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El Bolsón ("the purse") lies in a valley enclosed on either side by the jagged peaks of two mountain ranges. You catch your first glimpse of the valley about 66 km (41 mi) from Bariloche, with the glaciers of Perito Moreno and Hielo Azul (both more than 6,500 feet) on the horizon south and west. The spot was once a Mapuche settlement, then Chilean farmers came in the late 1800s in search
of arable land. The town remained isolated until the 1930s, when a long, winding dirt road (often closed in winter) connected it to Bariloche. Attracted by the microclimate (about 7 degrees warmer than other Patagonian towns), young Argentines, as well as immigrants from Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East contribute to the cultural identity of this community of about 11,000. The first in Argentina to declare their town a non-nuclear zone, they have preserved the purity of its air, water, and land. Red berry fruits thrive on hillsides and in backyard chacras (farms), and are canned and exported in large quantities as jams and syrups. The exploding Patagonian microbrew beer industry is based on the largest crops of hops planted in Argentina.
Bariloche is the gateway to all the recreational and scenic splendors of the Northern Lake District and headquarters for 2-million-acre Nahuel...