If you want to find a lovely little Patagonian hideaway you should head straight to the town of Bariloche. In fact, it’s such a good spot that the town has a history as one of the places where ex-Nazis evading justice lived for several decades (and one or two may still live today), and fugitive war criminals likely know best when it comes to this sort of thing, right?
To begin, one of the reasons I loved Bariloche was because I lucked upon an awesome hostel while there that is a bit of a Shangri La of backpacker lore. Called Penthouse 1004, it was essentially a large apartment on the tallest buiding in Bariloche with the coziest common areas I’ve ever encountered, all dominated by the incredible view-
Another sunset view, toward the town itself-It’s kind of hard to tell from a sunset picture, but in short imagine Bariloche as the biggest ski town you’ve ever come across and you’ve got a good idea of what it’s like. It was also so posh that could have been anywhere in Europe except for the graffiti-
Graffiti aside, the main square and its surrounds were completely Swiss. There was even a guy with a St. Bernard dog that you could pose with for a few pesos.
I did my main explorations of Bariloche my first morning when I woke up and our amazing view looked like this-
Ewwww! With all the outdoor activities decidedly out, I decided to hit up the main shopping drag in Bariloche-
Perhaps the strangest mannequin heads I’ve ever come across- and they were in more than one store!
Anyway, keeping the Swiss illusion alive Bariloche has a plethora of a certain product which soon absorbed my attention more than dog-headed mannequins ever could-Chocolate stores. Several chocolate stores, all up and down the street, and in such a plethora that I lost count of how many there were. (At this point, if you are a Simpsons fan it’s appropriate to go here and start playing “The Land of Chocolate” song before continuing this post.) Naturally because I am a good scientist, thorough experimentation ensued in order to decide which chocolate shop was the best!
The ultimate winner was one called Rapa Nui, and the fact that there was a chocolate fountain on the premises did not hurt the final results-
Rapa Nui also won because they had a wonderful European-style bakery/coffeeshop (a cukrazda in Hungarian)- to be fair most of the major chocolate stores did, but the waitstaff at Rapa Nui was also the best and had wifi to boot. And everything was beyond delicious too- here was the hot chocolate cappuccino with raspberries from my first visit, with complimentary chocolate on the side of course-
So amazing that a few days later I returned for an ice cream sundae, where the ice cream was dulce de leche (caramel milk) flavor, with some of that drizzled on top as well-I’m not typically a huge caramel fan, but this stuff was beyond amazing!
It was hard not to fall in love with the Bariloche chocolate shops just because they were as perfect an “idea chocolate shop” a la Plato as I’ve ever seen. I will never be able to think of any other place from now on when I hear the phrase “like a kid in a candy store”!
For bigger kids though, late at night there are a few great spots to wander off to, such as the Anartes brewery.Beer is not commonly drunk in Argentina- it’s such an embedded wine country that once when I went into a restaurant they only paused to ask me what kind of malbec I wanted- and it only took one or two brief samplings of the national beer to know I’d never try it again. Anartes was a microbrewery and thus the exception to all this, plus they are named after a star, had a venison stew to die for. and live music in the evenings. My favorite was my last night when an Argentinian band that took the stage playing a mixture of bluegrass and what I consider 1950s rock-‘n-roll- they love old(er) music in Argentina so it wasn’t completely unexpected, but certainly enjoyed. It didn’t hurt that Anartes was just as trendy as anyplace you could imagine back Stateside, except of course it was in the middle of Patagonia.
All in all I have to admit Bariloche left me as one of those places where I felt like I could never hate the world, because hating the world would mean hating Bariloche and how could anyone ever hate someplace filled with such amazing things to see and taste and do? I’m so glad I decided to dip my toe into Patagonia!