After Pucon, Sami and I decided to return to Argentina and head to a small town to the south of Bariloche called El Bolson. El Bolson has a reputation for being the “hippie” town in Argentina and I really enjoyed it. The town is very laid back and has some wonderful artisanal markets. We decided to camp here and found a wonderful campsite with “good vibes” called Camping Refugio Patagonico. Our first afternoon there, we found a great ice cream shop called Procopios Helado and simply enjoyed strolling around town.
Travel Tip: Camping Patagonico cost $200 pesos a night and they would invite traveling bands to come play in their restaurant/bar attached to the hostel. They are had a great open field which in the evenings was filled with people playing futbol. I would definitely recommend the camping or hostel to anyone traveling to El Bolson.
The next day, we decided to go hiking and we took the bus from El Bolson to Wharton. The first bus left at 8am and took around an hour to arrive at the trailhead. We registered for our day hike and then set off. We first decided to hike to Cajon de Azul. This hike was along the River Azul (named for its gorgeous blue color) and wasn’t too challenging. After around an hour and a half we arrived at our destination. We stopped for a quick snack along the river and then decided that we wanted to do some more hiking.
From Cajon de Azul, we decided to hike to another refugio called Natacion. This portion of the hike was definitely the most challenging. The hike was entirely uphill and involved some steep sections where we had to use our hands to get up the rocks. (I later learned that this section is usually hiked in the other direction because of the incline.) While we knew the hike would be more challenging and it was usually split over multiple days, Sami only had one day left in her visit so we decided to see as much as we could. After 3ish hours we reached Natacion and decided to break for lunch along the lake. The views of the mountains close by were really beautiful and luckily we had made good time so we didn’t have to worry about missing the last bus to town.
After a 45min break for our lunch, we decided to hike back down to the trailhead. We saw a sign that it would take 3 hours (roughly) to descend. Luckily for us, we did it in one hour and forty-five minutes and we were actually able to catch the 5:30pm bus back to the city. The hike down from Natacion provided beautiful views of the valley below us and the surrounding mountains. This portion of the hike was also quite steep at parts and I was definitely ready for the decline to finish by the end.
Travel Tip: While the park office would never tell you this, this hike is achievable in a day. (If you get an early start and are in good hiking shape.) However, be warned, it is 30 kilometers (18 miles) of hiking and does involved a decent amount of elevation change.
That evening Sami and I went for an asado (Argentinian BBQ) because it is a classic thing to do in Argentina and I couldn’t let Sami leave without trying it. We went to a restaurant called Tomatican and it was absolutely wonderful. We started the meal with a fernet and coke (the most popular cocktail in Argentina) and then ordered the ojo de bife (steak) and chorizo to share between the two of us as well as a bottle of wine. We spent several hours enjoying our last evening together and talking. Plus the nice surprise was the meal only cost $400 pesos per person ($20 USD).
I was very sad to see Sami leave but I am so grateful for her visit plus El Bolson was an amazing place to end our trip. I definitely want to come back with more time because there are a lot more hikes I want to explore!