Our Patagonian adventure started in Bariloche, Argentina. This alpine village is the entrance to northern Patagonia and is considered one of the Andean Lake District’s top locations. The town sits on the banks of Lago Nahuel Huapi and is surrounded by massive mountain peaks in all directions. Skiers and snowboarders dominate this place in the winter – lucky for us we were there in the spring, meaning we got to enjoy the town without the crowds (in particular the high school students who descend here for their year-end school partying) and had the nature all to ourselves.
Stroll through the town to check out the various bars and restaurants, pick up any last minute outdoor gear you may have left at home. Be sure to pop into one of the many shops showcasing chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. While in Bariloche we stayed at the Soft Hoteles. A simple, ski-lodge-esque accommodation located within walking distance of the various shops and restaurants. I also had one of the best steaks of my entire life here. Make sure you pop into El Boliche de Alberto, order a medium rare Bife de Lomo (Filet Mignon), bring a friend to share it with and enjoy. Trust me – you will not be disappointed. I would fly back to have that steak right now if I could.
No worries if you haven’t already booked your activities – whether you are into trekking, horseback riding, or even fishing, there is an abundance of tour operators ready to get you sorted. Here’s a look at what we got into.
// Cerro Llao Llao
Our first afternoon was spent hiking to the highest point in Bariloche’s Llao Llao Municipal Park. When comparing Llao Llao with other places we went to in Patagonia, it is really just a large hill. It was an opportunity to get to know our travel mates and for our guide to assess the group’s overall ability before setting off on our more physically demanding challenges ahead. This scenic hike only takes a couple hours’ round-trip, heads through a nicely maintained forest trail and when at the viewpoint gives amazing views of Cerro Lopez, Cerro Capilla, Lago Moreno, Lago Nahuel Huapi and Brazo Tristeza.
Keep following the trail to the right and you can’t miss the vista point. We actually stayed for about a half hour and just enjoyed the views. It was a great introduction to what we would be experiencing as we ventured further through the region. If you have more time in the area you can combine this walk with others in the area and make a longer day out of it. After the hike we took the same trail back to the bus station and headed back into town.
The forty-five minute journey on Bus 20 (at time of publishing) is pretty frequent and takes you from the center of town to Hotel Llao Llao. Yes – that beautiful hotel nestled under the mountains that you have probably seen a million times in photos (the below is from TripAdvisor).
// White Water Rafting in Bariloche
We made our way out to the Manso River in the Nahuel Huapi National Park for some kick ass white water rafting. We chose to book with Extremo Sur and had a fantastic day out. They picked us up from our hotel in town and drove us out to our starting point.
They kitted us out with all out gear, gave us a safety briefing and we headed out on our rafts. The water was calm at first, which gave us an opportunity to learn all the commands before we hit the category III and IV rapids. Each of the rapids had it’s own name like “Screaming Turn Left,” “Ozone Hole” and “Scrambled Egg.” Gives your a good idea of what you are in for eh?
We were able to navigate the river just fine and I only got ejected from the raft once. Scary for sure but I just let the current take me until I could swim back to the raft. It’s not all wild rapids though. Later on in the trip we were all able to hop out of the boat and have a little swim along one of the calm stretches of water. Check out the video below.
Rafting on the turquoise water through the deep gorges in the idyllic Argentinean Patagonia alongside the Andes Mountains is just as beautiful as it sounds. Extremo Sur offers a few different rafting options. These include rafting to the Chilean border or further along the southern Manso. We chose to stop at the border where we made our way to a private ranch on the border to have lunch before heading back to town.