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Bariloche – Refugio Frey and Refugio López treks

After returning from Gaiman on Friday I collected my bags and headed to the bus station for my first (16hr) bus journey to Bariloche. I booked the more expensive seats, which meant they nearly reclined fully turning them into beds.

When I awoke the landscape had changed into grassy foothills and quickly turned evergreen and mountainous. Think Switzerland (or that’s what I imagine as I’ve never been there). I was excited to be on Ruta 40 which is a famous road which runs the length of Argentina. It was beautiful and I spent the next few hours watching the scenery. To be fair everything that I’ve seen in Patagonia has been a treat for the eyes.

The afternoon I arrived in Bariloche I decided to go for a hike. This is after-all why I am here, to build up for the O circuit. I was told it was a little late in the day to start but there was a short hike to a viewpoint. I got on the bus as instructed but quickly realised it was going in the wrong direction. I got off and took a bus going in the other direction. It then dawned on me that I had read the map wrong and now in fact I was going in the wrong direction. I got off at the edge of town and decided to look around Bariloche instead. It’s a largely tourist town set on the side of a beautiful lake. People come in the summer for the hiking and in winter for the skiing.

Back at the hostel I made a few friends, one of whom Monica, wanted to join me for the trek to Refugio Frey.

Refugio Frey

Is a 12km walk to a beautiful lake in the mountains. It’s well worth the trek and one of Bariloche’s busiest trails, made worse for us as the day we decided to go there was some kind of race across the mountains where we constantly had to jump out of the way of oncoming runners. You can either opt to camp at the top or walk back to the beginning of the trail. Busses return to the city once and hour at 15 minutes past and at time of writing the last bus back is 9:15pm. It’s roughly 3 hours to the top and 2 back down again. But it took us 4 to get there and closer to 3 to return.

When I saw Monica in the morning I realised she was not dressed for a hike. I’m not sure if she understood the distance involved but she had thought I meant something else. She decided to come along anyway and we set off on the trail. It’s a fairly easy path that rises slowly through some Forrest before working it’s way around the side of the mountain alongside a lake. The path was dusty and after around an hour there are a few simple rocks to climb over. It became apparent that Monica’s shoes were not really up to the job and I wanted to set a much faster pace, mainly to challenge myself and to make sure we made it back in time.

Halfway along the trail it heads away from the lake and into a forest. There is a stream at this point if you need water and the path starts to climb more rapidly. Monica was great at chatting to other hikers and we learnt that the last two kilometres of the path was a steep climb-watch out for that!

Just as we hit the steep section we met Camila from Mar del Plata, who was happy to join our slow trek and she was meeting a friend of a friend at the top. The last push was tough and I kept lying to Monica saying it was only another 5mins. But we made it to the top and in the clothes Monica was wearing it’s something she should be proud of.

If you would like more detailed information about the trek then you can find it here

We made it back in time for a shower, beer, dinner and bed. I probably stayed up a little later than I should but was good to swap tales with other travellers.

Refugio López

I decided to go for another trek the following day and opted for Refugio Lopez. It’s a 6km walk all up a steep incline to the Refugio which takes around 2 hours. From there you can climb to the top of the mountain to Pisca Tourista which is another 3 hour round trip. The decent from Refugio Lopez is about 1 1/2 hours. To get there you can take the number 10 bus or a combination of the 21 & 13.

At the bus stop I recognised a few of the hikers from the previous day. Camila was also on the bus, headed to a much more relaxing destination.

I got talking to an American couple from Minnesota, Nathan and Melissa, where were expert climbers. They wanted to do some proper rock climbing but we’re having problems finding equipment. It was a really enjoyable assent and good to find out much more about a rural part of the US and we made it up in 2 hours.

I decided to continue as Sam who I met in Puerto Madryn had been in contact and I was meeting him later that night so I followed the “path” up the mountain, which basically consisted climbing over rocks. The trail signs were marked in red, many of you know it’s not the best colour for me, and when it turned to rock there were no footprints to follow.

I lost my way and realised it would be very easy to fall down so I stopped for lunch, I then realised I had left my water at the Refugio. Taking this as a sign I decided to head back down and was rewarded with another new friend.

After a rest I decided to head down to the bus stop as I had just enough time to make it back. I lost the trail on the way and soon realised that I was following a dry stream, it was steep but passable and it soon met up with the trail again. I also saw a tiny snake and I’m not sure who was more scared-I hate snakes.

If you would like more detailed information about the trek then you can find it here

The bus arrived and I ran into Camila again who gave me some more restaurant tips. I made it to the hostel and nearly collapsed, realising I had to pack quickly before heading out to meet Sam.

We went to a steak restaurant and I had my first experience of Argentine steak. It’s easily the best steak I’ve had in my life and both steaks in the picture below cost around £12.

I don’t even know how to begin to describe it but it was so tender and you didn’t need to add any flavour. I will be eating more steak here. I called it an early night as I had to leave for Chille in the morning.


Gaiman, a little slice of Welsh in Patagonia


Puerto Varas, Saltos de Petrohue and Largo Todos los Santos


  1. Tyler

    Ha ha ha. I like the bus shenanigans.

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