After flying back to Buenos Aires from Mendoza, we boarded another Aerolineas Argentinas plane (the federal government-owned airlines) for the two and a half hour flight to Bariloche, about 975 miles southwest of the capital city, near the Chilean border. Bariloche (San Carlos de Bariloche) is a town of about 110,000 residents, known locally as the “Gateway to Patagonia,” “the Honeymoon Capital,” and the “Chocolate Capital” of Argentina. The town borders Lago Nahuel Huapi, a large glacial lake surrounded by the snow-crowned Andes, in Patagonia.
Founding immigrants gave the town an alpine atmosphere with Swiss-style chalets, fondue restaurants and chocolates. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, America’s most notorious bank robbers, lived near Bariloche from 1901-1905 and legend has it that they were killed by the Bolivian army when they ventured north to rob local banks. However, many people in the area claim to be descendants of these outlaws, whom they say melted into society. Today, Bariloche is a popular base for hiking and skiing the nearby mountains and exploring the surrounding Lakes District, with many shops and hotels catering to the ski and hiking enthusiasts.
The city emerged in the 1930s and 1940s as a major tourism centre with ski, trekking and mountaineering facilities. We were here at the end of the winter season to hike the scenic trails around the many lakes for which northern Patagonia is famous. There are two main shopping streets and connecting cross streets, along which a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores and cafes can be found.