Updated post: 17/11/18 | November 2018

It was October 2017 and I was planning my first trip to Argentina. Looking for ideas of places I should visit, I quizzed Sandra, an Argentinian ex-pat. Without hesitation, she replied, “Bariloche. It is so beautiful!”

It was sound advice. The town of Bariloche is the gateway to northern Patagonia’s glacial lakes, pine forests and volcanic mountains. A great way to explore this area is by doing some or all of the Circuito Chico. This spectacular 60km road journey includes fragrant forests, magnificent mountains and languid lakes and is a must-do if you are in Bariloche. Although having a car makes life a little easier, it is possible to tackle the Circuito Chico by bus from Bariloche.

Here are a few photos from the Circuito Chico and some tips on how to do it by bus. See if you agree with Sandra.

Reaching new heights: taking the chairlift to the top of Cerro Campanario

Cerro Campanario is the first stop on the Circuito Chico, a 65 km circular route from Bariloche to the resort of Llao Llao. With a cool breeze brushing my face, the chairlift whisks me through the forest to its summit.

At an elevation of just over 1,000 metres, Lake Gutiérrez & Lake Perito Moreno, encircled by pine forests, are clearly visible, as are Cerro Catedral and Llao Llao in the distance.

The view from the top of Cerro Campanilo Bariloche Argentina
The view from the top of Cerro Campanilo, Bariloche, Argentina

Llao Llao

The next stop is the famed resort of Llao Llao, located between Perito Moreno and Nahuel Huapi lakes. Built in 1940, it resembles an oversized ski lodge.

Llao Llao Patagonia
Llao Llao, Patagonia

A walk in the woods: Bosque de Arrayanes

Around 1 km from Llao Llao is the Bosque de Arrayanes. I feel very small as I walk between its 300-year-old arryan trees to reach Playa Moreno on the shores of Lake Perito Moreno.

Bariloche Patagonia

Back to Bariloche

Retracing my steps, I take the bus back to Bariloche. Before hitting its many chocolate shops, I stop in the main square to admire the statue of General Roca astride his horse. This celebrates his victory in the 1870s, the Conquest of the Desert, which resulted in the death of more than a thousand indigenous peoples and the displacement of a further 15,000  from their traditional lands. No wonder his horse is looking embarrassed.

Statue in main square Bariloche Argentina
Main square, Bariloche, Argentina

Time for a refreshing Patagonian craft beer I think. Cheers Sandra!

How to do it

  • Getting there – This part of the Circuito Chico is easy to do by bus. I took bus #20 from outside my Bariloche hotel to Cerro Camapanario, which is around 11 miles from the city centre. The journey took 25 minutes.
  • To get to Llao LLao, I hopped back on the #20. The journey took 15  minutes; the bus terminates at the hotel.
  • Buses accept Sube cards (no cash). For further information on these contactless payment cards, check out my post on Getting Around Buenos Aires. If you have not picked up a Sube card earlier on your trip, many hotels and hostels will lend you one.
  • Staying there – I stayed at the intimate and friendly Hotel Antu Kuyen by the lakeside. Highly recommended.
  • Further information – If you would like some tips on how to put together an Argentina itinerary click here.

Do you have any top tips for doing the Circuito Chico without a car? Or what did you do whilst in Bariloche?

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circuito chico by bus from bariloche photo essay

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