Besides amazing hikes, Bariloche also has a popular bike route called Circuito Chico – a 27km loop through Llao Llao National Park. The park boasts many hills and lakes with spectacular mountain backdrops, so it’s a beautiful place to bike, though also not the easiest. At first, I was going to pass on the bike ride. But I got somewhat peer pressured into it after seeing how many people were doing it, and I also found an excellent partner to go with at the hostel. Well, why not? I was up for the challenge!
The starting point is a roundabout that marks the beginning of the loop. In this prime location is Circuito Chico Mountain Bike, a company that basically has a monopoly on bike rentals for the circuit. They played their cards well, man.
It costs 500 pesos ($27.90) for an ordinary mountain bike with 24 gears and 600 pesos ($33.45) for a fancier one with more functions, including 5 extra gears. Given that I’ve only used bikes with 5 gears total up to this point, I went with the less fancy option. All bikes came with a helmet, a lock and key, and a small air pump in case of a flat.
First, we got a debrief of the path. Going counterclockwise is recommended, since it results in fewer uphill stretches. On average, the circuit takes about 4 hours, with two optional detours, one to Colonia Suiza and one to Villa Tacul, which would each add an hour to the total time.
After that, we signed the forms, paid the fee, and picked out our bikes. In the back of the rental location is a small dirt track that you can ride around to make sure that the bike size and seat height are appropriate:
And we were off! Right away, the views were stunning:
3km in, we passed a bridge that also had paths down to the beach. A sparkling blue beach, more beautiful than most ocean beaches – but also far more cold.
The first long uphill started shortly after that, for which I was woefully unprepared. Having never really shifted gears on my bike before (read: having never really biked before), I was unsure of which way to shift when going uphill but figured that out fairly quickly. What took me a lot longer to figure out was that you have to shift the gears early and allow enough room to pedal a few times for the gear to completely shift, otherwise the bike doesn’t listen to you at all. Thankfully there were viewpoints along the way that served as convenient excuses to stop. But even then, I did a fair bit of pushing the bike uphill.
The view at the top of the hill was worth it though. From the official panoramic point:
About 1km further down, we arrived at the Patagonia Brewery. I had heard people at my hostel talking about this brewery over the past couple of days, so we stopped by to take a look (not for a beer, since it was 11:30am and we still had 21km left). The brewery was closed, but thankfully we could still go inside to take in the view. And what a view!
It was difficult to leave the brewery, but soon we were on the road again. By around 12:30, we arrived at the starting point for one of the side trips, Villa Tacul. There was a dirt road that led down to the beach for beautiful views, and we found a private beach to have lunch on. Score! Well, semi-private, since we soon had company. But still a beautiful and quiet spot.
12km go to to the end, which blew by like a breeze, to my great surprise. Within 45 minutes, we had biked all the way to the roundabout, when I thought we were only half of the way back. Maybe I had just finally gotten used to the bike? In any case, I always like it when things turn out to be much easier than I thought!
Ultimately, I’m glad I did the bike ride because it was a great way to see different sides of Llao Llao National Park. I also got to pass by the panoramic view point and Patagonia Brewery as well, which I might not have done otherwise unless I specifically made a trip there. It was a nice added bonus that it turned out to be less difficult than I thought!