San Carlos de Bariloche feels just like a snow town should. Small, quaint, friendly, generous splashes of timber everywhere and snowy mountain views. There seems to be a couple of nice lodges too including one that looks like a palace!
Getting in and where I stayed
I actually arrived in Bariloche from Buenos Aires, but I’ve already written about that in my blog on Refugio Frey. So the second time I arrived in Bariloche was actually just hiking down from Refugio Frey and paying AR20 for the bus down from Vila Catedral.
When I arrived in town I was looking for a hostel mentioned by Baptist called Hostel Inn (AR150 for dorms on Salta St). I must have walked past it 3 times not noticing it was up on the hill slope. When I found it though, I was really really happy. It had been raining, I was in need of a shower after the hike and the shower did not disappoint! Wow super hot, none of that useless dribble and then there was the view from the common area! A fantastic hostel and pretty cheap too.
Cycling Circuito Chico
I decided to go back to Buenos Aires so I had just one day to get a taste of Bariloche and what better way to do that than by bike. I read about Circuito Chico in the guide book in the hostel and it sounded like a fun way to see the highlights given that I would have needed a lot more time to climb to any of the other mountain huts.
Baptist decided to come along too. He’s a funny guy with loads of stories. He actually manages to make money busking or playing his violin at gigs to make some extra cash to supplement his travel. Not just a sherpa it seems. A real vagabond traveller.
For some reason the girl at the hostel told us the bike shops were closed for winter. “Why would they be closed when they can make money?” – we thought. So we went anyway to try our luck. We caught the bus for AR7, past the big round about at the beginning of the circuit, noticed some bikes on a lawn and jumped off.
It was surprisingly expensive!…AR300 for a half day but we took it anyway. At least they gave us a map and some tips. The bikes were decent enough and we rode back towards town for a quick mountain climb.
Probably the most touristic viewpoint in all of Bariloche, but it was so close and so easy. Rather than take the chair lift we opted to walk up and somehow lost the trail in the first 100m.
But that’s no problem when your canine friends can show you the way. Funnily, a wolf also showed me the way once in Zao Onsen in Japan. There’s some special instinct for dogs to look after us humans and I love that. Just like in the Sundog video 😉
From the top you could see the mountains in all directions. Across the lake and up towards the ski resorts. Pretty amazing, and pretty cold! I haven’t actually stitched the panoramas together yet, but later you can see a quick picture from Punta Panorámica.
The walk up might not have even taken 30 minutes and the way down was certainly less than 15.
Then we rode..
The ride around Circuito Chico is really pleasant. I wouldn’t say relaxing, because there were some big ass hills, but I really do love a scenic ride like this. Plus, it’s great exercise! It took about 2.5 hours at pace.
The peninsula (it’s almost a peninsula, okay?) is home to lots of nice little houses. Many of them look like they belong in little German alpine villages. Again, more of Europe in South America!
Best of all, Hotel Llao Llao. I’m not sure what style it is, but it sure is a stand out. That and the hilltop lodge perched above the lake near the boat terminal where we stopped for empanadas.
We skipped a lot of the little walks since I was on a bit of a schedule for my bus leaving town. There were a few look out points, but I think the best were these two.
Bahia Lopez on the western point of the loop. Not a bad spot for lunch at halfway.
The high point on the southern half. If you are going anti-clockwise, don’t be fooled by the restaurant with the same name. The actual lookout is further on.
Closing the loop
So then we rushed back to town and I had to haul ass to the bus terminal. I arrived at the ticket counter thinking I had just two minutes to spare, but it turned out the bus was over an hour late.
I was so low on cash, sadly I had to hand over my souvenir money. The lady honoured the discounted AR1169 ticket, but wouldn’t let it go for AR1100 like the guy in Buenos Aires. On the plus side she gave me a 1 peso coin which I didn’t know existed.
While I was waiting, I actually thought I lost my watch along the ride. It was a really old watch, a present, but it’s so old and battered I wouldn’t have minded. Funnily, I remembered that I checked the time at the ticket counter and as I stood up to look for it I found the watch sitting at my feet. It had only just fallen off. Somehow one of the pins had popped out so I was pretty lucky to find all the pieces right there!