amazing. Simply stunning. For years, I have heard stories of majestic
mountain landscapes, wicked peaks, and creamy blue glacial lakes. And a
few weeks ago, I got my first taste of Patagonia's
wonders near Argentina's Lake District hub, Bariloche.
is a far cry from a responsible tourism destination. It's a modern ski
town, filled with resort developments, high rise hotels, and souvenir
shops galore. But beyond the city limits, Bariloche
is surrounded by some of the most beautiful wilderness on the planet.
Trekkers and nature lovers willing to explore beyond the mainstream
tourist path are rewarded with rich yet accessible ecotourism
For me, the
highlight of the region was a stay at Refugio Emilio Frey, one of the
Bariloche Andean Club's backcountry huts. These basic accommodations,
located in stunning surroundings accessible only by
foot, make getting deep into nature available to travelers not prepared
or interested in hauling a heavy pack and full camping gear (though
campers are welcome at the refugios). The atmosphere is intimate and
friendly, with communal kitchen and dining facilities,
and dormitory-style sleeping quarters. Live-in hosts welcome guests
and keep the grounds and building in order. The refugio I visited was
surprisingly well stocked, selling snacks, alcoholic beverages, and even
full meals. It's pretty rare to hike 10 km
into the wilderness and end up at a remote, rustic hut that serves hot
and delicious pizzas!
Andean Club has made commendable efforts to integrate sustainable
practices into their buildings. Refugios are constructed primarily with
local and indigenous materials. All electricity consumed
in the refugios is produced on-site from a small solar and wind power
station. The pristine environment allows for drinkable water straight
from the local sources with no treatment. Wastewater is stored and
treated with special organic cleansers. All visitors
are required to follow leave-no-trace ethics, and pack out all of their
own trash. It's not 100% eco-friendly though – a gasoline generator is
required to pump water to holding tanks, and propane gas is burned for
cooking and water heating in the kitchen.
Still, not bad for an off-the-grid wilderness accommodation with good
Getting deep into
nature is rarely this easy, nor this comfortable, nor this cheap. And
few destinations rival Patagonia's beauty. If you find yourself in
Bariloche, hop off the tour bus and start walking
into the woods. You won't find many better opportunities than this.
Learn more about
the Bariloche Mountain Club, regional hikes, and backcountry refugios at
their office in the town center, or check at
About the Author: Ted Martens
journey into the travel and tourism industry started the summer after a
two-month backpacking trip throughout Europe ignited a life-long passion
for international travel. With a master’s degree in
Tourism Development, Ted has focused his efforts on helping non-profit
Sustainable Travel International promote responsible tourism across the
globe as their Director of Outreach & Development. After working too
hard for the past 5 years, he is on the road again, escaping the office
for some field research… is the responsible travel movement taking seed
across the globe, or not?
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