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Picture yourself meandering down a cobblestone street, admiring the sloped roofs and gingerbread look of the homes around you. You’ve just finished a day of skiing, and you’re looking forward to a great meal in one of the cozy local restaurants. Before passing a chocolate shop you peer through its window. Chocolate tree branches and boxes of treats make up the tempting display. All around you, snippets of languages from around the world can be heard: English, Italian, Spanish, German. Are you in Bavaria? Switzerland?  Northern Italy, perhaps?

Nope. You’re in South America, Argentina to be precise. The confusion is understandable: The city of San Carlos de Bariloche was settled in the late 1800s by Austrians and Germans looking for economic opportunity in Argentina, which at the time welcomed thousands of Europeans. Naturally, these immigrants sought out a countryside that reminded them of their Alpine home, and they found it in a fertile, breathtakingly beautiful valley deep in the Andes.

They were not the first ones in the area, however. The rugged, formidable Andes were home to various native groups for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. The Mapuche Indians of Central Chile—also known as the Araucanians—valiantly fought off all attempts at Spanish domination for centuries before they finally signed treaties in the 1880s.

Today, the city is a world-famous travel destination, offering a host of activities year-round. The skiing is top-notch at Cerro Catedral, probably South America’s largest ski resort, and the city itself is located within the borders of Nahuel Huapi National Park, which is known for world class hiking, wildlife and lakes. Ranging in altitude from 700 to 3,000 meters, the park is one of the most diverse regions in the world, and home to both rainforests and glaciers.

Visitors to Bariloche will surely want to visit some of the park’s highlights, such as the Arrayanes forest, which boasts one hundered-year-old trees, or the majestic Cántaros waterfall. Once you’ve had your fill of nature, take a stroll down Mitre Street, where you can shop for some of Bariloche’s famous chocolate. Try a typical “ramita” or “little branch”—a treat that looks like a branch broken off a chocolate tree.

Bariloche is also a jumping off point for the spectacular lakes crossing to Chile. The crossing takes visitors from Bariloche to Puerto Montt, Chile or vice-versa. The crossing usually takes one to two days and involves a combination of buses and boats. The scenery is fantastic: breathtaking mountains, pristine lakes and inspiring pine forests abound. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the rare Andean condor. Eye-captivating landscapes and mouth-watering handmade chocolate—what more could you ask for?

Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Yerba Maté: The Drink & The Ritual, San Antonio Oeste, Perito Moreno Glacier, Too Tired to Tango, Chocolate In Bariloche, Tolhuin, Tierra del Fuego, Famous Resident Of Recoleta: Jorge Luis Borges, El Chalten and Cerro Torre , Salta and La Dorita Enfrente.

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