When I mentioned to a friend that I planned on returning to the Bariloche area, he asked, “Why? Isn’t that place just for Argentine skiers?” Bariloche is certainly that, with 37 lifts, some 75 miles of runs and 3,700 feet of vertical drop at the Cerro Catedral resort alone. But I always visit outside of ski season, to enjoy cruises on island-speckled Lake Nahuel Huapi, scenic hikes in the mountainous national park surrounding it or trout fishing on nearby rivers.
Many have compared Bariloche to Switzerland, and though there are similarities, this analogy does Bariloche a disservice. The region very much has its own identity. One key difference is that around Lake Nahuel Huapi, vast swaths of land remain completely pristine, with any development forbidden by the national park. Some of it feels Alpine, with rugged snowcapped mountain peaks, but waterfall-streaked primary forest — including a section of the Valdivian temperate rain forest — covers the rest.
Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Bariloche
Having received a number of complaints about my current recommendation in Bariloche, Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, I decided to make the historical 205-room resort my first stop. And indeed, the original building of the hotel has drawbacks. Guest rooms are tiny, and windows tend to be too small to enjoy the views. The furniture and baths, too, could charitably be regarded as “traditional.” And the food in the restaurants failed to dazzle. The buffet lunch in the conservatory-like Winter Garden restaurant was hit and miss, and the Patagonia Coffee Shop restaurant offered relatively simple comfort-food dinners like trout empanadas with saffron, and shepherd’s pie of local lamb. (The more upscale Los Césares Grill & Pasta was closed during our stay.)