Bariloche - More than just a Switzerland-inspired city
Our last stop-off in Argentina, and a pretty jam-packed one! Whilst Bariloche is primarily described as being a Switzerland-influenced town due to it’s architecture, wooden facades, numerous chocolate retailers, & ski-lodges, we loved this city instead for all of the trekking opportunities that are made so easily accessible via buses.
Ensure that as soon as you arrive, you get yourself a blue SUBEcard (also used in Buenos Aires) and top it up with a few dollars. You can purchase them at all mini-marts and at the bus-station, and you will use this to “tap-on” each time you get on one of the buses - Bariloche’s primary method of public transportation.
If you are looking for a half-day adventure, our favourite was climbing Cerro Llao LLao - buses from Bariloche run here every 20 minutes, and you simply get off at the last stop (around 45 minute trip one-way) where you are dropped around 1km from the commencement of the trail-head. Cerro Llao Llao is the highest point in Bariloche's Parque Municipal Llao Llao and offered us with some of the most magnificent views that we had seen in some time. A steep but short hike up the hill, it only took us around 1 hour to reach the mirador viewpoint before we were perched up on one of the many viewpoint rocks, enjoying our packed lunch and snacks.
Another popular journey that many travellers make commencing from Bariloche to San Martin de Los Andes, is the Road of the Seven Lakes., spanning 184km’s between these two towns - the majority of the trip being only one road. We were lucky enough to have three friends Chelsea, Tyler & Joe to share a car-hire with - meaning that the cost split between us all was only around 230 peso’s / $20 AUD per day. With our car fully-loaded with our tents, sleeping gear, food, beer, & wine.. our 48 hour road-trip had began!!
The first day we made it through 5 of the 7 lakes, stopping for quick dips, snacks, and photograph opportunities along the way. Come the late afternoon, we had found our perfect camping spot. Right upon the river, no other tents in sight, and within our backpacking budget - completely free! It wasn’t long before we had set up our gear, popped open a bottle of red wine, started the bonfire, and watched as the sunset in the distance. Before we knew it many hours had passed, the stars were twinkling above us, our fire-wood was running out, and multiple bottles of red wine had been polished off - time to hit the tent!
Day 2 we woke up to another glorious sunny day. We decided our camp-spot was too good to be true, so we left our tents pitched as they were and continued up the Road of the Seven Lakes to San Martin de Los Andes. After many photo pit-stop’s, we arrived in this little town to stock up on some fresh water, food, and stumbled across a reasonably priced empanada store just off the main street where we of course purchased 36 of them, before driving back the way we came and returning to our camp-spot for a second night of stargazing.
One stop that we would highly recommend making is at around the 140km mark, the Vullinaco waterfall. A very rocky, water-eroded, and steep path that leads from the parking-lot can take you all the way down to the bottom of this impressive waterfall (as pictured with Kirk). Don't bring anything of value with you on this trail, as the route is quite challenging.
Although the Road of the Seven Lakes route can technically be completed in a day, we would recommend hiring a car for at least 48 hours to be able to stop and enjoy the views, bathing opportunities, and camping spots at your leisure :)
For those who are not travelling with their tents, there are also many lodges and accommodation options to stay at along the way also.
And last but not least, our final tramping adventure from Bariloche (and in fact Argentina!) was the 24km return trail to Refugio Frey - an easy 750 meter ascent trek that can be completed as a day-hike, or an over-night camping trip. We decided to go with the latter option, and were absolutely mind-blown when we reached our free accommodation for the night. Set in a bowl and surrounded by 360 degree snow-capped mountain-ranges, Refugio Frey and it’s campground overlooks a stunning Laguna where we had numerous dips in throughout the day. While there is not the possibility to have your own fire here, even if you are camping, you are able to utilise the Refugio facilities free of charge including the toilets, and inside warmth where there is a bar that you can even purchase home-brewed beer & wood-fire pizza from!
With a 17 hour bus-ride to Santiago, Chile ahead of us, we were not quite yet ready to leave Argentina, but knew that there would most certainly be a “next time”. Argentina, you were a beautiful country that offered us with some of the most breathtaking sceneries we have ever laid eyes upon, people we will never forget, & delicious empanadas that our bellies will forever crave.