Bariloche is known for its access to great hiking, mountain biking and its delicious local chocolates. Now you know why it was high on our list for Argentina. When we left Pucon to cross the mountains back into Argentina we didn’t expect a miracle with the weather, but we did expect things to be different on the eastern side of the mountains. And they were. I nearly fell out of my bunk the first morning when the Argentinian guy in our room told us it was snowing. Great. We had traded rain for snow.
We had planned to spend a week in Bariloche hiking, mountain biking, and maybe even camping out a few nights. The heavy precipitation of the previous week left the single track (that’s mountain biking) too muddy to ride, and the multi-day hiking treks covered in knee deep snow. Only two of the numerous “refugios” (shelters) in the mountains were even open, so any sort of multi-day trek was out of the picture almost immediately. We turned to the only things that were left, day hiking and chocolate tasting.
Hiking through Parque National Llao Llao on our first day, we thought we were in luck. For nearly five hours we hiked through the park without so much as a flurry or drop of rain. Ironic considering it’s a temperate rainforest and that morning we woke up to snow. With the constant threat of bad weather, and the fact that it is still low season, we had the paths and lakes almost exclusively to ourselves. Overlooking Lake Moreno we had a great view of the surrounding snow capped peaks, and while the weather looked awful up there, we were quiet dry at the lake side.
Emboldened by the fortunate weather from the day before, we decided to make a go of one of the mountains the following day. Dressed for cold, wet weather we headed up Cerro Lopez. A challenging hike up a steep and rocky trail, the other hiker turned around before we made it to the first look out. With the light drizzle quickly turning into a stinging rain, we continued up the mountain determined not to let the weather beat us. As we got above the clouds, the rain stopped and we thought we were in the clear. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but about 100 yards after the hiking path joined the “road” to the “refugio” we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. Except for a few icy inhabitants, it was clear to us that the “refugio” was still closed. From as close to the top as we could get the views were incredible, and its clear why this region is called the lake district. The five or six lakes spread out before us seemed to fill the valleys between the mountain tops and it except for the threatening rain clouds, it looked like a postcard (although postcard photos are taken on days without bad weather) of the Lake District. Verdant green landscapes with turquoise blue lakes, it is easy to see why the region is so popular. Climbing back down through the snow and then the rain, we continued our circuit of the lake, walking 10K back to Llao Llao on some of the same trails we had done the day before.
After hiking in the rain and snow there was only one thing to do: taste chocolates. With more than a dozen chocolate shops lining the main street, we had to choose carefully. Unlike in the United States, there aren’t a lot of free samples, and after we bought some rather expensive samples at the first shop Danny declared we’d only buy from shops that gave us free samples. Fortunately the next two did just that, and before we left Bariloche we ended up with a ¼ kilo box of delicious chocolates, fudges and treats. Just what we needed for the long bus ride south.
The bad weather aside, we had a great time in Bariloche. This is definitely a place that gets put on the “must come back to” list only next time maybe we’ll come when the weather is a little more pleasant.