Bariloche is the gateway to all the recreational and scenic splendors of the northern Lake District and the headquarters for Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. Although planes, boats, and buses arrive daily, you can escape on land or water—or just by looking out a window—into a dazzling wilderness of lakes, waterfalls, mountain glaciers, forests, and meadows.
The town of Bariloche hugs the southeastern shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, expanding rapidly east toward the airport and west along the lake toward Llao Llao, as Argentineans and foreigners buy and build without any apparent zoning plan. Being the most popular vacation destination in Patagonia has not been kind to the town once called the "Switzerland of the Andes." Traffic barely moves on streets and sidewalks during holidays and the busy months (January, February, March, July, and August).
Nevertheless, the Centro Cívico (Civic Center) has not lost its architectural integrity. Designed by Alejandro Bustillo (1889–1982), the landmark square is as handsome as ever; and the buildings around it—with their gray-green local stone, brightly varnished wood, and decorative gable ends—are prime examples of the region’s signature alpine style. With its view of the lake and mountains, the Centro Cívico is a good place to begin exploring Bariloche.