Bariloche was our first introduction to Patagonia, and god damn, we were so excited.
Mendoza had been a let down for us (our fault though, not Mendozas), so we were really looking forward to what Bariloche had to offer.
From the moment we exited the airport we were in awe. A massive, clear blue lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains, and yellow alpine wildflowers everywhere. We were stunned – both by the beauty and by the death defying driving of our taxi driver.
In town, we met up with our AirBnB host who drove us to our cabin. This was the first UP in Bariloche, as in UP a mountain. We bounced over the pot hole laden gravel roads, up, up and up until we were half way up the mountain. Once there we grabbed our bags and went up, up, up and up the steep steps which lead us through the trees to our little cabin. We fell in love instantly with our tiny little cabin. So compact and quaint. It was obviously built from scratch by our AirBnB host and it very much exuded an “eau de DIY.” We later learned that was due to the complete and utter lack of ventilation in the cabin – not a single window opened.
Now that may not have been a problem if we were out exploring all day and only in the cabin for the cool mountain nights, but the next day Simon and Jacob both came down with some form of flu. They were bed ridden, and the four of us hung out all day in our sweltering and stuffy cabin. The next day the two boys were feeling a bit better but then it was my turn to get sick. Another day in the cabin. We were so over the tiny cabin lifestyle by this point.
The second down was a literal down. Down, down, down the hill we went. The descent was so steep that both my knees were shaky by the end of it. I only did that walk once – we got our rental car after that.
Finally – we were all back in normal health and we had access to a car to escape the cabin. Now it was time to explore.
We had lost quite a bit of time to our illnesses, so we only had time for a couple activities in Bariloche. We drove the Chico Circuit, we went on one of the short family friendly hikes, Simon went stand up paddle boarding, and we went on a road trip to El Bolson. Three ups and a down. So let’s get into it…
The Chico Circuit is a 25 km route which passes through a bunch of viewpoints, lakeside beaches, and short walks. It pretty much captures all the beauty you would expect to find in an alpine region, and shoves it into one short drive. You could also do this by bicycle if you wanted. The circuit can be done rather quickly, or you can take all day. We stopped at the couple of the little beaches and spent over half a day driving this littler route. You can also do the entire route by public bus from Bariloche.
Family Friendly Hiking
There are a bunch of hikes which an be accessed from the Chico Circuit, two of which are good for families with kids. We only had time to do one of them since we spent so much time being ill. And since we were still technically recovering and out of sorts, we did the flatter of the two hikes. This was the Sendero de los Arrayanes. The walk is about 3 km’s and takes you past a small Arrayanes forest, and some awesome viewpoints of Lake Moreno. It takes around 1 hour each way.
Bariloche is all about the lakes, so take every opportunity to get out on the water. Simon decided to do a SUP tour where they drive you to a spot where the winds will blow you back to their office. It was his first time paddle boarding and he came back raving about it. You can also rent kayaks, enjoy swimming from one of the many beaches, or go on a boat trip.
El Bolson is a town famous for it’s craft beers, ice cream, hippies, and handicrafts. We decided to check it out and planned our trip to coincide with the handicraft market which is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. El Bolson is located about 120 km’s from Bariloche, which is a huge distance if you have a baby and a four year old in the car. The drive there was spectacular, but El Bolson was a let down. The town lacked the personality we thought we would find in a “hippie” town, and the handicraft market was dire. We walked through the market both thinking “these people are able to make their livelihoods by doing THIS?!?!”. This was probably the first market in the history of my life where I did not even feel tempted to buy anything. El Bolson was just a lot of driving and not a lot of sightseeing – but at least the scenery was nice. As you can guess, out of the four things we managed to do, this was our big DOWN.