Explore Bariloche and the Lake District
The 123km trip southwards along the RN-258 from Bariloche to EL BOLSÓN offers yet more stunning mountain and lake views. Just inside Río Negro province and set in the bowl of a wide, fertile valley, hemmed in by parallel ranges of mountains, El Bolsón is a thriving tourist centre with numerous trekking opportunities close at hand. It was Latin America’s first town to declare itself nuclear free and an “ecological municipality”. Owing to the claim that the jagged peak of the nearby Cerro Piltriquitrón is one of the earth’s “energy centres”, El Bolsón became a popular hippy hangout in the 1960s, and while it’s a bit more commercial these days, the laidback atmosphere persists. In summer it’s particularly popular with young Argentine backpackers, since it’s far easier on the wallet than nearby Bariloche. Spiritual life in El Bolsón is cosmopolitan, and you’ll find Buddhist temples as well as a variety of practitioners of alternative paths. Unsurprisingly, UFOs and spirits (duendes) are also said to stop off regularly, being guaranteed an especially sympathetic reception on the last Saturday of February, when the town’s main party, the Fiesta del Lúpulo (Hops Festival), is held. It celebrates the harvest of an important local crop (and in particular the heady brew made from it), with music in the main square and an enjoyable, well-lubricated atmosphere. The Olimpiadas Agrarias (Farm Olympics) is another offbeat festival worth checking out, occurring over four days in mid-February, with ox races and other oddities. More refined, the town’s Jazz Festival (welbolson.gov.ar) is held over a long weekend in early December. Also worth visiting is the crafts market (Tues, Thurs & Sat) on the Plaza Pagano, famous throughout the Lake District for the quality of its merchandise, including locally brewed beers. A small ornithological museum (daily 8am–3pm; $5) two blocks east of the plaza, on Saavedra and Feliciano, features over one hundred exhibits of stuffed Patagonian birds.
East of town, on the wooded slopes of Cerro Piltriquitrón (2260m), is another unconventional and interesting site – the Bosque Tallado (Sculpted Forest) – 31 tree stumps carved by local craftsmen into a variety of fascinating and often grotesque figures. You’ll need to take a taxi to the base of the Cerro, but there is a forty-minute uphill walk before you get there. If dairy products float your boat, head to Humas (Mon–Fri 9am–1pm & 3–9pm, Sat 9am–1pm) on Camino los Nagales, signposted from Avenida San Martín north of the plaza. Here you can learn all about the making of organic yogurt, cheese and ice cream on one of the two daily guided tours (10am & 12.30pm)Read More