August 14 2009 by Sam Lowe
We found Bariloche, a city of about 100,000 located in the Andes Mountains, somewhat of a paradox because we were Argentina, which is a foreign country to us, but it looks and feels like a different foreign country. Switzerland, perhaps. Or the Tyrolean areas of Germany and Austria. Even northern Italy. Regardless, it is a beautiful place where the sunrises and sunsets are as magnificent as anywhere else in the world.
The city creeps down to the western edge of Lake Nahuel Huapi, and the mountains thrust themselves skyward in dramatic fashion directly across the water. The combination creates atmospheric conditions that enhance the splendors of dawn and evening, and converts them into twice-a-day displays of nature's beauty. A passing cloud becomes a shroud encircled by sunlight; the mountains glow brilliantly in the morning then take on a pinkish alpenglow as the sun concludes its rounds. And the water reflects it all, absorbing all the colors associated with the daily ritual then casting them back into the viewer's line of sight.
Bariloche's resemblance to a European mountain community is by design because it is, primarily, a ski resort. Many of the buildings have Tyrolean features like pitched roofs and stone walls, creating a definite Alpine flair. This sense is furthered if you take a trip to nearby Campanario Hill and ride the chairlift to the peak. Once at the top, visitors are presented with a 360-degree view of the lake, the mountains and the tree-covered islands that dot the water.
Back in the city, we found it well-planned and easy to navigate on foot, which is always a plus for those in our age bracket. The shops cater to the ski crowds and souvenir hunters and several well-stocked supermarkets offer foodstuffs for both locals and tourists. The restaurants feature tasty Argentinian and European cuisines; a visitor center located in the spacious city square distributes multi-lingual information; and the mountains and water are always there, waiting for another opportunity to delight your senses. It is easy to understand, therefore, why National Geographic ranks Bariloche as one of the ten most beautiful places in the world.
And here's a tip: If you go there, find a coffee shop or cafe that serves chocognac, a combination of hot chocolate and cognac. It will warm both body and soul and make you wish somebody would invent something like it back home.