who performed deadly experiments on prisoners at the Birkenau concentration camp in Poland) stayed during his visits to Bariloche, as well as Club Andino Bariloche (CAB), once a watering hole for Bariloche’s fascists.

One of the famous Nazi residents of Bariloche was Erich Priebke, an SS commander who escaped to Argentina on Vatican-issued papers. Your tour will likely take you to Colegio Aleman (the German College) where Priebke was once the director, where you’ll get to hear about the very fascinating history of his discovery by a news reporter in the mid-1990s.

Centro Civico with old stone building with a clock on it

2. Take yourself on a self-guided chocolate tour

It might shock you to find out that Bariloche town has at least 15 chocolate shops, many of which are specialized and only sell their own brand’s chocolates. The vast majority (and the best) of the chocolate shops are located on just two blocks of Calle Mitre, between Calles Rolando and Quaglia.

Timbal de Dulce de Leche from Mamuschka in Bariloche

No journey through Bariloche’s many chocolatiers is complete without a visit to Mamuschka and El Reino, two of the best chocolate shops in Bariloche. It’s impossible to visit all of them in just one day (too much of a good thing, they say), so I would recommend that you visit two or three shops each day that you’re in Bariloche.

Mamuschka chocolate shop in Bariloche with Russian babuska dolls

Abuela Goye

There is also a chocolate and alfajores shop called Abuela Goye which can only be found in Colonia Suiza and in Villa Llao Llao. Their alfajores are absolutely fantastic (particularly the peanut butter alfajore which is difficult to find elsewhere).

While you’re doing the Circuito Chico (see below for the best thing to do in Bariloche in summer), make sure you stop by Abuela Goye. Argentinian alfajores are particularly special.

1. Do the Circuito Chico on a (e-)bicycle

Most people know that I’m hardly an adventure traveler. I would rather be at a food festival trying four types of cake than trekking to the top of a mountain. But sometimes there are very good reasons to get outdoors.

By far and away the best way to make the most of Bariloche’s stunning scenery is to hire a bicycle and do the circular route known as Circuito Chico. It seems daunting at just over 33 km, but you’ll be stopping so many times so you’ll barely notice the time. It’s definitely not a race.

Jetty in Bariloche with turquoise water and flag of Argentina

Travel tip: If you start by going south in the direction of Colonia Suiza, the circuit will be mostly downhill. You’ll get all of the joy of the wind and speed and a lot less of the effort required to cycle uphill.

In my opinion, unless you’re an avid cyclist, I would recommend paying the small premium for an electric bike. You want to be focused on the beautiful scenery and not the difficulty of the route. The electric bike takes the pressure off.

Water separating Moreno Lake and Nuhuel Huapi Lake in Bariloche with people swimming

Just be aware that the electronic function of the bikes is not as powerful as you think. So prepare for a day of (moderate) exercise. Having said that, if you’re looking for a measure of difficulty, I can’t honestly say that I broke a sweat. And it was hot.

On the route, you’ll pass the Cementerio del Montañés, or the Mountain Cemetary. It’s a bit of an uphill walk to the cemetery from the road and the cemetery itself is not particularly special. You can skip this without feeling like you’ve missed out on anything.

Cementerio del Montañés in Bariloche

You’ll naturally stop at the incredible viewpoints along the route. One place you don’t want to miss is Villa Llao Llao. It’s a five-star resort nestled within the national park. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the route (it’s towards the end).

On the last stretch, don’t miss Morena Llao Llao. The shop is filled with beautiful handicrafts that you can’t find elsewhere.

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