Our next exciting segment of our 'Argentina Chapter' adventure with Exploration Journeys was Patagonia's Natural Beauty destination. Welcome to Bariloche, a beautiful town in the Patagonian region of Argentina, known for its natural beauty and pristine landscapes, and after one week, we completely understand why. Bariloche is nestled among deep-blue lakes and set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes mountain range. It's an excellent place for hiking in the mountains, traversing forests, navigating across lakes and embarking on exciting adventure tours such as rafting or horseback riding.
It is also home to the breathtaking view from atop Cerro Campanario, one of the ten most beautiful panoramic views in the world, as rated by National Geographic), a nature lover's paradise.
In 2020 Bariloche was selected by Forbes as one of the best 20 places to visit in the world, placing it in position number 4 on their list!
Day 8 - Bariloche
Let's meet some Gauchos! Day one in Bariloche was all about horse riding, one of our favourites! Ironically the last time we rode was precisely one year ago in Cappadocia, Turkey!
We were picked up bright and early, along with our guide Juan of Che Patagonia, the lovely Fred of Exploration Journeys organised to ensure no language barriers throughout the day. We instantly clicked with Juan, and after sharing all our travel stories, we felt like lifelong friends, so it was great fun having Juan join us for the day.
The horse riding ranch was located about 40 mins south of the city, where we all enjoyed the majestic scenery of the Patagonian landscapes and great lakes of Bariloche; this is definitely the lake district. November is the perfect time to visit Bariloche as one month a year, all the Scotch Broom is bursting with yellow flowers absolutely everywhere, so a constant pop of canary yellow borders the roads!
We arrived at the campsite, which was also home to the horses, positioned by the beautiful lakeside.
Everyone was matched up with a horse to commence the trail ride. As we had a bunch of beginners, it was purely a trail ride, whereby the horses would only follow the lead and were so disciplined they would not adhere to any commands; therefore, it was a very calm ride. Fortunately, we were surrounded by Patagonian snow-capped mountains, native trees and the lake, and we were lucky enough to go water's edge and ride alongside it for a moment.
Our ride finished about two hours later, and we bid our new four-legged friends and gauchos goodbye.
Next up, we were treated to a home-cooked lunch by the lake, with local dishes such as empanadas and BBQ, followed by a brownie with the Argentinian favourite Dulce de leche, which is similar to caramel, basically caramelised milk with sugar. It is delicious, although in small doses.
The afternoon took us back to the hotel for an afternoon of rest and to prepare for the next few busy days of adventures in Bariloche.
Day 9 - Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina
Bariloche is captivating; you are fully immersed amongst the Patagonian mountains and emerald green and turquoise lakes.
This morning was the perfect start to our day, with mesmerising panoramic views over Bariloche.
Our lovely guide Facundo (who we had some fun with and his name!) and fabulous driver Pablo, picked us up and ensured we were the first on the chairlift to avoid the queues and the tourists. Pablo was kind enough to skip the football as Argentina was playing. However, in hindsight, we might have done him a favour if you followed the World Cup.
It was a peaceful experience as the chairlift rose us up Campanario Hill nearer to the skyline, where we could take in one of the world's top ten best views as rated by national geographic! The lakes with backdrops of snow-capped mountains and green meadows flush with vivid yellow scotch broom; the views were like no other!
Next was our hike; we were tasked with a 2 1/2-hour hike to the top of Mount Llao Llao to enjoy more sublime views! As you know, Wayne and Sal avoid this type of activity, but we assured it would be worth it, so we geared ourselves up and thought of the afternoon reward, a slow lazy lunch! We walked the same path as Barack Obama on his visit to Bariloche; Facundo shared his secret spots with million-dollar views and was void of humans! Perfect! Thank you, Facundo, for capturing some magical moments for us too!
The views were worth the strenuous activity; we pretended to take a few pics along the way to catch our breath as our Facundo was a little speedy mountain goat.
We were very impressed with ourselves; we even completed the hike in less than two hours, whereas most we were told take just shy of 2 1/2 hours! Go, Wayne and Sal, the steak and wine will be well deserved!
After our hike, our lovely driver Pablo was waiting at the foot of the mountain to deliver us to a local coffee shop set up for hikers alike. We all enjoyed an excellent coffee and treat; thank you, Llao Llao Coffee Shop.
Once caffeinated, we completed the picturesque circuit for a final stopover at the scenic summit for more breathtaking views of this stunning town of Bariloche.
Pablo and Facundo delivered us back to our hotel, and we quickly cleaned up and rushed out to secure a table for a slow lazy lunch at the best steakhouse in town Alto El Fuego. It did not disappoint; the team were a delight, the atmosphere was beautiful, and the steaks and wine were divine! Although next time one steak to share with be plentiful!
We finished the day exploring Bariloche and with a late afternoon cocktail back at our favourite new scenic bar. What a day, and kudos to us for completing our very first hike!
Day ten - Bariloche
This morning was about navigating the Nahuel Huapi Lake of Bariloche and exploring the myrtle forest and Victoria Island.
Early pickup by Facundo to make sure we could stop at a local coffee truck for our morning fix; it was well worth it!
Coffee was followed by a cruise, where we would navigate the lake and take in the magical scenery with a few stops throughout the day. We were seated on the terrace deck, which was for VIP ticket holders, and we were fortunate it was quiet, so we had an entire section to ourselves. We were kept hydrated with plenty of local foods to keep our energy up.
Our first stop was Peninsula Quetrihue, an enchanted forest; it had a wooden walkway to guide you past the exquisite saffron-coloured trees of the forest, and it was unique.
Facundo skipped all the crowds with his shortcuts and found more secret hiding spots for those uninterrupted photo opportunities. It was interesting to see the pumice surrounding the beach due to a volcanic eruption.
The second stop was Victoria Island in Nahuel Huapi National Park, originally a nursery for exotic plants and trees. Still, now the focus is on natives, so they have been removing the pine trees to make space. It was also home to a secluded boutique hotel with the most beautiful views, and we could see ourselves spending a week here and enjoying the peacefulness of the surrounding nature.
Previously the island was also set up for park rangers in training to prepare for their new occupation. There was also a school historically used for the park ranger's children, now repurposed as a home for kids who need a safe space and a break from their current situations.
It was an island that provided a sense of tranquillity and being at peace with nature. We enjoyed walking around and relaxing by the water's edge, a hidden gem.
Today was another magical day in Bariloche, and we thank you, Facundo, for all the laughs, photography tips, and advice and for showing us all your secret spots.
Day eleven - Bariloche
Our final day in Bariloche was a relaxing day; we took the time to catch up on sleep and work. We then treated ourselves to another slow lunch at the best steakhouse in town Alto El Fuego, it was great to revisit the team, and we were just impressed with the food. You always go back when you are lucky enough to find a hidden gem!
We followed this with cocktails at a beautiful spot in the sun, enjoying the local life and catching up with Juan for farewell drinks; we always leave a piece of us in the magical places we visit and always look forward to reconnecting with the special friends we make.
The next adventure is the wine region Mendoza; we couldn't travel to Argentina the home of Malbec, without missing Mendoza.