Yikes – I am WAY behind in blogging! I write this sitting in our Airbnb in Seville, over 2 months after we visited Bariloche! I am relying on looking through our photos to help remind me of what we did, but I do have pretty vivid memories of this swiss-like town in Northern Patagonia, Argentina. We spent only a few days, but it was enough time to enjoy the scenery and the food – which was some of the best we had in Argentina. Here we go!
Getting to Bariloche from El Chalten by Bus
Cost: $150 US per person
Time: 25 Hours
Company: Tasqa Marga
Well, this was a bit of a mission. There are no flights from El Chalten to Bariloche, so our options were to take a bus OR to head back south to Calafate and fly – which would have taken just as long and been double the cost. The bus ride between El Chalten and Bariloche is 24 HOURS, which was the longest bus ride we’d been on by a long shot. Since we were spending a whole day in transit, we wanted to ensure the most comfortable experience. Unfortunately we found it incredibly difficult to find information on the differences in bus companies. Some blogs suggested Chalten Travel was more comfortable than Tasqa Marga. Though they also suggested that with CT you need to plan to stay overnight in Perito Moreno (the town, not to be confused with the glacier) including booking your accommodation. Since we didn’t find anything definitive, we opted to walk over to the bus station in El Chalten to check prices/timing and see if we could get a sense of the buses. Both buses did offer the service in one shot, and Tasqa offered ‘Cama’ seating, which meant more comfortable lie-back seats. That pretty much sold us – I wasn’t looking forward to sitting upright for 24 hours, even if the company had a slightly better reputation.
In the end, I think we made the right decision. The Cama seating is on the lower floor and was completely sold out (I never went up to the second level, but had the sense it wasn’t as busy). While completely sold out, the seats were very large and comfortable. We manged to get quite a bit of (interrupted) sleep.
There are two or three stops to get out and stretch your legs – and get food if you need it (because the food offered on the service honestly isn’t even worth eating).
A few tips from our experience:
- Bring an eyemask and earplugs
- Bring your own food – we brought 4 sandwiches that we made beforehand, a few large water bottles, some fruit and a bottle of wine
- Spring for the Cama seating – it is about as comfortable as you can suspect on a 24 hour bus ride
- Make sure all your devices are charged and you have lots of movies or a good book
- The service does not run all year round. We were at the very end of the ‘season’ in El Chalten (beginning of April) – we left on April 10th and the service was ending for the season on the 13th. Double check this information before your visit!
Where to Stay in Bariloche
Bariloche is a pretty small, walkable town so in terms of location within the city you can’t really go wrong. The bus station is (annoyingly) not in the city, so you will have to take another bus or do like we did and say F-that (you will feel the same after 25 hours in a bus) and take a taxi to your hotel for about $5 US.
We stayed at Hotel Cottbus and found it comfortable and accessible to any of the activities we wanted to do. We paid $42 US per night which included breakfast. We had a room on the 5th floor with a view (requested when we booked on Booking.com). One thing to note is that this hotel is at the top of a very steep hill; it didn’t bother us but you will see that written in some of the reviews 🙂
What to do in Bariloche
Admittedly, we took it pretty easy in Bariloche – sleeping in, followed by a run along the water and a leisurely breakfast. There are LOTS of hikes you can do – during the warmer months, hiking the Ski Hill (Cathedral) is a popular activity. We originally thought we would like Refugio Frey but to be honest we were so enjoying a couple of days of rest & relaxation that we only did one hike when we were there – Cerro Llao Llao.
Hiking Cerro Llao Llao
The trail for this hike is close to Hotel Llao Llao, where you can take the bus to (buy a SUBE card from any convenience store) and take the number 20 bus. The bus terminates at Hotel Llao Llao after about 35 minutes – it will either drop you on the side of the road before turning into the driveway, or will take you up to the hotel. The hike starts from the road so if you do get dropped at the hotel, walk back down to the main road and turn left (with the hotel at your back). Take the road straight-ahead of you past the golf course and just keep walking! You will pass the ranger station and not long after you will see a sign on the right side of the road indicating the start of the trail – you can’t miss it! It will take 15-20 minutes from the main road to reach this part of the hike.
The start of the hike is flat through dense forest and then begins a gentle incline for about 30 minutes. You will see a turn-off sign for Cerro Llao Llao and the next 15-20 minutes is a zigzag incline to reach the top. You will be amazed by the views at the top considering the relative ease of this hike! The views of Nahuel Haupi Lake against a backdrop of mountains is truly spectacular.
The trail isn’t busy, nor is the lookout at the top. It was the perfect place to have a picnic lunch, before turning around and heading back the same way to catch the bus back into town.
Where to Eat in Bariloche
There was no shortage of good options for almost any style of food – we even found a vegetarian restaurant for lunch on one of the days which was a nice change after lots of meat!
We tried a few places including El Boliche de Alberto which gets rave reviews and the steak was delicious, but without a doubt our favourite meal in Bariloche (and one of the best in Argentina) was at Alto el Fuego. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was also very nice!
Overall, we really enjoyed our few days in Bariloche! The town has a Swiss-feel to it (which is reinforced by the chocolate stores on each corner) with absolutely gorgeous scenery. It is a great stop in Argentina whether you want to get out and hike or just relax for a few days.