It’s good to be able to sit down and write again! I was worried I wouldn’t have the opportunity to write until I got home because my computer decided to not work for over a week. Alas, it now has decided it is ready again and has allowed me to actually open up the internet. Although this computer has been so good to me throughout college, it might be time to retire the old thing. I’m tired of dealing with its mood swings, and the bright shiny Macbooks are calling my name!
My semester ended last week (yay!) so in an effort to celebrate I booked a weekend in Argentina! I decided to go last minute with another Minnesotan named Matt who I am studying abroad with in Rio. Although a bit rash and expensive, the best travel is always done spontaneously anyways, right? Barliloche is a central Argentinian city that is known for its ski slopes, chocolate, and gorgeous landscapes. This is my itinerary and is ideal for a first-stop in Patagonia. From here, it is so easy to continue farther south into places like El Calafate or Puerto Natales in Chile. I personally will be doing the rest of Patagonia in a separate trip, with blog post to follow of course! (Which is now here, if you’re interested)
Day 1: Getting there and exploring
During the flight, everything went smooth. From Rio, I had a layover in Buenos Aires, switched terminals and then headed farther South to Bariloche on Aerolinas Argentinas. Pro tip about AA, they’re unreliable. Flights often “get canceled” or your flight may switch when in fact nothing is different. My suggestion if you choose them, even if you get an email saying something changed, show up to airport anyways. This is what I did when they last minute emailed me with a change in flight. I showed up like nothing was wrong and got on my original flight without question! Also, when laying over in Buenos Aires I would suggest getting Pesos there instead of waiting until Bariloche. When I arrived, the one ATM they have was not working and had to strike a deal with my shuttle driver to pay him after we got into town.
As we were landing, I may have gotten to witness the best-ever welcome view. It was golden hour and the Patagonian mountains were creating the best pattern mosaic as it played with the light. The air was crisp and still, landing there felt inexplicably like home. Just another testament that my mountains call my heart! Once I was in town (Matt flew separately) I had just enough time to run down to the giant glacial lake that had sweeping views of the mountains, and catch the sunset, which lit up the sky purple. And when I say purple, I mean lilac and indigo and full on purple! The wind whipped my hair all over the place as water from the lake splashed up over the rocks. It was something I had never witnessed before and as the cool evening air was settling in, I couldn’t help think that coming here was the best decision I made all semester. I know, I know, strong statement right there but if that doesn’t persuade you to go, I don’t know what will. The beauty of that place is almost unrivaled.
After sunset, I walk back on the main street in search of dinner, which I find quickly and happily sit into a plate of mushroom gnocchi and a personal bottle of Malbec wine. Now, I’ve looked long and hard for the name of this restaurant so I could recommend it to you all because it was just so good, but I just can’t find it. I guess its destined to remain as the beautiful hidden gem you get to stumble across when you’re there. Also, pro tip number two; when in Argentina, you must drink as much Malbec as frequently as you can, its just so good and made locally which you can’t pass up. After dinner, I was exhausted but since the town is know for its chocolate I wandered into a shop to buy a sweet for myself as I walk home. Yup, chocolate, wine and mountains, basically heaven on Earth. I go to bed feeling spoiled and satisfied.
Day 2: Lookouts and shopping
The next morning I slept in, ate breakfast, had a quiet time, went on a walk, and waited for Matt to arrive. We were staying at the Hostel Los Troncos on the west side of town and was a very nice, quiet hostel. The breakfast was good and the staff have awesome knowledge and recommendations about what to do around town. Pro tip four, when traveling to Argentina, have a power plug with two round prongs. Coming from Brazil I only had converters with three and was stuck charging my phone on the computer. After my lazy morning, Matt arrived, checked in, and then we hit the ground running. Per our hostel’s recommendation we got a bus pass and headed out to the Campanario lookout. Another pro tip about the bus pass, although you can recharge the pass almost anywhere, you need to sign up for the pass at the information center in the center of town. Its easy, central, and will save you the headache we had trying to hop from place to place to get one.
Once we arrived, we took a ski lift up through the trees to come to an open air platform with 360 degree mountain-top views. If you don’t want to pay for the lift, you can also hike up for free access to the base. When we arrived at the top, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the landscape was so breathtaking I couldn’t put it in words. What made the view even better was the fact that the entire town has planted a particular bush that blooms intense yellow flowers (pictured above) so the green of the landscape was interrupted by a stark golden yellow. It was like early fall colors but in eighty degree weather. The mountains towered, the lakes glittered, and the colors saturated the land. All in all, it was one of the best views of my life.
After we got back into town, Matt and I put our feet in the ice cold water of the glacial lake to cool off. Yet again, my breath was taken by how crystal clear the water was and I started to think I was living in a dream, because it was all just too good to be true! That night we ended up eating at the same restaurant I ate in the night before because it was just that good and in close proximity. Afterwards we stopped in one of the many chocolate shops sprinkled through town (again) and I bought two bars of dark chocolate and downed half of one before we even left the store. We browsed the many hiking and souvenir shops and I bought a beautiful zipup. Weather tip about Patagonia; pack layers, even in summertime. Once the sun goes down behind the mountains it gets chilly and weather changes quickly so always be prepared.
Day 3: Mountain Biking to Hotel Llao Llao
The next morning we get on the same bus after breakfast to go rent bikes to see the 17 mile circuit on the western edge of the lake. We test our chosen steeds for the day, get a brief orientation, don our helmets and are off in less than an hour! The ride was not extremely intense, but was not for beginners either. There were no flat parts, but there were a few stops along the way our guide pointed out that we could use to catch our breath or grab a snack. After only fifteen minutes we hit a terrible hill and start walking up, nervous that this was going to be a bit more intense than we had anticipated. Trying to make light, we get up the hill and get on with the ride even though we are both huffing and puffing. The thing about mountain biking is that the downhills are so fast, fun, and refreshing but the uphills make you feel like you’re going to die. So, for three and a half hours our emotions were played with hill after hill. We were good about giving ourselves grace and resting when we needed and once we were warmed up, got in a good groove. The ride itself was really beautiful and the Hotel Llao Llao (pronounced Shao Shao) was a really nice rest stop. By the end my legs were jelly, my lungs were sore, and my ankles were beat up from the bike but I also felt so refreshed, strong, and grateful that my body was able to do something like that. We immediately rewarded ourselves with a big meal and a nap before a late dinner to celebrate Matt’s birthday. I was still full from lunch when we went out, so I had wine and bread for dinner (no regrets) while Matt had a sandwich with mystery meat on it. We were the last ones in the restaurant to leave and for a 21st birthday celebration I am happy so say Matt was thoroughly drunk.
Day 4: Moving on
The next morning was a bit rough for us but we checked out and said goodbye to Bariloche through slatted eyes to head for the airport. Matt’s flight was the one immediately before mine since he was flying to El Calafate to see the big glacier there, so after he left I chilled and napped before going back to Buenos Aires, and then Rio. The thing with these small Patagonian towns is the airports have two gates total, so arriving early meant I had lots of quiet time between flights. Both Matt and I arrived safely to our destinations and I’m so happy I took the time to visit Bariloche. It was well worth the effort and if you are planning a trip to Patagonia soon, be sure not to miss this place!
If you’ve been to Bariloche, I want to know what else you recommend or things I missed! Comment below, and don’t forget to follow the blog for new posts.
Next to Read: Another Patagonia Guide