This delightful drive takes you along the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi in the direction of Puerto Panuelos. By taking a turn to the left the road follows the shore of Lago Perito Moreno. There are a number of great view points along the way. The best view is of both lakes with Perito Moreno in front of Nahuel Huapi
At one point the road take you over a bridge crossing a narrow stream between the lakes Nahuel Huapi and Perito Moreno.
The circuit includes Puerto Panuelos and passes the famous Llao Llao hotel.
Photos courtesy of my travel mate Peter Jones. Mine were stolen with my camera in Buenos Aires.
Bariloche is one end of the famous Lake Crossing from Argentina to Chile. The first leg of the crossing, over Lago Nahuel Huapi, is very popular as a day trip. Every 20 minutes a bus from Bariloche will take you along the shore of the lake to Puerto Pañuelos. The ferry leaves from here to Puerto Blest up to 3 times a day. At Puerto Blest you can eat at a good restaurant or enjoy some short hikes in the area. A trip to Lago Frias can also be added. Travel home with passengers completing the crossing from Chile.
For a short trip you can vist Ilsa Victoria.
A great whole day excursion offered by all the local travel agents takes you south through beautiful country to Cerro Tronador. Given the narrow, rough roads of much of the route, taking a tour and letting someone else take the strain of driving isn't a bad idea.
The first section, around the shores of Lakes Gutierrez and Mascardi and on to the crossing of the Manso River at Los Rapidos, mostly along sealed roads, would make a very pleasant shorter day that you could easily drive yourself. Onelli Road takes you out of Bariloche to RN258 which then follows the eastern shore of Lake Gutierrez. On a clear day, such as we had the whole time we were in Patagonia, the jagged spires of Cerro Catedral are easily visible across the lake and the reflections are quite beautiful.
The road then follows the lower shoreline of Lake Mascardi - the Lake of Seven Colours ( hidden by thick forest in places) right around its whole length - look out for the changes of colour from blues to greens and back again as you go. Los Rapidos, at the lake's southern point, is a favourite stopping place. The road forks here - north to the mountain, west to the waterfalls at Los Alerces. Organized tours tend not to include these falls in their itinerary as it is quite a detour.
Before you leave Los Rapidos (you can get coffee here, and there are public loos) take a walk onto the bridge and along the river a way - the crystal clear water is full of trout and salmon and the river's very pretty.
We turned north, heading for Pampa Linda and the base of the mountain - a gravel road all the way now, so narrow that it is restricted to one-way traffic for most of the day - up only between 10.30am and 2pm and down between 4pm and 7.30. Two way traffic is permitted at other times but I certainly wouldn't want to meet another vehicle coming the other way on this road - not only is it very narrow, there are some pretty sheer drops into the lake below.
A visit to Isla Victoria (a 30 minute cruise across Lake Nahuel Huapi from the quaintly named Puerto Panuelo - Handkerchief Port - on the Llao Llao Peninsula) with a very knowledgeable National Parks guide followed by time to explore the island at leisure is just the first part of another enjoyable day in the Nahuel Huapi National Park. Whilst much of the island is an off-limits nature reserve, the network of trails combined with the variety of the trees and plant life on the part of the island that is accessible make for an interesting and informative visit.
The biggest of all the islands on the lake, for many years Isla Victoria was the site of an exotic species forestry project and still today there are stands of these exotic trees and shrubs to be found growing amid the native Andes cypress and coehue. There are also large populations of introduced deer as well as a newer population of wild boar. There is evidence that Araucanian Indians occupied the island for some centuries before the arrival of the Spanish.
Full and half day lake cruises all include a visit to the island. A new catamaran, Cau Cau, or an older, more tradtional steamer make the trip. Whichever you opt for, be sure you are back at the dock in time for your boat's sailing.
San Carlos de Bariloche takes its name from a Mapuche Indian word, Vuriloche, meaning "people from the other side" ( a reference to crossing from Chile)and from Carlos Wiederhol, a German from Chile who opened a small store here in 1895. He'd be surprised if he came back today. Following the gazetting of the town in 1902, immigrants from Alpine Europe - Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Italy- came to settle, bringing with them their distinctive style of architecture and much of their way of life. The outstanding beauty of the region and its suitability for a myriad of outdoor activities eventually led to tourism becoming it main raison d'etre however, and now Barliloche is the main hub of all-year-round tourism in the region.
The town itself hasn't a lot to offer but it's certainly worth a look around. The Centro Civico is built of local stone and wood with a striking and rather mediaeval looking City Hall, gate, official buildings and clocktower - and a graffiti-splattered statue in the middle of the square. The tall steepled cathedral sits in a small park. Although the town sits right on the edge of Lake Nahuel Huapi , it almost seems to turn its back on the lake and is much more concerned with providing the tourists with as many ways to buy chocolate or a sweater as possible. Stray dogs are everywhere. Hotels and restaurants line the side streets - this is a tourist town pure and simple, and as such, it doesn't really seem to have either much character or a heart.
The town's environs may be dotted with beautiful private homes, there are swish apartment blocks and time shares wherever you look, but drive around the back streets on the outskirts of town and you'll soon see that not everyone lives in such style. Unemployment is very high. The workers who keep this tourist paradise clean and serviced are relegated to little better than slum living themselves and any downturn in the tourist industry is disastrous for them. There really is a worm in this particular beautiful apple.
Bariloche's museum, housed in one of the buildings of the Cento Civico, is well worth an hour or so of your time. From the momont you begin to climb the massive, if somewhat creaky, wooden staircase, you get the feeling you are in some 19th century scholar and collector's private wood-panelled den... which, in effect you are - much of the stuff on display here was the collection of Francisco P. Moreno, explorer and benefactor, whose gift to the nation of land here in Patagonia began the whole National Parks movement in Argentina. The doctor's study has been recreated in the museum, and there's a jolly contemporary cartoon of the great man as well as more formal portraits.
The natural, social and anthropological history of the region is all here, in well laid out displays. One room leads to another - the museum's modest exterior belies its inner dimensions - in a story that begins with the nature of the region and moves chronologically through pre-history, Indian culture and the arrival and impact of the Europeans. Stuffed fauna, fossils, Indian artifacts, gaucho equipment, guns, household paraphenalia, documents (including share certificates and charters for that perennial source of ruin for foolish English investors - Argentinian railways), photos, uniforms, and lots lots more will keep dedicated browsers happy for ages.
Outside, you'll find the inevitable man with a St Bernard waiting for a willing tourist to have snap taken for the family album.
You can also take a day trip on Nahuel Huapi to Isla Victoria and then Bosque de Arrayanes. Leaves from Puerto Panuelo and takes most of the day. It's not the bus-boat combo across to Chile, but it's a very nice day trip. You buy the tickets in Bariloche at one of two travel agencies, and then there's a charge for entering the national park, which you pay before getting on the boat. You can catch the bus out to Puerto Panuelo if you don't have a car. We were there in November, it was something like 120 pesos for two. You have plenty of time to hike around the island, which is the national park, and then on to the Arrayanes before the trip back to Puerto Panuelo.
I spent half a day exploring the Llao Llao Peninsula which can be reached by a local bus from Bariloche. The Peninsula is famous for the luxury Llao Llao hotel that was originally built in 1939 by Alejandro Bustillo and only to have been destroyed by a fire the following year! The hotel was rebuilt and then reopened in 1941 although closed from 1978 to 1993. It's worth wandering around in the grounds for beautiful mountain views of the area and you can also walk to the hotel's beach for great views of Lago Moreno Oueste.
Staying at the Llao Llao was out of my budget but there is more information below about the hotel including its history.
Cerro Catedral is 21 km from Bariloche. During the winter, it's one of Argentina's important ski centres but during the summer, you can able to go hiking, biking or take chairlifts up to one of its summits for the views. I paid 75 ARP (February 2011) for a return journey up to Punta Princess and this took me half an hour to reach the summit's cafe although the actual summit is another three to four hours by foot. I received stunning views of the surrounding areas and Lago Nahuel Huapi. I highly recommend visiting the village either for skiing in the winter or to enjoy the stunning views all year round.
You can travel there by local bus or, alternatively, you can take a half day tour but this costs significantly more. I would recommend taking the local bus as it's significantly cheaper.
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this interesting museum. I learnt about Francisco P. Moreno who was an Andean and Patagonian Explorer and donated his lands to form Argentina's first national park, Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi in 1903. There are some collections on the ethnography of the different ethnic groups that played an important role in the Lake District and Patagonia. There is a presentation of local history of how Bariloche developed and the "Conquest of the Desert" war that sadly led to the disappearance of the local tribes.
It cost me around 10 ARP (November 2008) to visit the museum and I was given an English guide and map. All the exhibits are in Spanish so the guide came in useful and gave me an insight of the musuem's collection.
This is the most popular excursion for taking in the scenic hightlights around Bariloche. You can either join an organised tour (takes approximately 4 hours) or visit the highlights by public transport.
The first stop of the tour, you stop at Cerro Campanerio for a chair lift ride up to the top for views of the westernmost environs including Moreno Lake, Llao Llao National Park, Puerto Panuelo and Lago Nahuel Huapi. It cost around 30 ARP (November 2008) for a round trip. After Cerro Campanerio, the excursion continues west passing Lago el Trebol and onto another view point; closer views of Llao Llao Municipal Park including views of Hotel Llao Llao, the most expensive hotel in Bariloche.
You stop at the Capilla San Eduardo and Puerto Panuelo and where you can get a close view of Llao Llao hotel and its grounds. Riding through the forest you stop at Colonia Suiza where this was originally where the Swiss Immigrants settled and there isn't really anything else to see.
*Please read the trip on my Puerto Varas's page for my personal account of the Lakes Crossing as I did the journey the opposite way round in November 2008*
You begin your journey from Bariloche to Puerto Panueo where you embark on a 1.5 hour cruise across Lago Nahuel Huapi to Puerto Blest. Then it's a short bus ride to Puerto Alegre where you catch the next catamaran across Lago Frias where the half hour crossing reaches Puerto Frias and you receive your exit stamp for Argentina. You join a minibus to travel for a further 30km through no man's land and the dense forests and bushes to the Chilean immigration/customs station where you get stamped in and continue onto Peulla for a lunch stop. In the afternoon, you take a cruise across Lago Todos Los Santos, known as The Emerald Lake, where the highlight is Volcan Osorno and travel the remaining kms by bus either to Puerto Varas or Puerto Montt.
You can either walk up the steep hill or catch a cable car to Cerro Otto, 4 kms west of downtown Bariloche. At the top, you're rewarded with 360 degrees panoramic views. On the left, you have views of Lago Nahuel Huapi, Isla Huemel, Isla Victoria, Cerro Campanerio and Lago Moreno. On the right, there are views of downtown Bariloche, Lago Gutierrez and Cerro Catedral.
On a clear day, the views are stunning and you can see the surroundings for miles and miles. There is also a revolving restaurant and also a number of tacky tourist shops and other activities at the summit. There are transfers availabe from Bariloche.
It cost me around 45 ARP (November 2008) for a round trip on the Cable Car. I'm not sure if the bus transfers were extra (check this out in February 2011 when I return).
Nahuel Huapi National Park is the oldest Argentine national park,
There are many lakes in the park, including Lago Nahuel Huapi, Lago Mascardi, Lago Gutiérrez, Lago Traful, Lago Moreno, and Lago Guillelmo. The area is known as the Argentine Lake District.
The park is famous for its rich wildlife and it covers many biotopes, due to altitudes ranging from 700 to 3,000 m
This is an easy 43 mile trip that can be done in half day or less depending on how fast you drive and how long you spend at the lookout areas, etc. It takes you right past the entrance to Llao Llao, the original resort that opened up the whole Lake District.On your way back you can stop at Cerveceria Blest and get some locally brewed beer.