I thought I’d start my first throwback travel blog with a trip I was on a year ago! I want to write about my past travels but that can be pretty difficult when it was such a long time ago but luckily, I keep a pretty detailed journal and have great research skills via Google! So hopefully, this post will be sufficient enough.
Last year a group of study abroad friends and I went to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Bariloche is a notable stop on the Argentine-side of Patagonia, which is a region made up of the southernmost tip of South America. It includes both Argentina and Chile, separated by the Andes mountains. There are mountains, glaciers, clear blue glacial waters, dormant volcanoes and even penguins. It’s really no surprise that one of the most well-known outdoors outfitters is named after this beautiful region.
If traveling to Bariloche from Buenos Aires, you essentially have two options: fly or overnight bus. Unlike Europe, Argentina is just now catching on to budget airlines that fly domestically and to a few international destinations. One such airline, Flybondi, is what we used to fly back to BA…meaning we took a 21hr bus to get there. Booking via www.despegar.com.ar, we found a bus leaving Buenos Aires around 3 PM on a Friday that would arrive in Bariloche the next day around 11 AM. This ride was…intensely horrible. And it wasn’t even the cheaper option compared to Flybondi’s affordable prices, however, there were no flights that would get us there Friday or Saturday. Being on a bus for essentially an entire day, no matter how comfortable your seat is, is some weird version of hell. Oh and I was on my period! I remember this very distinctly because have you ever tried to change a tampon on a moving bus in a tiny ass bathroom?? No?? Well you’re the lucky one here. In addition to my period problems, here’s a word of advice: bring ya own food! Airplane food? Not bad. Sometimes, even a little good. Bus food comes nowhere close. That shit was disgusting. Excuse me, pardon my language, but that shit was not edible. AND TO TOP IT ALL OFF, this bitch (the bus, not a person) had the audacity to BLARE 1970s disco at dawn. I mean ABSOLUTELY BLARING “I Will Survive,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Disco Inferno” and more. The more I remember this bus ride, the worse I feel…
Once we arrived to the bus terminal in Bariloche, we took a standby taxi into the city, which took us to our incredible hostel. I LOVED THIS PLACE. I think we booked via hostelworld.com, but you can also book directly via their website. It’s called Penthouse 1004 and it is incredible! It’s located in the tallest building in the city center, giving it’s guests incredible views. We stayed in a 6-person dorm room but they have smaller rooms available (Andrés and I are hopefully going to visit Bariloche one day and I can return to Penthouse 1004). The next best thing about Penthouse 1004 is the breakfast, specifically the freshly baked bread that comes with delicious jams and fresh real, butter. My mouth is watering as I type this. In fact, I recently emailed them and asked for their recipe though I’ve yet to try it out because Andrés still needs to buy me a bread pan (hi, honey!). The gals at Penthouse 1004 are also incredibly helpful and helped us connect with the company we went rafting with! The people we met at the hostel were all incredibly nice and welcoming. A good time was had by all! Even me at 3 AM puking my guts out because Shannon made us play a terrible card game where everyone targeted me and my terrible wine.
While in Bariloche, we stuck to the some pretty basic tourist activities. Here are my highlights in no particular order:
Shopping in downtown Bariloche
Bariloche is known for its chocolate making. And there were lots of places to buy chocolate, that’s for sure! Downtown Bariloche is pretty centralized, small and touristy. There were lots of cute souvenir shops and chocolate shops like Rapanui (huge Argentine brand that actually has a store like two blocks from my house!) and del Turista. What was most shocking for me was the focus on SAINT BERNARDS. Anyone that knows me knows that I love my dog Mia immensely. She is simply the cutest, best dog to ever exist which means as a breed, St. Bernards are the best. This town is obsessed with them! It’s a skiing town in the winter so I guess it makes sense but I had no idea before I got there. Seeing a St. Bernard walking around the city center that first day had me hyperventilating with excitement. There will be more St. B content later on so KEEP READING!
White Water Rafting with Aguas Blancas
We booked this tour group through our hostel. They came and picked us up from our hostel and we were loaded on to a van as we picked up the remaining tourists. We then headed out to their place in the middle of nowhere to get ready for a fun day of white water rafting! We did the Río Manso a la Frontera route which took us down the gorgeous Río Manso and into Chile! Once we passed into Chile, we landed and walked up a huge, steep hill back into the Argentine side of the border. And there was a dog! I am not saying the best part of white water rafting was the dog at the end but there was a dog at the end, okay? The rafting was really fun and honestly not as hard or scary as I was expecting it to be! There was a group of six of us from our hostel and since we were all English speakers we had a boat to ourselves with the guide who also spoke English. I don’t remember his name but he was so nice and fun! The whole crew was honestly just a blast to be around. They were full of jokes and fun times but also very professional with what they do! Our package included a really nice lunch too! I was a vegetarian at the time so while everyone was eating delicious asado, I was eating raviolis, but they were good. Honestly, I think my favorite part was just how blue and clean the water was. The river is made with glacial water which makes it extra gorgeous. There’s a part in the river that is super calm and we are encouraged to jump (!) off the boat and swim. Number 1, yes. Number 2: you’re wearing a helmet and if you jump in the water with the helmet you won’t rise up as quickly and the water is seriously cold and you think you’re going to drown but you don’t. Those are my tips.
Hiking the Llao Llao Circuito Chico
The only hiking I did while in Bariloche was around the Llao Llao area. The hike was gorgeous and fairly easy and laid-back. We took public transportation there and back which made it very affordable! However, buses in Bariloche are no joke. They aren’t like buses in Buenos Aires. These buses are like, off-roading compared to buses in a city like BA. Standing up on one of these buses was honestly painful. But when the reward is these gorgeous views? Let me get on that bus (which you can take with a SUBE card so if you’re coming from BA, you probably already have one and can just recharge your card to ride the buses in Bariloche!). How many times can I say “buses” in one paragraph?
Cerro Otto via the v dope TELEFÉRICO!
For Cerro Otto, we took the easy way out. Instead of hiking up this large mountain, we opted for a ride in the teleférico–that little red thing in the picture above. We purchased tickets at a kiosk in town and waited for the teleférico company’s bus. Once we arrived at the bottom on the mountain, we took a ride up in the gondola. It was a little suffocating inside (and slightly scary) but over all it was so fun to ride up the mountain and look down all around us. The views on top of the mountain are incredible. There is also a restaurant on top that slowly spins around so the patrons can get a good look from all sides. We weren’t up for eating when we went but we did grab some coffee and tea and spun around for a little while. It can be a little trippy if you are (highly) prone to motion sickness, but you get used to it after a while. By far the best thing on top of Cerro Otto is the chance to pay 200 pesos for a picture with this good boy! That’s right. I have a Saint Bernard at home but I paid what was $8 at the time to take a picture with this dog named Quilmes (also the name of a city in Argentina as well as their most popular beer). I have zero regrets. I talked to his owner and we swapped stories on owning St. Bernards and he showed me videos of Quilmes playing in the snow. It was incredible. I love you, puppy.
Chilling at Playa Bonita
I don’t have any photos from our very laid-back day at Playa Bonita. And I gotta be honest, I am not even positive that’s where we went. Like I am only 70% positive this was the beach we went to. Either way, if you’re heading to Bariloche in the summer, there are beaches, like this one. But I do have a bit of a warning for you: lay out in the sun for a WHILE. Get really hot and sweaty and then get in the water. Otherwise, it’s just way too cold. Of my group of four girls, I was the only one to get as far as I did in the water. I loved swimming in the water but I will admit, it was freezing. So, so cold. But so worth it. We also took a bus out to the beach so very easy and accessible!
Eating ice cream multiple times at Helados Jauja
Man, y’all, I love ice cream. I live and die for ice cream. Ice cream is my best friend. And ice cream at Helados Jauja was incomparable. We all loved it and went several times.
Eating not ice cream foods
We tried to eat at the hostel as often as we could but the few times we did go out we went to La Alpina, Friends, Beerland Bariloche (only for drinks), and my favorite, La Parrilla de Tony.
La Alpina was just decent, not really bad, not really amazing. They apparently specialize in fondue but we didn’t get fondue…maybe we should have.
Friends was a restaurant near the city center we went to one night with a big group of people from our hostel. I remember being in a pretty grumpy mood from traveling and the menu covers being different memes and that maybe I flirted, or thought I was flirting, with the waiter (this was BEFORE Andrés’ time). I think I got pizza and I think that pizza was good. Who knows?
Beerland Bariloche did have some good beer! We shared a cute flight.
However, of all the places we went, for me what really took the cake was La Parrilla de Tony. We showed up to this very busy restaurant with a group of NINE and they handled it like bosses by leading us to a private room in the back. The waitresses and the owner were super nice to us and made sure we were happy the whole night. As a vegetarian, I got pasta but the meat looked amazing. Really great Argentine food was had here and I definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Bariloche!
I’ll wrap up here with my regrets, because of course, I have them. I really wish I had done some more research before I left Buenos Aires. The WiFi at the hostel was slow and unreliable and making hiking plans was difficult because of this. There are so many options for hiking and other outdoor activities in Bariloche that I wish I would have been able to see but I was totally unprepared! I wish I had also did more research via TripAdvisor when looking for places to have drinks/to eat. Looking now, I see tons of cool options. Walking around hungry while there lead me pretty astray so we settled for eating meh food (or not at all because if traveling with college students for the past three years has taught me anything it’s that 19 and 20 year olds who are trying to save money/don’t have a lot of it WILL SKIP food first and foremost).
Bariloche, in the summer, was fantastic. Andrés and I may return to see what this ski town is like in the winter but I feel like I will prefer the summer. It’s not as hot as Buenos Aires and it’s way prettier. The wildlife and outdoor activities abound. Also Saint Bernards. If you’re making a trip through Patagonia, don’t pass up this gem.
BONUS CONTENT! Right outside of our hostel was an underground nightclub called “Eclipse” and they straight up ripped off Twilight. I was convinced the bar was Twilight themed so we went one night. It wasn’t. In reality it was just middle aged men sitting around the dance floor watching you dance so I guess the discomfort was spot on. Also here’s a picture of me before I spent the night puking.