When you ask people about what to see and do in Bariloche, Argentina they always say Cerro Campanario and it is definitely worth it. Fortunately I had a friend who was a local and steered me clear of Cerro Otto which I had also heard about as she claims it’s more expensive and has less of a view so we concentrated on Campanario instead. You can catch a public bus here as it’s a few kilometres out of town and buying a bus pass from any kiosk in town for $17 ARS and then pre-load with money for your tickets is an easy enough process. Catch the number 10 or 20 bus which leaves every 20 minutes from the city centre and ask the driver to drop you at Cerro Campanario. He will usually yell out when he approaches the stop but if in doubt there is a big sign and this will be the stop that all the other gringos get off at as well.
You can choose to walk up to the top or take the chairlift. I considered the chairlift cheating so opted to walk, but for those who can’t or don’t want to walk it’s nice to have a way to still see the view. As we approached the climb from the southern side of the hill we walked a less used trail but all the trails head in the same direction and it was still a challenge with the fine powdery volcano dust making it difficult to find grip at times. Once at the top the view is definitely worth it and we were fortunate enough to jag an afternoon that didn’t have strong winds so we could stay and enjoy the serenity.
There is a café and small shop at the top if you’re looking to spend money on an overpriced beer, coffee or snack and there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view. Be sure to check out the different levels on the viewing platform as well as on the other side of the chair lift which offers a view back towards Bariloche and gives you a good idea of the town’s layout. The last call for the chairlift was at 7pm and since we planned to walk down we could stay and enjoy the summit to ourselves without the crowds which I would highly recommend. There was only a few of us that remained once they shut the chair lift down and watching the sunset and the colours change was a great introduction to Bariloche and all it had to offer.
When we finally headed down we chose a slightly different trail that spat us out underneath the chair lift and in my opinion was steeper and more difficult than the trail we climbed on the southern side. Eventually we arrived at the bottom covered in dust especially after several slips on the steeper trail but with nothing broken it was a quick wait for the next bus and home for a shower and a beverage.
- If you intend to walk up or down you will need proper walking shoes. While short, this is not a trail for thongs or sandals.
- Take your own food and drink to enjoy at the top as this is a much cheaper option than buying.
- Buses run until midnight but after dark are less frequent than daylight hours.
If you’re looking for a way to waste an afternoon (or morning) in Bariloche then consider this 40 odd kilometre bike trip. You can do as an independent excursion or combine with Cerro Campanario as the place to hire a bike is close to the southern side of this mountain.
I borrowed a friend’s bike and headed off for the Llao Llao Hotel & Resort. Once there I was feeling good so decided to keep going and ended up on this circuit. It’s a great ride though I would say you needed moderate fitness as there are some hills to climb (or walk up) and cycling 40kms or more is not something everyone can complete. Being a weekday and going in the opposite direction to the majority of tour buses and tourists meant I didn’t have to deal with too much traffic but be warned there isn’t much of a shoulder on this road and the only people who give you room are the occasional tourists so if you are not a confident rider then maybe consider sticking with sightseeing the chocolate shops in town.
Once past the hotel the road wanders through forest and past a tourist information office which will no doubt give you all the information you want on various walks and trails available. Since the weather wasn’t favourable on the day I went and there was a strong wind I chose not to stop and rode straight past. It was a really enjoyable ride around to the various viewpoints of Cerro Lopez and there was more than a few places to stop and walk, swim in the lakes or picnic if you’re so inclined.
Once you get to Cerro Lopez the traffic increases no matter which direction you are cycling so be prepared to ride on a narrow gravel shoulder and hold your own against the traffic. There are a few decent sized hills on this section which is probably why most people cycle the other way so they do them first instead of with tired legs. Stopping off at various breweries, restaurants and panoramic viewpoints will also help rest the legs and make a day of it but as I hadn’t intended to actually ride the circuit I wasn’t prepared with money etc. and as I mentioned above the weather was crap so I didn’t stop much.
Depending on fitness and how much you stop it will take at least a couple of hours so take plenty of water if you don’t want to stop at restaurants and pay tourist prices.
- If you hire a bike they will give you a helmet and a high viz vest to wear.
- If you combine this with Cerro Campanario the bike hire place will be on the same side of the road just a short walk further out of town.
- Be a confident bike rider with a moderate level of fitness before attempting this. You can do it if you’re unfit but you probably won’t enjoy it as much and may end up walking/pushing the bike up the hills.