For the past few months, whenever I mentioned the trip to someone I would tell them that I was spending Christmas in Bariloche. And while I did know roughly where Bariloche is, I admit I hadn’t done my homework to learn as much about it as I normally do for vacations.
Christmas Eve in Bariloche is pretty darn magical, although somewhat unconventional for those of us used to the northern hemisphere. This morning we took a cable car to the top of Mount Otto. From the top of the mountian you have lovely views of San Carlos de Bariloche and Lake Nahuel Huapi. The view is just amazing and we were treated to several condors riding the air currents above the top station.
From the top station, we set off on a three or four hour hike along the nearby trails — with peak-a-boo views of the mountains and lake along the way. Our final destination was an iron railing and staircase that led to an overlook with 280 degree views of the surrounding area. The trail was an easy one, but we found that the altitude (4,600 feet) made it somewhat strenuous anyway.
Part of the trail goes through private land that has rules in place to allow visitors to pass through and it is still used for cattle and pig grazing so we saw some cows near the trail. And we were lucky enough to see a couple of caracaras and a woodpecker.
After the hike, we stopped at the Refugio Berghof on the way down the mountain for lunch. It’s a magical place — small and family run it can be found just above where the Andean pioneer Otto Meiling once lived. It felt like a lovely cabin in the woods with a wood fireplace, tables overlooking the lake and a hearty but healthy meal of vegetable empanada, lentil stew and ice cream.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel for a talk from a woman of the Mapuche tribe who shared a bit about their heritage and history.
Argentina is about 90% catholic so it is custom here for Christmas to be celebrated on Christmas Eve. Dinner usually starts at 10 pm and things really
kick off when midnight hits. Since most of us aren’t catholic and we have a busy day tomorrow, we had an earlier dinner at 8 pm so we were practically the only ones in the restaurant when we began our meal. It was a festive evening though with plenty of Argentinian Malbec.