An Overview of the Town
El Bolsón attracted hippies from Buenos Aires back in the 70’s and it still retains a funky vibe today. With carved wood statues, local micro-brews, live music and plentiful hiking El Bolsón is a quiet, artsy alternative to the more upscale Patagonian city of Bariloche, about two hours north. El Bolsón is situated in a valley and the mountain views from town are striking.
El Bolsón is a small town and easy to tackle by foot. The main road, Av. San Martin, is where you’ll find most restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries and breweries. There’s also a craft market three days a week at Plaza Pagano, the central plaza. At the market you’ll find locally produced handicrafts and food items, many of which use seasonal berries and fruits that thrive in the valley. For a view of the city, take a short hike from the center of town up to Cerro Amigo. To our delight, we found the trail to Cerro Amigo lined with blackberries and picked them by the handful.
El Bolsón’s main attraction is hiking. There are dozens of hiking trails to keep you occupied. Most hikes begin from the neighboring town of Wharton. Wharton is 30-45 minutes away by public bus or taxi. Check with the tourist center on Av. San Martin for the current bus schedule, especially during low season.
It’s possible to connect many of the trails to make a several day trek. Idyllic refugios are generously scattered through out the hiking region to accommodate overnight hikers. For a small fee, you can set up your tent on the refugio grounds or sleep inside. Many of the refugios make their own beer, bread, and food. A few even grow their fruits and vegetables for fresh and delicious homemade meals.
One of the most popular day hikes is Cajón del Azul where you’ll find startlingly blue waters.
To our surprise, we came across several friendly “forest cats” while hiking. We later learned that a handful of cats live around the numerous refugios. We’ve been joined on hikes by stray dogs in South America but hiking with cats was a first! Their company on the hike was unexpected and thoroughly entertaining. We both have a soft spot for felines.
If you hike Cajón del Azul, don’t miss The Gaucho Brewing Company. Conveniently nestled at the start of trail, this cantina is a great spot to enjoy a post-hike meal and pint of homemade beer. Admittedly, we’ve found the beer scene in Argentina to be a bit lacking, but this place delivered with strong robust flavors and a variety of draught beer, not to mention the absolutely serene setting.
Where to Stay
Being on the road for so long we are always grateful for a comfortable space that feels homey and livable. The cabanas at Bajo El Nogal were perfect for our stay. With a bright and spacious living room and kitchen we were able to relax, cook meals and pack lunches for hikes. (Funny how these simple things become such luxuries on a backpacking trip!)