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Bariloche’s Best Hike: Cerro Tronador

Bariloche’s Best Hike: Cerro Tronador

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Bariloche is a small city in Argentina near the border of Chile in the region of Patagonia. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to enjoy the beautiful mountains, and of course, hike!

When we visited, we were lucky enough to experience a hike like no other, the hike to Refugio Otto Meiling at the base of Cerro Tronador (also known as Tronador Hill.) Sure, there are some great hikes around Bariloche, but in our eyes, nothing compared to Cerro Traonador.

This was surprising as the Cerro Tronador hike seems to be much less popular than other hikes from Bariloche.

So, in this blog, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about Cerro Tronador including the hike to its base, staying in the Refugio, day trips, and more! This way, you’ll be able to have the same amazing experience that we did!

About Cerro Tronador

Cerro Campanario in Bariloche viewpoint
The large mountain is Cerro Tronador – Photo Credit Ocphoto Bigstock

Cerro Tronador is the tallest mountain near Bariloche. It is so tall that it actually towers about 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) higher than the others nearby. At 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) above sea level, it is a large and impressive mountain peak.

Cerro Trandor is located in Nahuel Huapi National Park. There are actually 8 glaciers on Cerro Tronador alone, two of which are quite famous and easily reached on a hike to its base (Castaño Overa and Alcerce.)

Because of its size and number of glaciers, mountaineers love tackling the challenging Cerro Tronador. However, for most people, hiking to the base of the mountain (where a mountain hut is located) is as far as they’ll go.

Hiking to the hut on Cerro Tronador is easily one of the best things to do in Bariloche, and if you like hiking, it’s an activity I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Related Read: We have an ideal 1-day itinerary if you are wondering how to spend one day in Santiago!

How to Hike Cerro Tronador (Tronador Hill)

view from the base of cerro tronador
This is the view from Refugio Otto Meiling at the base of Cerro Tronador.

If you want to walk right in between two glaciers, see a glacier waterfall, Condors, and have 360-degree panoramic views of the Andes, then you will need to hike Tronador Hill (the base of Cerro Tronador.) This hike is amazing, and to me, well worth doing!

Note: Only those with extreme mountaineering experience can summit Cero Tronador. The hike we are referring to in this blog is the hike up Tronador Hil to the base of Cerro Tronador.

Related Read: Learn how to get to the Marble Caves in Patagonia here! It is quite the adventure but so worth it!

Where does the Cerro Tronador hike start from?

at the beginning of the cerro tronador trAIL
Dan and I at the beginning of the trail!

The hike begins in Nahuel Huapi National Park from a place called Pampa Linda. Pampa Linda is located 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Bariloche and can be reached via car or shuttle bus. The shuttle bus takes 2 hours from Bariloche and costs 7500 ARS ($44 USD) for a round-trip ride.

If you rent a car and drive yourself, be sure to check road opening times ahead of time and plan your visit around them.

We have written a separate guide all about renting a car in Patagonia if you want to learn more about it!

If you want to take the shuttle, you can book it with the Refugio online in advance here.

At Pampa Linda, there is a small hotel and restaurant as well as a ranger’s office where you will need to register your plans. If you want, you can actually book a night or two at Pampa Linda and base yourself there for a day hike up Tronador Hill.

How long and difficult is the Cerro Tronador hike?

hiking cerro tronador or tronador hill from bariloche
At the end, you might even be hiking through snow!

From Pampa Linda to the base of Cerro Tronador is a 14-kilometer (8.7 miles) walk that ascends over 1,000 meters (3,200 feet.) It took us 4.5 hours on the way up at a fairly steady pace, and less than 3 hours on the way down.

The trail is particularly well maintained, but it is a challenging hike, particularly on the way up.

The trail begins in a forest with lots of shade, but by the end, you’ll be hiking on volcanic rock and completely exposed to the elements.

You’ll know you’ve made it to the end when you reach a small hut, or Refugio, called Refugio Otto Meiling. Here, you can choose to spend a night in the hut, camp, or turn around and make your way back down.

You hike back to Pampa Linda on the same trail as the way up.

How much does it cost to hike Cerro Tronador?

Let’s look at an example if you book at the Refugio Otto Meiling.

Otto Meiling Refuge:

  • Per night – 7800 ARS ($46 USD)
  • Lunch – 2500 or 3500 ARS ($14.75-$20.75 USD)
  • Dinner – 3500 or 4500 ARS ($20.75-$26.50 USD)
  • Half board – 15800 ARS ($93 USD)
  • Full board – 23800 ARS ($140 USD)

Due to COVID, you currently need to book Refugio Otto Meiling online from their website.

You must also pay the national park entrance of 2,700 ARS ($18.56 USD) (Current price as of September 2022). This is paid when you enter the national park before reaching Pampa Linda.

Other expenses are the shuttle from Bariloche and back which costs 7500 pesos ($44 USD), accommodation at Refugio Otto Meiling or Pampa Linda, gear rental, or food as needed.

Should you spend the night?

Otto Meiling Refugio at the base of Cerro Tronador.
Otto Meiling Refugio at the base of Cerro Tronador.

This is totally up to you but I recommend either spending a night at Refugio Otto Meiling or Pampa Linda, OR going on an organized tour. The reason is that the hike is rather long and difficult to complete in one day with enough time to catch the shuttle back to Bariloche (usually departs Pampa Linda at 5 pm.)

Personally, we stayed at the refugio and loved having all of the extra time up on the mountain. So, that would have to be my personal recommendation.

However, the Refugio is very basic (more on that below) so if you want a proper hotel and comfort then the Hosteria Pampa Linda may be more suited for you. You must book Hosteria Pampa Linda in advance, but Refugio Otto Meiling currently needs to be booked in advance due to the effects of COVID-19.

If you are very short on time and only have one day to spare, you can book a tour complete with transport from Bariloche (more on that below!)

Refugio Otto Meiling

sleeping room at otto meiling refugio
This is the upstairs of Refugio Otoo Meiling, where everybody sleeps on mattresses on the floor.

Refugio Otto Meiling is a very basic mountain hut located right at the base of Cerro Tronador. At the hut, there is a small kitchen, lots of tables, bathrooms with flushing toilets and running taps (no showers), and a large open upstairs with mattresses on the floor for sleeping.

It isn’t luxurious, but it is a great way to spend a night at one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the world.

On the price list above, you can find the prices for spending a night in the hut as well as food and drinks. If you want to cook your own meal you’ll just need to pay a small fee to use the kitchen.

Drinking water is available for free.

Camping is also free and permitted around the Refugio only (you are not allowed to camp anywhere else along the trail.) Just be sure to bring a good tent if you plan on camping as the winds can be very strong up there! You can rent tents from various shops in Bariloche before you go as well as sleeping bags and cooking equipment.

At the time we went you could not book Refugio Otto Meiling in advance and they were always accommodating people who showed up. However, due to COVID-19, you must now make a reservation online in advance to stay here (as of December 2022).

Related Read: Use our guide to discover all of the best things to do in El Chalten, Argentina!

Hosteria Pampa Linda

hosteria pampa linda
Photo Credit: Hosteria Pampa Linda

Hosteria Pampa Linda is the hotel at the very beginning of the trail. It is a proper hotel with comfortable standard rooms available as well as a restaurant.

The reviews are very good for this hotel and most people who stay here enjoy it. It is also very affordable at about $100 USD per night for two people.

If you want to hike Cerro Tronador but spend a night somewhere nicer than the Refugio, Hosteria Pampa Linda is a good option. You can even book excursions like horseback riding up the trail from there too!

You should book this hotel online in advance as it is often booked up!

The Hanging Glacier

the hanging glacier Castaño Overa
The hanging glacier, Castaño Overa

Along the trail, there is a side trip to a hanging glacier called Castaño Overa. This adds an extra 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to your trip but is well worth it if you ask me!

The glacier is literally hanging off the edge of a cliff and waterfalls pour from beneath it. It was a sight I’d never seen before and was amazing.

We visited the glacier on the way back down from the refugio on day 2. We did this because going down was much quicker than the way up (on day 1) and much easier. So, the added couple of kilometers were easily doable on day 2.

Cerro Tronador Excursions (Day-trips from Bariloche)

Unfortunately, if you want to hike all the way to Refugio Otto Meiling, there is no tour available (that I am aware of anyways). The tours to Cerro Tronsodor from Bariloche do go to Pampa Linda where you get amazing views of Cerro Tronador.

The tours also include commentary and stops at several other gorgeous viewpoints including the Black Glacier.

Although not a hiking tour, this particular tour comes highly rated and offers the chance for some incredible views! It will be a long day in the car but if you aren’t planning on doing a lot of hiking this is a good option to see the peaks of Cerro Tronador and the beautiful rivers, lakes, and glaciers along the way.

Wow, what a place to end our time in Patagonia! This truly was a Patagonia highlight for us and would recommend this to everyone heading to Bariloche.

Related Read: If you haven’t been to this gorgeous country yet there are so many things to discover but see our list of the best things to do in Argentina to see what stands out!

Where to stay in Bariloche

Whether you are preparing to hike in Bariloche or need a place to rest after a long hiking day we recommend staying right in Bariloche. There are a lot of accommodation options, so here’s our list of stays for any budget to make planning easier.

Budget Hostels in Bariloche

Hospedaje Penthouse 1004

For just around $29 USD for a dorm bed you can have yourself an epic view from the hostel’s penthouse lounge and dining areas. It is a super cozy and homey place to stay and breakfast is included daily. It’s right on the main square so getting around couldn’t be easier. They also have private rooms with shared baths.

HOPA-Home Patagonia Hostel & Bar

Located several streets away from the main party zone you will be able to sleep without all the noise. Plus the hostel has an on-site bar if you want to socialize with other travelers. A dorm bed here starts at $22 USD and this property includes breakfast and has an averaged size shared kitchen, free wifi, and luggage storage provided. One of the main cons here is a limited number of bathrooms.

Mid-range Hotel in Bariloche

Hotel Aspen Ski

Affordable modernized hotel centrally located. A double room averages $95 USD a night and they are clean and spacious. You are offered to enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet and the lobby has a game room with a pool and poker table.

Luxury Hotel in Bariloche

Arelauquen Bungalows & Suites 

Located on the Arelauquen Golf Pro and Country Club this facility is truly beautiful! They offer entire bungalows that hold 2-4 adults and have a full kitchen, balcony, and spa tub. You will have incredible lake views around the property and most rooms. It has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, and a spa. At just $210 for a two-person bungalow this place is a steal. The only con is being a 25-minute drive from downtown.

Planning your Trip to Patagonia

two people looking at king penguins in parque penguino rey chile
Dan and I, taking a selfie with King Penguins!

Accommodation in Patagonia

Booking accommodation is one of the biggest aspects of your trip, and we should know as we stay in a new hotel up to 40 times per year! Funny enough, we make 99% of these bookings on one website and that’s Booking.com – and there are a few reasons why we use this site!

Number one is the website is easy to use and sorts accommodation options. That takes the stress out of planning which honestly still affects us and we do it more than not.

Second, is the price guarantee. We have literally booked a hotel months before and then 1 week out found it cheaper (we always do a quick search), and they’ll match that price from anyone’s website including the hotels!

And third, is the Genius loyalty program. If you make a certain amount of bookings per year you get a Genius discount. We are level-two geniuses because we make more than 5 a year. At participating hotels, we get things like free breakfast included, early check-in, and up to 15% off.

You can check out all their accommodation options throughout Patagonia!

Renting a car in Patagonia

Our rental car in Patagonia
Our rental car!

We enjoyed a rental car for our second trip to Patagonia – and wow, what a way to travel! But the best part was that we only paid $40 USD per day for a 5-person sedan!

But how? Well if you’re renting a car the cheapest company is Discover Cars. We often get questions from readers asking us if the website is fake because it seems too cheap! The truth is, they are a great company that we actually used for our own rental car.

If you do want to compare prices (and you should) do a quick search on Airport Car Rentals too. They’re another big competitor and each company often has its own deals to offer!

Tours in Patagonia

drinking glacier water from perito moreno glacier
Drinking pure glacier water on our glacier tour!

Tours are a tricky one. We love booking online because we can check reviews of that exact tour but they can be pricier than booking directly in person. So for this, we often do it 50/50 – half of the time in person and the other half of the time we book tours online in advance.

When we do book online we use Get Your Guide and Viator. Both companies offer the same service with different selections of tours and reviews on each tour.

Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!

If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)

It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!

Thanks for reading!

We hope you’ve been inspired to hike to the hut on Cerro Tronador! If you found this blog helpful, we have tons more about travel in Patagonia and Argentina! Some of our favorites include:

Guide to visiting Puerto Madryn, Argentina

BEST Torres del Paine Hotels

Everything you need to know about Perito Moreno Glacier

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