Located in the south of Argentina and near the Chilean border is the scenic but touristy city of San Carlos de Bariloche. Usually referred to simply as Bariloche, the city sits before the cold and deep blue waters of sizeable Nahuel Huapi Lake. The nearby Andes and their foothills provide a stunning backdrop and opportunities for trekking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
I visited Bariloche in the austral summer, a time when visitors come to the city to sunbathe along the lakeshore, frequent the restaurants, or head to the mountains for trekking and mountaineering. The city was bustling with tourists, mostly vacationing Brazilians and Argentine Nationals. The restaurants were busy and the hotels operating at or near capacity. Nearly everything was significantly more expensive in Bariloche than just about any place I visited in Chile. At times I felt like Bariloche was nothing more than a tourist trap.
While in Bariloche, I joined up with a Swiss traveler who I’d met in Chile. She commented how Bariloche reminded her of towns in the Swiss Alps. It turns out that this likeness was no coincidence. In the 1930s the city planners decided that the developing town should have the appearance of a European alpine village, with numerous wood and stone houses. Local shops have contributed to this likeness by selling handmade chocolates. Argentine men wait in the streets with St. Bernard dogs, offering to take pictures of tourists with one of these classic Swiss rescue canines.
One of the most popular attractions in Bariloche is to take a trip to the top of Cerro Campanario, a small hill located on the outskirts of the city. From the top of Cerro Campanario, one is rewarded with a 360 degree view of the area. National Geographic had selected this vista as one of the ten best in the world. Such lists are obviously incredibly subjective. I have my own opinion on the matter.
To get to Cerro Campanario, I took a public bus from the center of Bariloche. From the base of the hill, there was the option to take a chair lift to the top or walk up. I chose to walk up. The weather was mostly cloudy and not the most ideal of conditions. But the way I had scheduled things, it was my only day to visit this famous viewpoint.
The view from the top was impressive. Was it the greatest, most compelling, most aesthetically beautiful vista I’ve seen? No. But then again, these things are subjective. Having hiked a lot in the States, I’d seen a lot of gorgeous scenery from high up. What makes any vista worthy is simply being above the surrounding landscape and having the ability to see the lay of the land. Interpreting the beauty of the surroundings is a personal thing.