In Part 2: Ruta de Siete Lagos, beer tour, and more
Sunday began with a hike to the top of Cerro Campanario, a spot with absolutely stunning views of the surrounding lakes and mountains. You can take Bus 20 from the center of town and have them drop you off at Kilometer 17 on Avenue Exequiel Bustillo. From the road, it is a 40 minute hike up a relatively steep incline. The hike back down only takes about 20 minutes.
For those less apt to hike, there is a lift that will take you up and back for 60 pesos per person. We spent about an hour at the top, admiring the views and watching some very well-fed stray cats entertain the visitors. There are four platforms that you can move between, each with a different view of the surrounding mountains, lakes, and forests.
For incredible 360 degree views of Bariloche and the surrounding forest, Cerro Campanario can not be beaten.
In my family, it is customary to enjoy a hard-earned beer after completing a hike. Luckily, Bariloche is home to a few unique cervecerías, two of which are located on Avenue Exequiel Bustillo. We walked 7km down the road to Cervecería Berlina and tasted each of their four seasonal brews, along with some delicious papas fritas y salsa.
Next we tested Cervecería Blest, right next door, for glasses of their Pilsen and their Frambuesa beers.
Tip: Happy Hour at both runs from 6-8PM and gets you half off of all sizes of all their beers. They also serve food to wash down the beer.
Bariloche desperately wants this analogy to be true:
Mendoza : wine :: Bariloche : beer
It’s not quite there yet, but I definitely recommend spending an evening improvising a brewery tour.
Monday was spent out on the water, touring Isla Victoria and El Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. We took the Turisur boat, which we were able to book at the front desk of our hostel for 280 pesos per person. Additionally, you have to pay 60 pesos per person for entrance to the park, which you pay at the port.
Isla Victoria is the largest island in Nahuel Huapi. To me it looked like the Pacific Northwest. The only way to visit it is on a boat tour. Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes is a small peninsula that juts into Lago Nahuel Huapi and is full of Arrayanes, a distinctive and beautiful tree.
Turisur offers two versions of their tour on any given day. The first leaves Puerto Pañuelo (right across from Llao-Llao) at 10:30AM and allows you to spend three hours on Isla Victoria and 45 minutes in the Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. The second leaves Puerto Pañuelo at 2:00PM and allows you to spend one hour on Isla Victoria and 45 minutes in the Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. We did the latter, but wished that we had more time to spend hiking around and exploring Isla Victoria. For both tours, the best way to get to Puerto Pañuelo is to take a 40 minute ride on Bus 20 from the center of Bariloche.
Try to get to Puerto Pañuelo a little early. Turisur offers a pick-up service in Bariloche in order to avoid long lines of people picking up their tickets and paying the park entry fee.
In Puerto Pañuelo, we boarded a large boat that could carry several hundred tourists that took us to Isla Victoria. The tour service does their best to entertain you by speaking about the habitat of the lakes and islands. We instead decided to go up to the deck of the boat to enjoy the sights and fresh air.
Upon debarking the boat on Isla Victoria, the tour guides gathered up the group to take them on a tour of the island. Rather than go on the official (crowded!) tour, we set off alone and hiked the Cerro Bella Vista trail.
The trail is pretty easy, with only a few steep inclines along the way. After 25 minutes of hiking, you are greeted by an incredible vista:
We spent the full hour hiking to Bella Vista and back. I wish we had had more time to explore–I’m sure there was a lot of the Isla that we didn’t get to see.
And then we were off to Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes! Legend has it that Walt Disney visited the Parque back in the day and was so taken by the beauty of los arrayanes that they inspired the forests in the movie Bambi.
Indeed, the trees are unlike anything I’ve ever seen–the bark has a reddish hue that is streaked through with white. The light filters through the leaves and reflects off the back in such a beautiful way–pictures can’t do it justice.
The park has an 800 meter wooden path that you follow. It is a quick visit–in order to protect the park, boats are only allowed to be docked for an hour.
The boat tour is definitely worth a day or half day, but I’d put it below Circuito Chico for sure. And I think there might be a better way to do Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes that I’ll mention at the end.
By 8:00, we were back at the hostel. Scott is always seeking a volume discount on food, so he got very excited upon seeing a flyer at our hostel for an all-you-can-eat Mexican spot that was right up the hill from us. After being on the water all afternoon, we decided it would be the perfect spot for a quick dinner. For 65 pesos per person, we had chips and various salsas; a plate of nachos con queso, beans, and guacamole; and plates consisting of two tacos, a burrito, a quesadilla, rice, and toppings. They will bring you as many plates as you can handle: Scott managed two while I tapped out after my first.
One of the biggest draws to Bariloche and the Lake District is the Ruta de Siete Lagos. The ruta is a 110km road that twists through seven lakes on the way from Villa la Angostura to the town of San Martin de los Andes.
Many people rent a car to do the ruta on their own, but (since neither of us drive manual) we took a van tour set up by our hostel. The van picked us up at 8:00AM for the all-day tour.
After a brief breakfast stop in Villa la Angostura, we set off to find the seven lakes. The van pulls off into rest stop lookouts at each of the lakes for you to take pictures.
Lago Faulkner had a great beach to hang out on. I noticed a camping area for those who bike the ruta.
The views and reflections on the water are incredible!
In San Martin de los Andes, you are set free for lunch and sightseeing. We had an amazing Spanish-inspired meal at the quaint El Mesón (Rivadaria 888) before spending some time sitting in the sand on the banks of Lago Lacar.
On the way back, you visit two more lakes: Lago Espejo and Lago Correntoso. We made sure to get pictures at all seven lakes!
No trip to Bariloche is complete without joining the Polar Bear Club. Despite it being on the cusp of winter, we had to go for a swim in Lago Nahuel Huapi!
We took a taxi to Playa Bonita, about 9km down the road from Centro Civico and climbed the stairs down to the beach. I am a total chicken and only went in to my knees, but Scott braved the ice-cold water and jumped all the way in! El es loco. The panoramic view was a great way to say ciao to Bariloche.
If I only had one day to spend in Bariloche, I would spend it biking Circuito Chico. Biking lets you see much of what Bariloche and the Lake District have to offer: incredible views of the glacier-carved lakes, the smell of the outdoors, and a chance to visit one of the best hotels in the country..
If I only had three days, I would have cut out the boat trip to Isla Victoria and Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. While beautiful, I would have preferred to use the couple of hours spent on the boat hiking another mountain or exploring on our own.
If I had an extra day or two, I would have loved to spend the night in San Martin de los Andes, which was the apogee of the Ruta de Siete Lagos. I spotted a few adorable hotels while walking around and the town looks like it has some more great restaurants. It seems like it would be a great town to spend a quiet night!
Bariloche is an absolutely beautiful place in the summer (or early fall) that has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. If you come to Argentina, don’t miss Bariloche.