About the Area

El Bolsón, Argentina

El Bolsón is Paddle Patagonia’s home base. It is a small town located in the province of Rio Negro about 1800km south of Buenos Aires. You can take a bus (about 22 hours but very comfortable) or you can fly into San Carlos de Bariloche, then travel by land the 160km south to El Bolsón.

El Bolson, Rio Negro Argentina“El Bolsón” literally translates as “the big bag,” which is certainly not the most poetic name, but must come from the fact that El Bolsón is located in a valley between several mountains. This “bag” nestled in the mountains has an unusual microclimate for being so far south. The region produces 75% of the country’s hops and an enormous amount of organic fruits, vegetables and honey. I have never eaten more perfect and delicious strawberries in my life! On top of it all, locally produced cheeses, smoked trout, regional chocolate, jams and preserves make this place a food-lovers dream.

The town is towered over by “Piltriquitron” mountain (2,284m) whose Mapuche name translates as a mountain “hanging from the clouds.” Across the valley to the east are many beautiful mountain peaks that offer a variety of moderate to challenging hikes.

Throughout the summer El Bolsón hosts the “Feria Artesanal” or local artisan craft and food fair. Tourists from all over the country flock to El Bolsón to enjoy the market with over 300 stalls to explore! Artists sell everything from sculpted wooden cutting boards, and handmade mate gourds to jewelry, instruments and pottery.

Katie’s must-do list for El Bolsón:

  1. Organic Micro Brews from Cerveza Artesenal El Bolsón(Julian and I like the blondes, but the adventurous might try a “Cerveza Piqante” (infused with hot chilies) or the “Cerveza Frambuesa” (raspberry beer)
    JauJa Ice-cream – organic ice-cream with no artificial additives and a plethora of flavours to choose! I vote chocolate espresso but others swear by the organic berry options.
  2. Share a mate with friends– mate (pronounced mat-te) is made by steeping dried “yerba mate” leaves in a hollowed out gourd (the mate) and drank from a metal straw called a “bombilla.” This is a very popular and traditional tea shared amongst groups of friends or family. There is some etiquette involved in the process, which we will happily teach you upon arrival.
  3. Visit the International Tango Festival in El Bolsón – This is an annual four day event that includes poetry, live music, dance, visual arts and tango, dance workshops, milongas and outdoor practices open to the community. This is a MUST-DO if you are in El Bolsón with the opportunity to see some of the most renowned tango masters from Argentina!

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

San Carlos de Bariloche is the “gateway city” to Patagonia, situated on the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by lakes (Nahuel Huapi, Gutiérrez Lake, Moreno Lake and Mascardi Lake) and mountains (Tronador, Cerro Catedral, Cerro López). It is famous for skiing but also great for sight-seeing, water sports, trekking and climbing. Another claim to fame is its Swiss-like atmosphere and its chocolate boutiques.

Futaleufú, Chile

The town of Futaleufú, Chile is close to the Argentine border and has a population of about 2,000. The main income for the community is fly fishing, white water rafting, and tourism.

The Futaleufú River is a river fed by the lakes in the Los Alerces National Park in Chubut Province, Argentina, crossing the Andes Mountains and the international border into Chile and opening into the Yelcho Lake.
Futaleufu Chile
The river is known for its deep blue waters created by glacier till deposited in the river, and for its immense whitewater, which attracts paddlers from around the world. The Chilean government has proposed creating a hydroelectric dam, which may jeopardize the free flow of the river in the near future. This project is not expected to start until after 2013 as the Endesa Power company is intent on first building a dam on the Baker river South of Futaleufú. On the Argentine side of the border, there is another hydroelectric dam in service since 1976.