Arriving to Argentina’s Lake District and San Carlos de Bariloche you can easily forget that you are in fact in Argentina and South America. With wooden clad chalets, boutique chocolate shops, the smell of wood burning fires and of course the white peaks of mountains and blue lakes; Bariloche is just as Swiss as an Alpine town in Switzerland. The picturesque surroundings of Bariloche as explored in the last blog on the Seven Lakes Route offer quaint alpine villages with jaw-dropping picturesque vistas of lakes and the Andes. Although Bariloche is a beautiful town made up of wooden buildings, Swiss restaurants, locally brewed ales and chocolate shops, the small villages of El Bolson and Colonia Suiza are a must see whilst visiting Northern Patagonia.
Offering stunning mountain and lake views the village of El Bolsón takes advantage of the surrounding natural landscape offering a wide range of hiking and mountain activities. The village of El Bolsón is nestled at the foot of Mount Piltriquitron and on the banks of the River Quemquemtreu. The laid back atmosphere of El Bolsón is only mildly disturbed when the famous village crafts and gastronomy market takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Plaza Pagano. Well-known throughout the Lake District of Argentina for the quality of the goods sold, you can find locally carved wooden handicrafts as well as home brewed beers, homemade jams and succulent fruits for which the village is notorious.
El Bolsón – ‘El Bosque Tallado’
Situated just a few kilometers outside of El Bolsón is the interesting and impressive ‘El Bosque Tallado’, meaning ‘The Carved Forest’. Similar to a phoenix, out of the flames and ashes grew something beautiful, as in 1982, the mountain forest burned down. Located on the slopes of Mount Piltriquitron, this beautiful area of Patagonia previously devastated now offers a unique experience. A group of local artists came to the burned forest and began to carve intricate and stunning sculptures out of the barks of the trees. You can visit this interesting forest on a challenging full day hike or alternatively take a taxi to this site. Not only does this area offer an interesting and unique experience that most travelers do not know about but from the forest and the Cerro Piltriquitron you get an unforgettable view of the Tres Picos Mountain and the surrounding alpine lake region. Overall, El Bolson is a very seductive little place with its Alpine inspired architecture and cuisine tempting every sense of your body.
As the name ‘Colonia Suiza’ (Swiss Colony in English) suggests, this small village is yet another fantastic example of the Swiss-German influence in Argentina. Filled with quintessential Swiss housing and a small village market, Colonia Suiza makes for the perfect stopover for lunch or to walk around its charming and attractive streets. Founded in the 19th century by Felix Goye, originally from Switzerland, the village has adopted every aspect of the founder’s upbringing and history. You can enjoy the many artisanal beers locally brewed in the village, homemade cheese as well as boutique chocolate shops and other deserts, cakes and sweets originating from Switzerland.
Colonia Suiza – Curanto
Although the strong Swiss influence is present in Colonia Suiza, it combines and welcomes the native influence from the Indian tribes like Mapuches and Araucanos. If you visit the village at the weekend, you can experience a part of this special Patagonian gastronomy with the cooking of curanto. The cooking process begins by digging a pit which is filled with hot river stones that had been previously heated on a roaring fire. A bed of leaves are arranged on top with various meats and vegetables which is then covered with leaves and damp sheets to keep the heat escaping. The sheets are then covered with soil making this whole cooking process similar to a pressure cooker and makes watching this process an interesting experience in itself. Eating curanto, the typical dish of the native Indians is a must when visiting this area as the two cultures of Europe and native Indians combine into a distinctive and one of its kind encounter.