Pictures of Bariloche make it look like a sleepy little town in the Argentinean mountains, but this place can be as wild and exciting as you want it to be. It’s surrounded by monumental natural beauty, but also full of great restaurants, busy bars and nightclubs that run until dawn breaks over the lakes. During my time in Bariloche, I saw a little of everything it has to offer – and trust me, it offers a lot.
I arrived to predictions of heavy rain, so I immediately extended what was planned to be a three day visit to five. It was a good call, because the weather the first few days was atrocious. I still set out into the wind and rain to climb Cerro Otto, a 15km round trip from town, which on a nice day would deliver wonderful views back over Bariloche. Honestly, I should’ve stayed in bed with a box of wine and a good book. I saw next to nothing and just ended up cold, wet and tired, like a nymphomaniac snowman’s girlfriend (yeah I know, I was really reaching with that one).
After drying off, I decided to get my insides wet instead, loading up on cheap supermarket booze before heading into town with a young lass I’d met earlier at an empanada stand. Seriously, nothing turns me on more than a woman who can down a dozen meat-filled pastries in a sitting. If I thought the weather was challenging, it was nothing compared to an evening in Bariloche. We started out at a delightful restaurant where I had my first encounter with a thick, juicy slab of Argentinean beef. No, I didn’t suck off some swarthy Latino bloke, I got stuck into a steak, which isn’t something I often treat myself to because I’m a povo backpacker. I got the small steak, but it was still the size of my head and absolutely scrumptious. Fortunately, the waiter forgot to charge me for my food, so it tasted even better.
Bariloche is known as Argentina’s party capital for a reason, and after dinner I stumbled through a haze of bars serving wide ranges of craft beers, and clubs playing thumping European techno music. At some point, whilst I was having an illuminating conversation with a tattooed bouncer regarding whether or not I had ingested one too many beers, my lady friend slipped off into the night with the bloke from the empanada stand. As I looked out over the warming sun as it climbed over the lakes, with vomit on my shirt, I was just happy I’d made it through the night. It was great to be in a proper city after weeks in remote villages but come on, I’m 35, too many nights like that would kill me.
Fortunately, the weather picked up from there, and I was able to appreciate the true glory of the area. I jumped on a bus out to the waterfront village of Llao Llao, which is the starting point for a number of short but breathtaking hikes. Climbing to the top of Monte Llao Llao (an easy hour’s hike from the bus stop) is a must-do when in Bariloche, and as I sat up there, I couldn’t help thinking that it was perhaps the most spectacular place I’d ever visited. Well, maybe there’s a few places between legs that best it, but it was still very pleasant.
Bariloche is a weird place. It looks and feels much like a European city, but it has enough dirt and grime (and a surprisingly large amount of burnt-out cars) to give away the fact it’s not quite first world. Dogs wander around everywhere, graffiti is splattered across most walls, and little Argie dudes rush around everywhere. But with such a massive selection of bars and restaurants, as well as some of the best scenery you’ll ever see, it really is a cool place. Now I need to get out of here and head somewhere to give my liver a rest. I hear Buenos Aires is nice this time of hear… how could I possibly get into trouble there?