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Getting There

By Plane -- The Aeropuerto Bariloche (tel. 02944/426162) is 13km (8 miles) from downtown. Buses to the city center line up outside the arrival area; they're roughly scheduled to coordinate with flight arrivals. A taxi to the center costs about $15 (£10) -- a bargain if you have a group of two or three people. Aerolíneas Argentinas, Mitre 185 (tel. 02944/422548; www.aerolineas.com.ar), runs at least three daily flights from Buenos Aires; in summer, it operates two daily flights from El Calafate as well. LAN, Mitre 534 (tel. 800/999-9526; www.lan.com), runs two or three flights a day from Buenos Aires. Lineas Aéreas del Estado, Quaglia 238, #8 (tel. 02944/423562; www.lade.com.ar), serves small destinations in the area such as Neuquen and Esquel. It's nearly impossible to make it to Bariloche from North America or Europe in a day, as you must change airports in Buenos Aires. As of 2008, the Brazilian airline TAM (tel. 888/235-9826; www.tam.com.br) has twice-weekly flights from Sao Paolo.

By Bus -- The Terminal de Omnibus (tel. 02944/432860) is at Av. 12 de Octubre 2400; a dozen companies serve most major destinations in Argentina and Chile. Via TAC (tel. 02944/434727) schedules three daily arrivals from Buenos Aires and daily service from El Bolsón, Esquel, Mendoza, and Córdoba. Vía Bariloche (tel. 02944/432444) has eight daily arrivals from Buenos Aires (the trip lasts about 20 hr.) and one daily trip from Mar del Plata. Andesmar (tel. 02944/430211) has service from Mendoza, Río Gallegos, and Neuquén, and service from Osorno, Valdivia, and Puerto Montt in Chile. For long trips, opt for the slightly more expensive (usually $15/£10 more) coche cama or supercama for chairs that practically become beds. In addition, there are a few daily buses from San Martín de los Andes via the scenic Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes) route (only during the summer); from Villa La Angostura, try Ko-Ko (tel. 02944/431135).

By Car -- Motorists can reach Bariloche from San Martín via several picturesque routes. The 200km (124-mile) scenic Siete Lagos route, from San Martín de los Andes, follows rutas 234, 231, and 237 (avoid this route when it's raining, as the dirt roads turn to mud). The 160km (99-mile) Paso Córdoba follows rutas 234, 63, and 237. The safest route for night driving or crummy weather, the Collón Curá runs 260km (161 miles) along rutas 234, 40, and 237; it's the longest route, but it's entirely paved. To get to El Bolsón, follow RN 258 south; continue down 40 to get to Esquel. To cross into Chile, take the Puyehue Pass via RN 231 (through Villa La Angostura); during periods of heavy snowfall, chains are required. The drive from Buenos Aires will take you upwards of 20 hours, and there are few pit stops en route. Driving here from Buenos Aires, or similarly far destinations such as El Calafate and Mendoza, is not recommended.

Traveling by Boat to Chile -- Cruce Andino is the name of the company now running the spectacular lake-crossing journey from Bariloche over the border (and the Andes Mountains) to the Chilean Lake District. It's a boat-and-bus combination that terminates in Lago Todos los Santos, near Ensenada and Puerto Varas, although it can also be done in reverse, from Chile to Bariloche. If you're planning to visit Chile, it's a superb option that allows you to take in the beauty of the Andes and the volcanoes, rivers, and waterfalls in the mountain range. I don't recommended making this journey during heavy rain. The trip can take 1 long day or 2 days, with an overnight in the Hotel Peulla or the recommended Hotel Natura in Chile. The 1-day trip costs $230 (£156) per person for the boat trip (including lunch), and an average of $310 (£211) per person based on double occupancy for an overnight at the Hotel Natura in Peulla, Chile. Book at any travel agency or from Cruce Andino's offices in Bariloche (tel. 02944/425444; www.cruceandino.com).

Getting Around

By Foot -- The city is compact enough to explore on foot. Most visitors spend just a few hours touring the city, however, and then use it as a base for exploring the region. The main streets for shopping and tourist agencies are Mitre and San Martín/Moreno. The center of town is the scenic Centro Cívico (Civic Center) plaza. From here, distances are measured in kilometers to the east or west. While you may be tempted to try to walk into town along the lakeside road, it's a very busy street that isn't very enjoyable for walking; better to hop in a taxi or take the bus.

By Car -- Most savvy travelers rent a car to visit this area. You'll need wheels if you're staying outside the city center or planning to explore the sinuous roads that pass through exceptionally scenic landscapes such as the Circuito Chico. All travel agencies offer bus excursions to these areas, which is another way to see them if you don't drive. Rental agencies, such as Budget, Dollar, Hertz, and Avis, have kiosks at the airport as well as a number of downtown offices: Budget, Mitre 106 (tel. 02944/422482); AI Rent a Car, Av. San Martín 127 (tel. 02944/436041); Dollar, Villegas 282 (tel. 02944/430333); Hertz, Quaglia 165 (tel. 02944/423457); Bariloche Rent a Car, Moreno 115 (tel. 02944/427638); and Localiza, V.A. O'Connor 602 (tel. 02944/435374). Rates are reasonable, starting at around $55 (£37) per day. Driving west of town, you have two options: the direct Pioneros road that locals use, a few blocks uphill from the lake, or Bustillo, the lakeside road. Distances, and addresses, are measured in kilometers west from the Civic Center.

By Bus -- Bariloche's public bus system is cheap and efficient, whether you're heading to the Cerro Catedral ski resort or exploring the lakeside route of the Circuito Chico. Regular buses depart from Calle San Martín, just in front of the National Park headquarters, or from Moreno and Palacios. Bus no. 20 follows the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi past the Campanario chairlift to the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort. Bus no. 10 does the same route but continues past the village at Colonia Suiza. Bus no. 50 will take you directly to Cerro Catedral, and snowboards and skis are allowed onboard. Rides cost less than $1.50 (£1; just ask the driver).

When navigating the streets of Bariloche, be aware that two streets have similar names, though they are distinct routes: V.A. O'Connor runs parallel to the Costanera, and J. O'Connor bisects it.

Bringing a Car into Chile -- If you're hoping to do a Lake District circuit combining both the Argentine and Chilean lake districts, be warned that you'll need additional insurance and written permission from the car-rental agency to take the vehicle across the border. If you are planning to drive back to Argentina, you'll have no problems but you will need special papers. Few agencies, however, will allow you to leave the car in Chile. I suggest using Budget or Avis for these trips: They're the only companies with offices in numerous towns in both countries; they can offer roadside assistance, and they can quickly provide you with a replacement car if you run into problems. Note: The passes into Chile require chains in wintertime.

Visitor Information

The Secretaría de Turismo, in the stone-and-wood Civic Center complex between calles Urquiza and Panzoni (tel. 02944/426784; secturismo@bariloche.com.ar), has general information about Bariloche and is an indispensable resource for accommodations listings, especially during the high season. They also operate an information stand in the bus terminal, open Monday through Friday from 8am to 9pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 9pm. Useful tourism information, as well as the best maps and local books, are available at an information kiosk at the corner of Villegas and Moreno, next to the Artisan Market (no phone).

Good websites for all sorts of up-to-date travel information include www.bariloche.org and www.interpatagonia.com.

The Club Andino Bariloche, Av. 20 de Febrero 30 (tel. 02944/422266; fax 02944/424579; www.clubandino.com.ar), provides excellent information about hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering in the area. They sell maps and provide treks and mountain ascents led by guides from the Club Andino; they are open daily from 9am to 1pm and 6 to 9pm during winter, daily from 8:30am to 3pm and 5 to 9pm during summer. This is an essential stop for those heading into the mountains. For general information about Nahuel Huapi National Park, head to the park's headquarters across the street from the Civic Center (tel. 02944/423111), open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12:30pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.