Bariloche, Argentina

This is the last entry in the blog series for Argentina. To read from the start of our Argentina travel blog, click here

Our trip to Bariloche was one borne more out of necessity than anything else. We’d heard that it was a bit of a tourist trap, but also a good place to get buses onto anywhere in Chile, so we took the trip regardless.

It’s one of those towns that seems amazing when you read in the Lonely Planet – the ‘centre of the Argentine Lake District’, ‘buzzing’ etc. – but we’ve learnt to take these descriptions with a pinch of salt, as they’re often the kind of places we hate. (We’ve actually found we much prefer the towns described as ‘blue collar working towns’ or ‘nondescript’ as they feel so much more genuine, and have better, cheaper food, nicer people, cheaper accommodation…)

IMG_5893I guess the sculptures in town were pretty cool?

Some of our travel buddies were ahead of us and had reached Bariloche and described it as ‘a town that’s been fucked by tourism’ and they weren’t wrong! It’s basically streets of tourist shops, chocolate shops, overpriced outdoors gear shops, in a town by a fairly pretty lake. We decided pretty quickly we weren’t gonna fork out the crazy prices to do any activities or hikes here, so just took a couple (more!) days to chill.

This is basically what the entire high street consisted of

Accommodation was mad spenny, and we were forced into a dorm room with 4 others on the first night as everywhere was booked, and it cost us about 18 quid each (OUCH!) and I managed to trap myself in the bathroom, which was definitely not cool. We managed to find a lovely little double room above a bar for the second day though, and after having been in dorms for well over a week in El Bolson and El Calafate, we absolutely loved being back in a double, and spent most of the (cloudy) day hauled up in our room, watching Breaking Bad on my phone and having some much needed cuddle time! We also went for a little walk around town, saw the cool wooden sculptures that the town’s famous for, yet MORE craft markets, some cool graffiti… And we managed to find one pretty reasonable local eatery that served the local delicacy of venison stew (and steak, of course) which was delish!

But we did manage to find a nice meal out!

On the last day, I caved and ended up buying some expensive chocolate from one of the touristy chocolate shops. It was visually an amazing shop, all red and white pinstripes, huge displays of crazy chocolates of different flavours, shapes and combinations. We bought some dulce de leche filled bears for about 4 quid which was the cheapest thing you could buy, pretty much. And in their defence, the little guys were delicious.

And then, truly drained by Argentina’s inflation-induced crazy pesos prices, we headed back into the country we were starting to really love … CHILE!

El Bolson, Argentina

Our time in El Bolson was just what the doctor ordered. After hitting the tourist trail pretty hard for our first few weeks of travel, we made the concerted decision to find somewhere nice to chill for a while, and El Bolson was just the ticket.

El Bolson: a city surrounded by mountains on all sides

It’s a cute little hippy town in the Argentine Lake District, surrounded by mountains on all sides, with a cute little park in the middle, and beautiful lakes, national parks and treks all nearby. There’s a cute craft market on every other day, selling stuff like wooden handicrafts, hippy clothes (think Camden in the 90s) and delicious local food. They produce 75% of the country’s hops there, so there are microbreweries selling local beers, and they also produce loads of fruits and berries there due to its particular warm microclimate, and we had the most delicious berries (and berry beers) there. And here’s the clincher – they’ve also declared themselves a ‘non nuclear zone’ and an ‘ecomunicipality’, so you can picture the kind of folk who live there. Alternative types, ageing hippies, musicians, artists, grungers doing poi in the park, etc. etc.

Berry dude sells his delicious goods

The feria artesenale: hippy craft market

In short, it was pretty easily to wile away the best part of a week there! We found a lovely hostel with a huge kitchen and sunflowers growing in the garden, and spent our days in the park or sitting by lakes in glorious sunshine, soaking in the local flavour and enjoying the free music in the park (there was always some kind of band or hip hop going on… one particularly hilarious satirical band was really lol, even in Spanish we could get some of the jokes!) and one evening, there was a hip hop open mic (think 8 Mile but in a park, and in Spanish) and this kid totally stole the show. I think he was about 9 years old. And by evening, we sat in the garden drinking fernet and cokes, sharing some errr.. comical cigarettes… with our new hostel buddies, cooking dinner together, listening to them play instruments like harmonica, guitar and ‘cass cass’ (wooden percussion ball thingies), and generally being massive hippies.

A little kid absolutely killing it at hiphop night in the park

Satirical jazz-funk-ska band

Also worth a note – we found, OFFICIALLY, the best icecream ever created. Argentine helado is generally amazing (and arguably better than Italian), but this was made with organic milk, local berries/ingredients, and was INCREDIBLE. From a local place called Juaja, we opted from a conservative quarter litre (most people were going for half or family-sized full litres) we sampled ‘dulce de leche con morros’ (DDL with blackberries), cassis (cherry) and banana (you guessed it!). I’ve never tasted any icecream that tasted so much of fruit… I could’ve lived on that stuff.

Just heavenly. This remained in my dreams and waking thoughts for some time…

So, anyway! After a week of chill times, we decided to move onwards and upwards to Bariloche, another town in the Lake District, before heading back into Chile….

Chilling at the lake of a nearby national park

Just another night of japes with our Argentine and French hostel buddies