Approaching from the north, you can take in the enviable mountainous backdrop of the holiday capital of Argentine Patagonia, SAN CARLOS DE BARILOCHE. Bariloche, as most people call it, rests up against the slopes of Cerro Otto, behind which rear the spiky crests of the Cerro Catedral massif, and is spread along the dry southeastern shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi. Everything in Bariloche faces the lake but something went massively wrong with the town planning – the main road artery was built along the shore, severing the settlement's centre from its best feature.
The town's lifeblood is tourism, with 700,000 visitors arriving annually. This is a place of pilgrimage for the nation's students, who flood here in January and February on their summer breaks. They don't necessarily come in search of the mountain experience, but often end up having one, pushed out of town by the inflated high-season prices of hotels and clubs. The area's main attraction, Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, surrounds the town, although in winter, it's specifically the ski resort of Cerro Catedral nearby.