You'd be forgiven for mistaking Bariloche, hidden in the shadows of the Andes, for an idyllic setting somewhere in Central Europe. It has a distinct ski village feel, with alpine style architecture surrounding you - and thanks to its setting on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, it might as well be in Switzerland.
In fact, recreating a lakeside Swiss alpine village was exactly what Ezequiel Bustillo had in mind in the early 1930s. As head of the Argentine National Park Service, he and his brother Alejandro (among others) adapted European design and planning practices to create Bariloche and iconic buildings (such as the Llao Llao Hotel above).
While it maintains an under-the-radar profile to those in the Northern Hemisphere, Bariloche is the epicenter of activity in Argentina's lake region and a worthy destination on your endless winter journey.
When to go
At its heart, Bariloche is a true ski destination and most visitors chase the snow, from late June through September. Resorts like Cerro Catedral are known for tremendous snow coverage, even through the end of the season. To experience Bariloche at its wildest, La Fiesta de la Nieve (The Snow Festival) is not to be missed: fireworks, torchlight parades, performances, a full week's worth of concerts and parties, and the crowning of the Snow Queen.
Where to stay
The Llao Llao Hotel, designed by the aforementioned Alejandro Bustillo, has become one of the finest luxury hotel experiences in the Patagonia following its refurbishment in 1993 after sitting empty and enduring years of neglect.
Llao Llao serves as the perfect base for any outdoor adventure, complete with all the amenities you'd expect at a five star hotel: transportation is provided for guests to Cerro Catedral, and the hotel has everything needed to explore the lake in the warmer months. Following a day of adventure, guests are treated to a world-class spa and gourmet food experiences featuring the meat and fish of the Patagonia.
Stunning views of the lake and the Andes are standard here in every room, and with a shuttle service to whisk guests into the Bariloche town center, Llao Llao provides a truly seamless experience for the discerning Patagonia traveler.
What to eat: Chocolate
Interestingly, Bariloche is not just the chocolate capital of Argentina, it is truly one of the chocolate capitals of the world. The early settlers in the town that hailed from the Swiss and Italian Alps found the climate to be so similar, they immediately began chocolate production. Today, chocolate shops that line the streets of the entire town produce some of the finest sweets under the watchful eyes of some of the best master pastry chefs in the world. The town's love of sweets comes to a head, appropriately, around Easter. The National Chocolate Festival has been celebrated annually since 1969, and culminates with the breaking of a giant Easter egg that usually measures at least eight meters tall.
While Bariloche is well known throughout Argentina (it's the traditional destination for students' end of the year trips), the unique combination of European heritage and South American influence create a destination for the endless winter that is unlike anywhere else in the world.