Bariloché, the Gateway to Patagonia

The journey from Pucon to Bariloché wasn’t as straightforward as I hoped it would be. Just finding a way to get there is a bit of an ordeal. After walking around town for over an hour trying to find a bus company that could do the journey at last I found a place and booked myself on the next day. The bus took an extremely scenic route from Pucon, past some volcanoes and up through the snow-capped Andes to the border with Argentina. I’ve done so many border crossings now I didn’t even think that anything could go wrong but I was finally going to have a balls-up.

Before getting to Argentina Australians have to pay a reciprocity fee otherwise you just don’t get let in (I think we are the only country that needs to now). I remembered to pay the fee but I didn’t bother looking at my emails to see if it worked. So there I was at the border in the middle of the mountains with no internet and no way to show that I had paid the fee. Standing there at the desk with a really unimpressed officer looking at me I had no proof that I’d paid the fee so with no other option I had to hitch a ride back to Pucon and try the whole thing again the next day. Of course I was fuming but they also had guns.

The next day waiting in line for the bus I recognised some guys from the volcano hike I had done the day before, Dan and Liran. They were also heading to Bariloché and so a new crew was born. We settled in for the 12 hour trip and just watched the scenery pass by. This time at the border there weren’t any problems and I strolled into Argentina with a bit more enthusiasm than normal. By the time we arrived in Bariloché it was well after dark and all we could do was find our hostel (The Penthouse) and settle in for the night. It was impossible to see at the time but the view from the hostel on the top floor of an apartment block was incredible. When I stumbled out bleary eyed the next morning I was stunned to find an entire wall was windows looking out over the lake and the mountains of Patagonia in the distance. Would recommend the place just for this.


To be honest we had a really chilled time in the city. While everyone else was rushing south to see as much of Patagonia as possible before winter we just decided that it was best to leave it for another time and just enjoy ourselves. With this in mind we found out that the local attractions were a chairlift to the top of a local hill which looks over Lake Haupi and the fjords and hiring a bike to cycle around part of the lake shore. It’s possible to do both in one day so we managed to get ourselves up pretty early and hike up the hill to catch the view before there were too many people around. The hike is a short 30 minutes from the bus stop to the summit or the chairlift can be taken if there is a hangover brewing. We knocked it over quickly so when we emerged from the forest to see the view for the first time, being guys we didn’t really have the words to describe it. A lot of head nodding and grunts of approval were the best way to describe one of the best views in the world. Lots of selfies ensued.


The three of us had been travelling for a while by this point so none of us would call ourselves fit but we were determined to do the 25km bike ride around part of the lake shore. It’s a short walk from the hill to the rental place and soon after we were on the road trying our best to not drive into traffic while we were staring at the view. There aren’t any set landmarks to see on the way, basically the point is to ride until you find somewhere spectacular and explore. Around halfway on the circuit we spotted a massive, expensive looking hotel on a hill and decided to go and explore what we would later find out is the best hotel in Argentina, Llao Llao. The guards were a bit skeptical about 3 backpackers turning up on bikes but they let us in and we then invited ourselves into the building and ordered lunch. If you have the chance to get inside, do it. It has one of the coolest interiors I’ve ever seen, like a giant log house.

For the rest of the afternoon we kept on cycling, there were way too many hills and we found ourselves stopping everywhere at lookouts, bars and to play with some dogs that ran out from a yard to say hi. Heading back into Bariloché on the bus we decided that to top off the day we would visit the best steak house in town, El Boliché, and treat ourselves to the best steaks we’ve ever had. Arriving in the restaurant we were seated next to the open grill where we could see the chefs cutting and grilling huge slabs of meat to absolute perfection. When they finally arrived the portions of steak were so huge they were on plates all to themselves with the side dishes being served separately. I know it’s a big call to say they are the best we ever had but I swear we almost had tears in our eyes as we finished every piece.


The other huge draw card of the city is the almost limitless hiking that can be done in the surrounding mountains. Sadly with the seasons against us we couldn’t do any of these but I’ll definitely be back for a summer sometime soon.


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