If You Could Only Choose One, Would You Go To Bariloche Or Mendoza?
For me personally, if I could only choose one place to visit between Bariloche or Mendoza, I would choose Bariloche.
Overall, Bariloche is a more vibrant and exciting town with lots of activities to keep travellers busy. Bariloche is set in the middle of the lake district of Argentina – one of the most beautiful regions on the country. You can choose from hiking, skiing, kayaking, mountain biking and a whole other host of activities, all alongside pristine lakes, snow-capped mountains, and alpine forests.
Mendoza is a fun city, but nothing compared to Bariloche. There aren’t as many activities for travellers but the main draw is that it’s the number one wine producing region in the country. Some of the best wines in the world come from Mendoza and you can spend a couple of days visiting bodegas and vineyards to sample them.
In summary, Bariloche is the best place to visit if you could only choose one. However, if you are a wine enthusiast with little interest in adventure activities, then head to Mendoza.
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Activities
Both places have things to do to keep you entertained but Bariloche has more adventure focussed activities among the mountains and lakes whereas Mendoza is geared more towards wine tasting in the countryside.
Most of the fun activities in Mendoza are a 2-3 hour journey outside of the city which is also something to consider.
Nestled within the majesty of the Patagonian Andes, Bariloche provides an exhilarating haven for both thrill-seekers and cultural explorers. Its crystalline lakes, alpine landscapes, and an array of outdoor activities – from conquering rugged trails to relishing chocolate tastings – create an immersive experience that captures the essence of the region.
Bariloche has some of the best hiking trails in the country. A full day hike to Refugio Frey is the most popular and will provide panoramic views of the lakes and mountains surrounding Bariloche.
Mountain biking is also a popular option. You can rent bikes and ride around Circuito Chico – a circular loop road that takes you to some of the best vistas in the area, or if you are more advanced, during summer there is a lift accessed bike park, in the slopes of Cerro Catedral with over 700 meters of vertical drops.
If visiting in the winter months (June-August), you can go skiing on the slopes of the mountains behind the town.
Perched against the breathtaking backdrop of the Andean foothills, Mendoza lures with its renowned vineyards that yield some of Argentina’s finest wines. Wine enthusiasts can indulge in tastings among the many vineyards and bodegas just outside of the city.
Hiking can be done in Aconcagua National Park, home to Aconcagua (the tallest mountain in the southern hemisphere) which stands at 6960 m (22,835 ft) above sea level. However, this national park is 3 hours away from Mendoza and requires some planning an effort to get to.
Lake Potrerillos is a man-made lake on the outskirts of Mendoza and a popular spot for outdoor adventure activities. Boating and water sports are the most popular, with options such as paddle boats, canoes, and jet skis available for rent. There are also boat tours available that take visitors around the lake to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
One of the best activities in this region is white water rafting and there are options for Grade III and IV rapids.
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Weather Seasons
Argentina has four seasons like America and Europe; however, they are reversed as it’s in the southern hemisphere.
The seasons will be more distinct in Bariloche with a cold snowy winter for snowing and a warm summer for hiking, whereas in Mendoza the temperature and weather are more stable throughout the year.
Celebrated for its ever-shifting seasons, Bariloche transforms from a snowy wonderland for winter sports enthusiasts to a vibrant summer playground.
The ideal time to visit depends on your inclinations:
- Visit in winter (June to August) for snowy escapades and skiing
- Visit in spring and summer (September to February) for milder weather and blooming landscapes perfect for hiking.
Basking in the glow of over 300 days of sunshine, Mendoza flourishes in spring (September to November) and fall (March to May). These seasons offer temperate climates for vineyard exploration.
While summer (December to February) can be warm, winter (June to August) brings cooler temperatures, making it an inviting period for wine enthusiasts and outdoor seekers.
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Tourist Seasons
Deciding when to visit a country or town can be tricky. Most places have peak seasons (usually the months with the best weather) which bring more tourists in. This means a more vibrant town which may be better for solo travellers wanting to meet other people, but it also means prices will go up and popular activities may get crowded.
Bariloche is a popular tourist destination for travellers as well as Argentinians which means it gets busy and a bit more expensive in the summer months (December-February); Mendoza less so as it is a year-round destination.
The town experiences varying levels of tourist traffic throughout the year.
Peak seasons, especially during the winter ski season (June-August) and the summer holidays (December-February), can bring larger crowds.
Travelers seeking a quieter experience might prefer visiting during shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) for a more serene exploration.
Prices will also go up during the busy seasons and you may struggle to find your first-choice accommodation if you end up booking last minute. Try to book ahead of time if you are visiting in the winter or summer.
While Mendoza is a year-round destination, the intensity of tourist activity can vary.
The grape harvest season (February to April) is a popular time, along with the pleasant spring and fall months. Visiting during these times allows you to avoid the peak summer heat and the potential crowds.
However, as it isn’t as popular as Bariloche, it’s a much less touristy city. This means you won’t have to worry too much about crowds or prices being too high.
Not sure how long you want or need to spend in Bariloche? Head to the post below to get 3 expertly curated itineraries for 3, 5 and 7 days:
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Hiking
Bariloche is in Patagonia, so the hiking here is unrivalled, however Mendoza is the closest city to Aconcagua (the highest peak in the southern hemisphere) so choosing one or the other here depends on your hiking experience and tastes.
A haven for hikers, Bariloche boasts an array of trails through its awe-inspiring landscapes. From serene strolls along pristine lake shores to challenging ascents of towering peaks, the hiking options cater to adventurers of all levels.
The best trails include:
- Refugio Frey: Starting from Villa Catedral, the trail takes you through dense forests, rugged terrain, and glacial valleys. After a demanding 750m ascent, you’ll arrive at the Refugio Frey, a mountain hut nestled beside the pristine Laguna Toncek. The dramatic granite spires that surround the lake create a breathtaking backdrop for this trek.
- Cerro Tronador – Cerro Tronador, is a majestic and iconic mountain that stands tall at 3,491 meters (11,453 feet) above sea level. Cerro Tronador is renowned for its dramatic landscapes, glacial lakes, and stunning views, making it a dream destination for hikers looking for more of a challenge. The journey to the summit is challenging but incredibly rewarding, offering panoramic vistas of icy blue glaciers cascading down the mountainside.
The Andes form a dramatic backdrop for hiking in Mendoza. Trails range from leisurely walks through vineyards to more demanding treks through rugged terrain further out from the city.
As mentioned, the main draw is Aconcagua National Park. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere. Visiting this national park is a must if you are a lover of epic scenery and hiking.
The mountain is a few hours’ drive outside of Mendoza range and its summit stands at 22,841 feet (6,959 meters) above sea level. It is a popular destination for hikers from around the world and is often considered to be one of the Seven Summits (the highest peaks on each of the seven continents).
Most backpackers won’t be looking to summit the actual mountain though as it takes up to 20 days, but trekking in the park is still a great experience that will provide beautiful views.
However, the long journey from Mendoza means that hiking isn’t as accessible compared to Bariloche.
Hiking to Refugio Frey and in Aconcagua National Park are 2 of the best single-day hikes to experience in South America. For the full list, check out the post below:
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Food & Drink
Food and drink won’t differ greatly between this two regions. Of course, you can find great steak and wine almost anywhere in Argentina. The two big differences here will be whether you are a chocolate connoisseur or a wine aficionada.
Bariloche is often hailed as the “Chocolate Capital” of Argentina, and for a good reason.
With a plethora of chocolaterías, visitors can indulge in an array of mouthwatering chocolates, including artisanal truffles, chocolate-covered fruits, and hot cocoa.
Here are some chocolate shops in Bariloche:
- Rapa Nui Chocolates: Rapa Nui is an iconic chocolate brand in Bariloche, and it consistently ranks among the best chocolate shops in the town. Rapa Nui is also known for its excellent hot chocolate, which is a must-try during your visit.
- Mamuschka Chocolates: Mamuschka is another top-notch chocolatería in Bariloche. It has a long-standing tradition of producing exquisite chocolates, and their shop is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. When you visit, don’t miss their famous “Bariloche en Rama” chocolate, a specialty only found at Mamuschka.
Bariloche is also home to the Patagonia Brewery which produces the best craft beer in the region.
Mendoza is Argentina’s number one wine producing region with over 1,200 wineries and vineyards in the surrounding area. Visitors can tour the wineries, taste wines, and learn about the wine-making process from some of the best winemakers in the world.
The region is particularly known for its Malbec, which is considered to be some of the best in the world. This isn’t just a place to visit for high end travel though and backpackers and Argentinians on summer holidays flock to the region too.
One of the best activities in Mendoza is the ‘wine bike route’. On the outskirts of Mendoza city centre, you will find several of the best wineries all along the same road. Here you can find bike rental shops offering to rent cheap bikes and provide a map to the best wineries.
This is such an enjoyable day, riding in between the different vineyards surrounded by lush green fields and mountain views in the distance. All the wineries allow you to visit and enjoy a tasting from somewhere between 200-500 pesos. Sitting in the gardens or atop the balconies of each bodega and enjoy a selection of wine tastings in the sun is the perfect way to spend a day in Mendoza.
One of the best bodegas is Trapiche, where you can sit out on the balcony and look out over the vineyard whilst enjoying some of the best wines in the world.
Enjoying high quality steak and wine whilst in Argentina is one of the many reasons why it’s such a great country to visit. For more reasons, click the link below:
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Flight Time
Getting around Argentina often requires a flight due to the long distances, but they are usually cheap.
Buses are also an option but are often cost as much or more than a flight and take much longer. An overnight bus to Bariloche takes 24 hours so best to try and fly.
Flight times from Buenos Aires to Bariloche typically range from 2.5 to 3 hours.
Prices can fluctuate based on the season and booking time. Looking recently at a return flight in November, the price was $80 for a return.
Flights from Buenos Aires to Mendoza generally take around 1.5 to 2 hours. The relatively short flight duration is often complemented by competitive pricing, making Mendoza an accessible destination for travellers.
Due to the shorter distance, return flights start at around $60.
Flying around Argentina is often necessary due to the long distances, but many parts of the country such as the north-west can be seen together via an epic road trip. To see a full itinerary for such a road trip, head to the post below:
Bariloche Or Mendoza: Access To Chile
Both towns are close to the Chilean border. If you are planning an extended trip in South America then combining Argentina and Chile is always a good shout.
Bariloche presents an easy access point to Chile, connecting to Puerto Montt or Pucon. This route provides a picturesque passage across the Andes, offering travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of Chile’s southern landscapes on the way.
The drive to Pucon is 4 hours and 30 minutes and 5 hours to Puerto Montt.
This might be appealing to travellers who are looking at planning an extended itinerary that includes Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia.
The Andes Mountains serve as a natural gateway from Mendoza to Chile, allowing travellers to journey to Santiago seamlessly. This convenient passage opens the door to exploring two captivating countries in one remarkable trip.
The journey from Mendoza to Santiago takes roughly 6 hours in total.
Combining Argentina and Chile into a long itinerary is a great idea as travelling between the two is easy. To see how to do this with, check out the fully planned extended itineraries in the post below:
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