Located in the foothills of the Andes and overlooking Nahuel Huapei Lake, San Carlos de Bariloche is a quiet resort city modeled after alpine ski resorts. We arrived in late July, one of the coldest months in Argentina and one of the most popular times for skiing trips to Bariloche.
The entire highway, which snakes along the Nahuel Huapei Lake, is lined with resorts semi-hidden by the towering pine trees. We stayed at one of these resorts: it was a group of bungalows completely owned and operated by an elderly native couple. Our bungalow was tastefully decorated and warm, and provided welcome comfort as we had just flown from the warm and humid Iguazu Falls. The best part of our bungalow, however, were the sweeping panoramic windows facing the lake. We would wake up as the sun slowly made its way out behind some trees in the lake’s far corner. As it brightened up the surroundings we were finally able to grasp the beauty of this place. The tall spiky mountains, donning a snowy cap, rose up and around the glistening water.
Later in the day, my brother convinced us that we should go out to see the lake instead of enjoying the view from the comfort of our living room couch. We reluctantly agreed and hopped on a short tour around the lake. Can confirm: it was worth it. We took a brief ski lift to the top of a mountain and, despite the freezing wind, we stood outside to take in the view (and yes, also to take plenty of photos). The Nahuel Huapei Lake surrounded us on three fronts, with mountains and islands in the middle of it. The name Nahuel Huapei Lagos (“lake” in Spanish) comes from the native Mapuche language, with “Nahuel” meaning “jaguar” and “Huapei” meaning “island”. There is a centuries-old legend about a giant creature living beneath the waters. The creature is known as “Nahuelito” and has been the subject of many stories, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Lost World. While I don’t know about the existence of Nahuelito, I do know that I wouldn’t want to leave either if I were living in (or on) this lake.
Bariloche is also known for its chocolate. In fact, it’s been dubbed the “Chocolate Capital of Argentina”. Chocolate is everywhere in this town, from the cafe in the observation deck overlooking the Nahuel Huapei Lake to the little convenient store on the side of the highway. They all had huge varieties of chocolate products, even if they lacked in other things. The colorfully decorated chocolate shops were ubiquitous in the city, and boutique chocolate stores were the only three shops in the airport. They seemed to have chocolate in any shade and shape. I would highly recommend buying one of the gift packs with an assortment of chocolate. There were chocolates pulled into strings, chocolates filled with liquid chocolate, chocolates fused with other kinds of snacks; basically any chocolate that you could imagine.
It is difficult to relive and describe what it was like to see the expansive lake and great mountains. They make you feel infinitesimal and strong at the same time. It is an exceptional piece of nature, so don’t miss it if you ever travel to South America.