Famous throughout South America for it's skiing in the winter, Bariloche is a hiker's paradise for the rest of the year. Surrounded by the dramatic Patagonian landscapes found on the cover of a National Geographic magazine, with a myriad of lakes and imposing mountains, Bariloche is everything it's promised to be and more. The main street of the town is lined with chocolatiers; good luck to anyone who tries to walk down this street without indulging! My top pick is the dark chocolate and pistachio at Mamuschka's.
There are numerous walking trails on offer that range from an hour to several days. Refugios (basic wooden huts) are scattered throughout and offer very simple overnight accommodation. A popular hike is to Refugio Frey with views across the Andes mountains and lagoons. If staying in a refugio isn't for you, it is possible to do this hike in a day. The hike can also be shortened by taking the chairlift up or down. If you are hiking in the national park be sure to register at the tourist information or online (www.nahuelhuapi.gov.ar)
A shorter hike is the 45 minute ascent of Campanario. Again, if you are not feeling up to the hike you can take the chairlift up and down. The top offers 360 degree views of lakes and jagged mountains that will take your breath away. There are also short hikes out to Llau Llau, an area surrounded by lakes and various viewpoints that look over the lakes.
Another option is to hire a mountain bike and cycle the 17 mile Chico circuit. Don't be fooled by how flat this looks on the tourist map. It involves plenty of ups and downs but can comfortably be done in 4 hours. There are several look outs along the way and plenty of places to stop for a picnic. Bikes come with locks so you can park up and add optional short walks to your day. The feeling of cycling along the base of these steep cliffs, eerie mountains and sparkling lakes cannot be described, it has to be experienced first hand.
I really enjoyed everything Bariloche had to offer. My only regret is not having enough time to explore more of the hiking trails here. It is very easy to get around this area with numerous public busses which are safe, affordable and reliable.
Mountains, lakes, adventure, outdoors and chocolate would be my choice words if I had to sum Bariloche up in five words.