Bariloche and Neuquen: The Northern End of Patagonia

Nikki's picture

Bariloche - Swiss Alps of Argentina

When our Chilean adventures wrapped up in just under a week we took two long bus rides down Chile - from San Fernando to Osorno - and then from Osorno across the lush tree-covered, lake-filled mountains of the Andes to Bariloche. We started at Hostel El Gaucho, which was friendly, but realized that the double room with private bath there was only US$3 cheaper than full hotel living at Hotel Cambria - so we moved :)

Bariloche is famous for having a feel of Switzerland or German-alps and we have to agree with that. Smells of chocolate and beer literally fill the air as you walk by cerveceria artesenal and chocaleterias. Given that bug loves chocolate and we both love beer this was quite a nice change from the more typical Argentine fair.

Coincidentally we were able to meet up with my old friend, Aly, and her husband Justin. They are on a similar trip (though more travel focused and less work focused than ours). We are meeting back up with them in the North of Argentina prior to heading to Bolivia and Peru.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was a bike ride which we did with Aly and Justin. We rented our bikes from "Bike Cordillera" which is perhaps the best run bike rental agency I've ever encountered. The bikes were well adjusted, come with a patch-fix kit, a bottle of water, a map and description of the best routes, and a happy smile. We rode the "circuito chico" through Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. This runs past hotel Llao Llao, past several beautiful bays, around many amazing sites, and up and down a few too many hills. We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the day, which, happily, provided an opportunity for Bikes Cordillera to exceed our expectations one more time: free alfajor at the end of the trip. We all love the folks at Bike Cordillera.

Neuquen - Shithole Gas Town With A Few Wineries

Let's face it: Neuquen is kind of a shithole. The town's major claims to fame used to be:

  1. Discovery of the largest dinosaur ever, the Aleosaurus. In fact only one vertebrate and a fragment of thigh bone were found, but they are pretty sure from these two bits that it was the biggest dinosaur.

  2. Petroleum. We all need it, but gas towns are rarely known for being attractive and Neuquen exhibited the "fast, unplanned, unzoned mish-mash" characteristic of these towns.

  3. A power plant (hydro, I think) that provides up to 30% of the entire countries needed power. Again, we all need it, but this shouldn't be the most exciting thing in town.

Fortunately, Neuquen is increasingly home to modern, high-end wineries. Some Argentines look down their noses at the practices of these wineries since they have to import much of the grape juice, but that is changing. Additionaly, the terroir of Neuquen is well suited to growing the recently fashionable Pinot Noir varietal which makes the potential of the area solid, assuming that the Pinot Noir doesn't go the way of the Pinto...

We happened to be in town on the newly created Día de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia for the memory of desaperecidos from Argentina's "dirty war". This made it a little harder to rent a car but, when we finally picked up a taxi to get to the car rental agencies in the airport our luck turned around and our cab driver offered to guide our tour with a discount of 30% from the cost of the rental car. He turned out to be an enormous help since he knew all the schedule times. Thanks, karma, we owe you one.

Headed North by Freeway - Slowly

Aside from wines, Neuquen offers a modern bus depot which is where we began a hellish 3-day-2-night trip from Neuquen all the way to Cafayate on buses (imagine going from Minneapolis to Las Vegas on a bus, but the bus does have seats that are in line with the first-class seats of an international airliner). Along the way we were stopped once by the "Paros". Over the last few years the taxes on exported agricultural products have risen. In addition to fattening the governments coffers (to dubious benefit) this has the secondary effect of reducing the price of food inside the country. Unfortunately, the most recent increase in export-tarrifs from 38% to 45% pushed the farmers over the edge and they have taken to putting their tractors and other large equipment in the middle of the freeways blocking traffic in both directions. They maintain this blockade in order to get sympathy for their plight and as a bargaining tool in their discussions. It seems to be working - at least most of the people we talk to feel that the tax increase was a bad idea and, in spite of the fact that the paro is making everyday life harder, they sympathize with the farmers.

Here is a little "reporter in the field" video coverage for you narrated by Greg.


At the end of the day we swore that we'd never try to go that far by bus in one trip again. Live and learn, my friends.

I hope you saved a copy of that bike map for me! I'm definitely going to Bariloche on my trip down there.


you are too funny. i love that a shithole and chocolateria made it in the same story. it's fun to "hear" you in this post. i am delighted to hear about your fun, to watch the craziness of taxis that would never happen here, and to know that you are having a fun time. please enjoy it on my behalf, i sure wish i were with you!

I'll be in Buenos Aires feb09 about 4 nights. Maybe 2 nights Montevideo, return to B.A. then want to bus or (one way car rental) to Bariloche and stay 1 overnight in each of 2 interesting stops en route. 2 or 3 nights in Bariloche then to Pucon, Chile.
Anybody have experienced suggestions?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • You can use Markdown syntax to format and style the text. Also see Markdown Extra for tables, footnotes, and more.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h3> <br> <h2>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.