Bariloche is filled with great hikes and viewpoints. Among the most famous and considered by many the best viewpoint is Cerro Campanario.
I’ll cover all you need to know about how to get to Cerro Campanario and tips to help you make the most of your time.
How to get to Cerro Campanario
You can get to Cerro Campanario by driving or taking a taxi, of course. However, taking the bus to Cerro Campanario is easy and a popular option among travelers. So, let’s jump into how to take the bus from downtown Bariloche to Cerro Campanario.
All about the SUBE Bus Card
Before taking the bus, the transportation system in Bariloche requires you to have a SUBE card. This card can be purchased at certain kioskos. Kiosko literally translates to kiosk, but they’re really small convenience stores.
Your best bet is to buy a SUBE card from a kiosk near the main plaza since, as I soon learned, many other kiosks do not carry them.
Travel Tip: SUBE is a national transportation system. Therefore, if you purchased a SUBE card elsewhere in Argentina it will work in Bariloche.
Provided that you’re not traveling during or right after a holiday you shouldn’t have an issue purchasing the card.
However, if you’re like me and find SUBE cards sold out, try heading to the kiosko at the beginning of Mitre street when coming from the Centro Cívico (main plaza).
Unlike other kioskos, they don’t advertise selling SUBE cards so they usually have a little stash.
If you don’t foresee needing a SUBE card again in Argentina, you could try boarding the bus and paying a fellow passenger who is kind enough to swipe their card for you.
The cost for a SUBE card is equivalent to a few USD. Make sure to put money on the card when you by it. The cost to get to Cerro Companario from Bariloche was 40 pesos per way as of March 2019.
However, because of inflation this number could very well be higher by the time you travel.
If you know you’ll be using the card elsewhere, bring the list of places with you and tell them “ida y vuelta”- round trip- and they should be able to put close to the right amount on there for you. No ID is necessary to purchase the card.
How to take the Bus to Cerro Campanario
Now that you’ve got your SUBE card, the hardest part is over! Logistically, at least, if you’re like me and choose to hike up to Cerro Campanario.
You’ll need to take bus number 20 to get to the entrance of Cerro Campanario. It just so happens that bus 20 runs every 20 minutes.
The most popular bus stop for bus 20 is on block 400 of Avenida Francisco Pascasio Moreno street. This is the road directly above Bariloche’s Centro
Cívico (main plaza). Look for the long, wooden bus stop. Its on the same block and same side of the road as the Centro Cívico.
When you get on the bus, be prepared to tell your driver where you’re going.
The cost of trip varies depending on where you get off, so the driver has to put your location into their computer before you can swipe your card. In case it isn’t obvious, you need to tell your driver “Cerro Campanario.”
Do whatever you can to sit or stand on the passenger side of the bus when traveling from Bariloche to Cerro Campanario (and the driver side when returning). The route along Nahuel Huapi Lake is beautiful!
Travel Tip: Seats fill quickly at the bus stop by the Centro Cívico. To increase your chances of snatching a seat, head up the same road in the direction of General Nicolás Palacios street to get on one stop earlier.
Cerro Campanario Bus Stop
The time to travel from downtown Bariloche to the Cerro Campanario bus stop is about 30 minutes. Since this is a tourist route, your driver will likely yell out the name of tourist stops along the way.
When you get off the bus, simply cross the road and head uphill towards the Cerro Campanario ticket office.
Hours of Operation
The Cerro Campanario office and chairlift is open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm-ish. Their website says 6:00pm, but I when I was there it was open until 6:30pm. My guess is that this extended time is only for summer.
The last chairlift goes up at 5:30pm…meaning that according to a 6:00pm closure you’d basically have to turn around and come right back down once getting to the top.
Be mindful of daylight hours if you’re taking the chairlift and hoping to catch a sunset. In the summer, it will be broad daylight at 6:00pm. If you happen to be in the area for parts of the spring or fall, you’re in sunset luck!
Travel Tip: By hiking to Cerro Campanario you have the advantage of getting to the top before and staying later than those who take the chairlift. Sunrises and sunsets are yours for the taking!
Taking the Chairlift to Cerro Campanario
Taking the chairlift is a thrill for many. The two seater open air chairlift will leave you with legs dangling and gawking at mountain and lake views.
Tickets cost around $8 USD per adult and about half that per child from 5 to 12. Children four and under are free. In case you’re wondering, there’s no age limit to take the chairlift. I saw a woman carrying a baby up on her lap!
The price for the chairlift is the same if you take it one way or round trip. If you decide to hike up, you can make the decision at the top whether you want to hike back down or take the chairlift. There’s a a ticket booth at the top where you can purchase a ticket.
Travel Tip: If you want to hike only one way, do so going up to Cerro Campanario. This way, you’ll get to enjoy lake views taking the chairlift down the mountain. Otherwise, if you take the chairlift uphill you’ll have to crank your head around to see the lake.
Hiking to Cerro Campanario
Bariloche is all about great hikes and Cerro Campanario is no exception.
The hike is free to do, so your visit to Cerro Campanario will cost as little as a couple USD if you take the bus. After getting off the bus and as you approach the ticket office, follow the dirt road leading to the right. From, there, it’s a straight path up. A very straight path up. There’s a sign that reads “Sendero Cerro Campanario.”
They say the hike takes 45 minutes. I’m in decent shape but stopped often along the steep incline to catch my breath.
So, I was surprised when I arrived to the top in just 35 minutes. Some will struggle more than others of course, but most people of average fitness should be able to comfortably complete the hike.
I was surprised that for being such a touristy area the signs were only in Spanish. The path is straight forward so aside from an occasional sign talking about flora and fauna you won’t be missing much.
Nonetheless, in case you didn’t brush the rust off your high school Spanish before traveling, here’s what you need to know when you see this sign:
“No avanzar” means do not proceed. It seems other people have tried to create their own paths along the way and/or they’re trying to restore certain areas.
Again, the path is straight forward, but its worth the mention so that you don’t have a Laura-didn’t-tell-me-so moment.
Is it worth it to hike up to Cerro Campanario?
It depends on what you consider worth it.
Are you looking to get there early or stay later to avoid the crowds? Are you looking for some exercise and time in nature?
If your answer is yes to any of these, then its worth it.
Nature, exercise and avoiding crowds (plus saving money!) is me all the way so I’m glad I did the hike. That said, unlike the chairlift you won’t get to enjoy views of the lakes or surrounding landscape. Instead, you’ll be firmly hidden among (beautiful) trees.
Another item to consider is the terrain. I did the hike during the summer during a dry spell. It was a dusty mess. Not only was the path dusty but it was deep, loose dirt that in many areas was a couple inches deep.
The dust got into every crevice of my shoes and I’m pretty sure I was a couple of shades darker by the time I got to the top. Flashbacks of my hike up San Cristobal in Santiago, Chile came to mind!
If you do the hike after (or during) rain, I can imagine that the path becomes extremely muddy and slippery. As it was, with it being dry I slipped a couple times going downhill in areas with steep declines. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes with good grip!
What to do when you arrive to the top of Cerro Campanario
Horray! Whether you hiked or took the chairlift you made it to one of Bariloche’s most iconic viewpoints.
When facing the mountain as you approach the top, the biggest happenings are on the right side. This is where the large wraparound viewing platform is as well as the restaurant (which also has a chocolate shop in good ol’ Bariloche fashion!).
To the left, you’ll have some different, but more limited views of the surrounding landscape. It’s worth the short walk to get to and is typically less crowded.
There are some maps pointing out names of different mountains and bodies of water. Unfortunately, the maps are so faded that they’re almost illegible. Hopefully they make fixing these a priority soon!
One of my favorite places was a viewing platform below where the chairlifts arrive. When hiking, this area will be to your left as you approach the top. Picture beautiful views and fewer people.
To be fair, nowhere but the restaurant felt too crowded.
There are chairs and tables around some of the platforms where you can enjoy the views while sharing an Argentine mate with your travel partners.
It wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about Cerro Campanario without mentioning the restaurant. The views from the restaurant are just as good if not better than the views from the main viewing platform.
This is because the restaurant gets you up one story higher. Plus, if you get a window seat there won’t be any strangers coming along to obstruct your view!
The restaurant is a perfect way to have the Cerro Campanario experience from the comfort of indoors if you’re traveling during bad weather. The line was out the door when I visited but the wait was absolutely worth it for these views!
How much time to spend at Cerro Campanario
Once at the top of Cerro Campanario, the average person who doesn’t make a stop inside the restaurant likely spends around 20 – 30 minutes. If it’s a nice day, you may be inclined to stay longer.
If the weather is bad, there’s not many areas aside from the restaurant to escape the elements so you’ll probably be itching to leave shortly after arriving.
I visited on a sunny summer day. However, the wind was vicious. There were moments when the wind whipped so hard that I almost lost my balance a few times walking around on the rocks!
Tips for preparing for a visit to Cerro Campanario
Below are some tips I compiled to help you make the most of your experience at Cerro Campanario.
- Wear sunscreen. You may be freezing, but the sun is strong!
- If hiking, wear sturdy, close toed shoes with good grip. Trekking poles will help you maintain balance. It should go without saying to bring water!
- To avoid the crowds aim to get there at opening time if you’re taking the chairlift and before opening time or staying after closing time if you’re hiking.
- Sunsets are to die for from the top. If you’ll be in Bariloche for a while you won’t be disappointed by visiting twice at different times of the day…especially if the weather wasn’t good during your first visit! Just keep in mind the time of year you travel if you’re taking the chairlift since due to how early the chairlift closes its impossible to watch the sunset in summer.
- Restrooms, a restaurant, a chocolate shop and some tourist stands can all be found at the top.
- Make sure to have enough money on your SUBE card to return to Bariloche- I didn’t see anywhere near to recharge. That said, you’re allowed to get on the bus in the negatives, provided that it isn’t too negative.
Traveling from Cerro Campanario back to Bariloche
There’s a bus stand on the opposite side you got off from when you traveled to Cerro Campanario. This will take you back to Bariloche the way you came. Remember, this time sit on the driver’s side for views of the lake!
Alternatively, there’s the option to travel to Llao Llao which is where the beautiful Llao Llao hotel and port is located. If you arrived to Bariloche via the Cruce Andino, this is where you passed through.
In this case, stand on the same side as where you got off the bus (there isn’t a formal bus stop but the bus will be on the lookout for you). The ride to Llao Llao will take 10 – 15 minutes. When you’re ready to head back to Bariloche, simply hop back on a bus number 20.
Cerro Campanario is a must-see for visitors to Bariloche. Regardless of whether you choose to take the chairlift or hike you’ll get to enjoy one of Bariloche’s best views.
Have you been or will you be going to Cerro Campanario? Share your experience or questions in the comments section!
PS- Will you be traveling to El Calafate after your stay in Bariloche? If so, read about my experience taking the bus from Bariloche to El Calafate!