9 Adventure Activities in San Carlos
de Bariloche, Argentina
Many Diverse Ways to Explore
a Beautiful Region
|Hiking treks through the woods
is one relaxing way to see the flourishing forests
of the Patagonian Andes.
The frosted mug and homemade beer
had to be a dream. I was six hours into the dense, flourishing
forests of the Patagonian Andes. A wandering, perfectly
manicured single track trail had led me to a beautiful,
rustic log cabin. It was my sanctuary, restaurant, and
place of entertainment for a few nights, until I decided
it was time to hike on to the next Andean refuge.
Welcome to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. The gateway city of Patagonia, and the jewel of the Lakes District, Bariloche is home to awe-inspiring outdoor adventure. From the impressive trail circuits created in the mid-1900s that flow through miles of untouched, virgin bamboo forests, glaciated mountains, and thick timberland, to parapenting the lofty winds with the immense Andean condor, this active city of 150,000 full-time residents takes your breath away.
Here is a list of nine great adventurous
activities to inspire some adrenaline-filled enjoyment
when visiting the Lakes District’s urban center:
1. Multi-day Hiking Treks:
The intricate trail system surrounding Bariloche was
created in the 1950s by Club Andino Bariloche, the mountain
information service for the Lakes District of Patagonia.
A hard working organization, the members created extensive
single-tracks interlinking fully stocked and manned huts.
Today, the treks can be broken up
into day trips or long mountainous excursions.
A popular 5-to-6 day journey takes
you first to Refugio Frey, with the trailhead beginning
at the winter sports Mecca, Cerro Catedral. There are
two trails that lead to the hut, one from the upper mountain
ridgeline, the other starting at the parking lot. Both
take between 3-to-5 hours. Day two’s journey will
involve a 5-to-6 hour walk, leading you to a rock and
stone hut built by hand in 1957, Refugio Martin. Continuing
on, day three offers the most challenging part of the
circuit; 6-to-9 hours crossing over majestic rock spires
that eventually spills you into the valley cradling Laguna
Negra. The Refugio Italia, named after those inspired
to build it, sits nestled against the small body of water.
After resting, another 5-to-6 hour journey will bring
you across rock pathways and thick forests to Refugio
Lopez, a Pepto Bismo pink building that houses over 60
people in busy season. From here a wandering 3-hour trail
with remarkable views of Lake Nahuel Huapi takes you
back down to the main road, Circuito Chico.
Of course, with so many huts in
the region, there are various detours available, such
as venturing towards the mighty Cerro Tronador from Laguna
It is always best to check on trail
conditions at Club Andino prior to setting off.
|Having a beer at a Refugio.
2. Canopy Tours:
For those that enjoy flying through the forest, in addition
to walking amongst the trees, a canopy is a great option
The most popular operation in Bariloche
is the Canopy Adventure Tour. Located off the Circuito
Chico, the owner has taken his own private land and made
a great course among the tops of old growth Lenga trees. It
boasts having one of the longest flight distances in
the world, at 1.5 kilometers long. The company also offers
winter service, allowing the experience of the beauty
of soaring through a snowy landscape. In addition, they
also offer full moon trips, offer free pizza, and local
beer. The tour includes a drive up to the flight
platforms via a picturesque 4×4 road.
3. Kitesurfing on Lago Nahuel
Huapi: With Bariloche located in the Lakes
District, there are many great options for water activities.
One idea, perfect for the area due to the immensity
of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the hefty winds that are
known to blow from time to time, is kitesurfing. A
relatively new sport to the Bariloche area, a recommended
company offering lessons with certified instructors
and wetsuit rentals is Kitebeach Bariloche. For the
educated kitesurfer, there is an organized group of
locals who take full advantage of the water and wind
combination at Kitesurf Bariloche.
4. River Rafting and Kayaking:
The rivers of the Lakes District are just as impressive
as their emerald green lake counterparts. There are two
main arroyos that offer excitement around Bariloche,
the Rio Limay and Rio Manso, though Rio Manso has both
an upper and lower section. There are multiple companies
that offer varying difficulties of trips down the turquoise
watercourses outlined by lush forests. One fantastic
trip that includes some authentic culture is the Rio
Manso into Chile excursion. Starting the paddle in the
dense old growth Patagonian forest, the adventure finishes
on the border of Argentina and Chile. Bonus: an extra
stamp in the passport. The majority of companies also
offer an authentic asado (Argentine-style BBQ)
at a Patagonian ranch, otherwise known as an estancia.
|River rafting and kayaking
are common on the Rio Monso.
5. Backcountry Skiing:
Like their watery mirrors, the Andes Mountains surrounding
the Lakes District are inspiring. In addition to offering
a broad amount of hiking choices in the summer, the wintertime
brings a healthy list of backcountry ski descents. Beyond
the volcanoes of Lanin and Tronador, there are various
other mentionable downhill routes. Probably the most
popular off-piste hiking zone is Refugio Frey, the same
hut mentioned earlier. Another noteworthy local is Refugio
Neumeyer. A refuge accessed by a year-round dirt road,
the area is also set up for cross-country skiers and
sledding. But don’t let that deter you. Just beyond
the area for the masses, the slopes become quiet and
open up to different variations of skiing potential.
Two other zones that can serve it up include Cerro Lopez,
another area mentioned in the hiking section, as well
as Cerro Ñireco. Cerro Ñireco is one of
those mountains that calls to those that love skiing.
Staring at you from the city center, the hill is north facing
and a great spring corn run.
|Tronador volcanic mountain
covered in snow.
||Backcountry skiing is possible
in the Andes Mountains.
6. Horseback Tours:
A true tradition of Patagonia—Argentina for that
matter—is the gaucho (cowboy) lifestyle.
The gaucho trade has a long, important relationship
interlaced in the foundation of the country. Sharing
a true gaucho experience is considered to be
one of the best ways to enjoy authentic Argentine culture.
All types of rides are offered, from just a few hours
of riding to ten-day excursions. If learning about historic
Patagonia is something of interest, then participating in
a guided horseback trip with Carol Jones is going to
be an unforgettable experience—knowledge of the area
is in her blood. She is the granddaughter of U.S.-born
Patagonian founding father, Jarred Jones. A character
that ran with the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid, Grandpa Jones was the beginning of generations of
familial bonding with the Patagonian Steppe.
|Horseback riding gaucho style
with Carol Jones.
Have you ever dreamed of flying like a bird? How about
a bird with a 10-foot wingspan? This type of fantasy
is available in the open landscape surrounding Bariloche.
Although parapenting, or paragliding, began in the 1980s
in Europe, the adrenaline-pumping surfing of the ever-changing
wind thermals quickly landed in Bariloche via local resident,
Ernesto Gutierrez. Now, considered the innovator of Lakes
District parapenting, Gutierrez is passionate about sharing
it with visitors, “I believe Patagonia is a very
special place in the world for flying, with its incredible
landscapes and amazing wilderness. There are a large
number of birds we can watch from the air and around
the takeoff and landing areas. Big birds like the Andean
condors, vultures, eagles and hawks have a similar way
of flying; using air streams to save energy and go higher.
That’s also what free-flyers do, so we share those
air streams with them.”
8. Mountain Biking:
As one of those sports that matches well with great trails,
there is stellar mountain biking around Bariloche. And
to make matters even better, there are multiple shops
in town that rent decent bikes and helmets (full suspension
included). The single tracks tend to be tacky dirt that
lends well to tire adhesion, with some paths accessorized
with banked corners and small jumps. A few trails that
must be mentioned include the cross country zone of Cerro
Otto located in town, the access trail from Cerro Catedral
to Lago Gutierrez, and the half-day ride located in the
neighboring village of Villa La Angostura, Quetrihué Peninsula
to the Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes.
|Mountain bike riding.
9. Rock Climbing:
There is no shortage of excellent rock climbing opportunities
around the Bariloche area. In fact, the spires surrounding
Refugio Frey are world-renowned for their 100s of multi-pitch
granite crack routes. Piedra Blancas, located half way
up Cerro Otto offers sport routes, generally in the 5.7
to 5.10 range. Other Bariloche areas include Laguna Trebol
and Cerro Ventana. To locate decent guide books, check
It is safe to say that Bariloche
has enough adventure excitement to quench the thirst
of any outdoor thrill-seeker. In fact, if you ask around
town, you will find many have chosen to move to the area
just because of the intense fun factor. No matter what
season it is, there is always some activity that is enticing
one to go outside. And with such a diverse playground
and many local operators providing support, it’s
hard to say no.