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.
Definitely going to keep this post in mind. We have talked about returning to South America and this time visiting Argentina and Chile. What altitude were you at Nicole?
Wonderful Sue! It is not very high, just 2100 feet. That is what I like a lot about trekking in Patagonia. It is nothing like the Andes of Bolivia and Peru! 🙂 I also found this tidbit on Wikipedia which is interesting and talks about the ski area: Cerro Catedral is a mountain located 19 kilometres (12 mi) from San Carlos de Bariloche, and inside the Nahuel Huapí National Park, Patagonia, Argentina.
The mountain holds one of the biggest ski centers in South America, with a skiable area of 6 km2 (2.3 sq mi), 120 km (75 mi) of ski runs, and a lift capacity of 35,000 skiers per hour. It is also very popular due to the magnificent view of the Nahuel Huapi lake. There are also a number of hotels and hostels at the foot of the mountain, and a summer hikers’ hut called Refugio Lynch on one of the tops of the mountain.
During the summer, the Refugio Frey and a camping accommodate trekkers and rock climbers next to Tonček lagoon, near the Torre Principal; Catedral’s highest point.
Sounds fabulous Nicole! The altitude is much more manageable than Peru! I appreciate all the information.
And ‘when’ would you like to go??
This fall or winter 2017! 🙂 A girl can dream!
You certainly have experienced some remotely majestic places.
Yes I have and I am so grateful that my dad has been my traveling partner to a lot of them. Very special trips! Someday I hope to go with my husband and kids.
This looks magnificent. Thanks for sharing your memories and photos. I felt like I could breath easier just looking at your beautiful photos!
Thanks Miriam! 🙂 It is a beautiful part of the world. The food and wine are good too!
Always a bonus!
This may have to be my next destination in Argentina. We saw a lot of the north and east (and Patagonia, of course), but did not make it to Mendoza and wine country or to Bariloche. So much to see in Argentina! Your photos are great, and the hike looks awesome. (P.S. I think you meant southern in the first sentence! 🙂 )
I didn’t make it to Mendoza yet and would love to because Malbec is my absolute favorite wine! I would love to go back and see the Chilean side of the Lakes District too (and yes I did mean southern. Thanks for catching! Not sure why I put northern! ).
What a wonderful memory to revisit. Photos of Patagonia always are so awe-inspiring.
Thanks Kat! I hope you are doing well! Winter hasn’t been too bad so far.
I first heard about bariloche this Sunday on discovery channel’s programme on safe refuge of Nazi war criminals in this town located deep inside Argentina. I saw some images of lake and surrounding mountains but never knew it was a hiking destination. thanks for posting it here !
Wow, that is fascinating! I had no idea. I love the Discovery Channel. Maybe I can try to find the show and watch it as I bet it would be very interesting. Thanks for sharing that with me. Yes, it is a very beautiful place. Most of the hikes in the area are flat along the lake but this one we found was really beautiful.
I’m sure it must have been beautiful.
Everywhere I go I seem to find the white stuff at the minute, Nicole 🙂 A beautiful hike though. Thanks for doing the hard work so I could enjoy it 🙂
Do you have snow in England Jo? We of course are covered in snow but in Minnesota we need it to keep us busy in the winter with outdoor activities! 🙂
Very little so far this year, Nicole, but I probably shouldn’t say that until I’ve left the country 🙂
Wow! What a stunning region
Thank you Sue! And these photos were taken years ago when I had a cheap mini camera. It is really stunning indeed!
Well, you’ll have to return….
looks fantastic, I can imagine your yearning to continue on the trail! Love the pic of your dad overlooking the lake.
Thanks so much! Yes, it was a really special hike and yes I wanted to continue on. I also love the pic of my dad. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by !
Great post! I’ll be spending just over a month in Patagonia this fall and am gathering all the tips I can 🙂
Oh lucky you! Make sure you have lots of layers and waterproof gear (including pants!) as the weather there is nuts and you can have all seasons in one day. I hope you are going to Torres del Paine. I love that place!
Yep – definite plans for Bariloche, Torres del Paine and El Chalten for sure! And that’s good to know – I’m from Alberta and have done lots of hiking in the weather-fickle Alberta/BC Rockies, but good to know I should be super prepared in Patagonia too – I’ve heard the winds can get crazy there.
Wonderful! I live in Minnesota so am too used to cold weather. It will really help you there! It is also the windiest place I’ve ever been!
Ever since I read Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia”, I’ve fantasized about heading there. But something keeps me from actually doing it. And I’m not sure I really like what seems like bleakness. I did get to Iguazi in Argentina…that wasn’t bleak.
I loved that book. Patagonia is one of my most favorite travel places I’ve ever been. It is so insanely beautiful and so untouched still. I loved it. Hope you go!
I don’t know why, but I truly loved that book, also. I missed seeing the Nazca lines in Peru, so I might have to return to SA, so maybe I’ll get to Patagonia?
That would be great!
Trekking is something I use to always look forward when I use to get my semester end holidays in college. I am inspired to fulfil my passion again after reading this article. The photos are really amazing, showcasing the true beauty of the nature. Loved the way you have shared your travel experience!