Stretching across the southern part of Chile and Argentina lies Patagonia, one of the most beautiful places in the world to hike. I have been fortunate to have visited both Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, two remote treasures offering endless opportunities for discovering adventure and solitude. However, getting to the end of the world can take a lot of time and if you are like most Americans, your vacation time doesn’t allow for more than ten days at a shot.
Another closer option is to visit the Patagonian Lakes District which is only a short flight from either Santiago or Buenos Aires. Although you will not find the kind of rugged, remote beauty of true Patagonia you will be equally impressed with the sheer beauty of the lakes and parks in this region and it won’t take you an additional day to reach it.
San Carlos de Bariloche is a beautiful town located in the heart of Argentina’s Lakes District and only a couple hours flight south of Buenos Aires. You can easily spend several days in Bariloche exploring the lakes, enjoying the delicious food and taking in the gorgeous scenery by doing one of several day hikes or walks in the area. The only downside is that most of the hiking is relatively flat and easy. For the serious hiker, you have to get creative.
After speaking with the local hiking club in town, we learned that the best place to find a good, solid hike was at Cerro Catedral, Bariloche’s ski resort in the winter. It was a short drive up a long, windy path to the ski hill which afforded fabulous views of Bariloche and Lago Nahuel Huapi below.
Setting off from the parking lot, there is a small sign indicating the start of the trail. The hike ended up being exactly what we had in mind: Somewhat strenuous, leg burning and fantastically serene filled with spectacular mountain views and glistening white snow. It took most of the day and we were lucky to find a refugio at the top that served us a hot lunch. Unprepared, we had not much in our backpacks except for water and a few snacks. The hike to the top of the Argentine sky ended up being a highlight of our visit to Bariloche. Here are some photos from our adventure:
Climbing up….we were surprised to find so much snow as it was spring in Argentina.
There was not another soul on the trail. The way I like it to be. Peaceful and at one with nature.
Yet I had my dad along to break the silence and we talked for hours about life, traveling, and Argentina.
As we climbed higher up, the trail disappeared beneath the snow. Our boots sunk softly as we labored up the steep finish.
Alas, the finish line. The refugio is at the top of the hike, off in the distance. Apparently you can sleep there over night and keep going on into the wild, Patagonian backcountry. If only we had more time….
Hungry and ready for a break, the refugio is finally not far…
View of where we came from….Bariloche is located far below in the valley.
Outside the refugio, I could smell hot food cooking. We had soup and spaghetti. It never tasted so good.
Leaving the refugio and heading back to town.
The beech trees were brilliantly fragrant. I was so happy and felt so alive to be in my element: Hiking outside with my favorite hiking partner, my dad.
We rounded a corner where a fire had recently struck. I loved the juxtaposition between the gray-white barks of the trees against the aquamarine water below.
San Carlos de Bariloche…in the distance with the mountains looming in back. What a spectacular setting for a town.
We are almost down. We are tired, hungry and ready for our next big meal in town. For this is the pleasure of day-hiking without the crummy camp food and rustic lodging.
That night we had dinner at one of the finest, most spectacular restaurants I’ve ever been to. A special place called “Cassis” which was about a half and hour taxi ride outside of town, tucked back on an azure lake, in the middle of nowhere. Cassis is known as the top restaurant in the Patagonian Lakes area and was absolutely amazing. As you walk inside the restaurant, there are no lights except candles and the view of the water outside the enormous windows takes your breath away. It was a dinner to remember by a world-class chef. What an incredible day in Argentina! Wish I could go back.
This is a post down memory lane from a trip I took to Argentina in 2009. I went again in 2012 to Patagonia to hike Los Glaciares National Park.