Amid the breathtaking natural beauty of Argentina’s Lake District is Bariloche, officially San Carlos de Bariloche, a scenic vacation destination for lovers of the outdoors. Nahuel Huapi National Park surrounds the city, so Bariloche is a perfect base from which to discover the natural treasures of Argentina’s largest national park.
Get your bearings at the Centro Civico, a collection of quaint Swiss-style buildings against a mountainous backdrop. Pick up maps of the national park from the tourist information office or learn about Bariloche’s history and culture at the Museo de la Patagonia.
Ride the cable car to the summit of Cerro Otto for panoramic views. It’s the closest mountaintop to the city center and home to the adventure sports resort Piedras Blancas. Explore hiking trails in summer. In winter, ride toboggan and ski runs, such as the 75-mile (120-kilometer) runs at Cerro Catedral.
Catch a public bus or join an organized tour around the Circuito Chico, which travels along the south banks of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Take a boat tour from Puerto Pañuelo to discover waterfalls and islands with tall Arrayán trees. Ride the chairlift to Cerro Campanario for unrivaled views, or hike to the summit of the 11,480-feet (3,500-meter) tall Cerro Tronador.
Bariloche is well-known for its chocolate industry, established by Swiss immigrants. Sample the tempting chocolate treats in the stores along Mitre Street or visit the Fenoglio Chocolate Museum. Afterwards, enjoy grilled steaks or gourmet dishes in a cozy restaurant. Bariloche is also famous for its nightlife and receives hordes of high school graduates in July.
Get to Bariloche by taking a domestic flight from Buenos Aires or on one of Argentina’s excellent long-distance buses, which service most of the country and neighboring Chile. If you have the time, rent a car to explore the scenic Seven Lakes Road, which begins 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Bariloche and passes lakeside villages, mountains and valleys. Snowfall often causes roads closures, so check the conditions and take precautions.