Argentina has a wonderfully rich and unique culture, and as you travel through the country, you’ll surely see doses of European influence. Colonia Suiza sits just outside of the city of Bariloche and was the first European settlement in this region. Now, this small mountain village is a popular destination for travelers. The old Swiss town is a great place to visit to enjoy the mountain scenery, buy some handicrafts, and try a traditional meal.
A Little History
In the late 1800s, a family by the name of Goye made the journey from Switzerland to Chile. After living there for several years, they packed up, made the move to the Bariloche region of Argentina and settled down. There, they worked the land, raising livestock and growing a variety of fruits and other agricultural goods.
Other Swiss settlers followed, bringing their architecture, traditions, and culture. Germans and other European settlers later came to the Bariloche region as well. This history and their influence in the area can still be seen today in the chalet-type architecture in Bariloche, chocolate shops, cuisine, and more.
Getting to Colonia Suiza
Colonia Suiza sits near Lago Perito Moreno only about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west Bariloche. You can easily access the town by public bus, taxi, or your own vehicle. There are also some tours that include a visit to Colonia Suiza. However, this is more expensive and we think this activity is easily doable on your own.
Once you’re in Colonia Suiza, it only takes about 10 minutes to walk from one end of the town to the other.
We took the bus as it was the most convenient and budget friendly. Bus 10 will take you directly there. There are also bus combos, including 20 and 13, that run that route as well. Just tell the driver where you’re headed. Check here for bus routes and rough schedules.
Buses usually come every 20-30 minutes in Bariloche but can be less frequent or packed when you’re trying to get back from Colonia Suiza. So, you may have to be patient or take a combination of buses as mentioned above on the way back.
Note that if you choose to ride the bus, you will need a SUBE card preloaded with money. Various kioskos in Bariloche will sell and load the card for you. Due to the drastic fluctuation in the Argentine peso in the recent years, we recommend checking with your accommodation, kiosk staff, or other locals to let you know how much you should load to your card for this trip. Once you load the money on your card, you cannot take it back.
If you happen to underestimate the amount, don’t worry! We saw multiple friendly people scan their own card for others. Be sure to have some small pesos in case.
When we visited Argentina, both the card and the trip cost only several USD. We purchased our SUBE card in Buenos Aires. Make sure you keep yours if you plan to travel to other spots that use this transport system in Argentina! We loaded one card for the both of us.
Things to do in Colonia Suiza
Colonia Suiza is a great spot to visit whether you are planning on spending just a half day there or a day or two camping to experience the area more in depth. We combined this half-day activity with a visit to Cerro Campanario.
Perhaps the most common attraction that draws visitors to this little town is the feria artesenal along with the traditional dish, curanto, made at the market. The market is open each Wednesday and Sunday. There are quite a few little shops selling jams and honey, mate and other teas, and a variety of handicrafts, such as jewelry, décor, wood carvings, and more. Bring some cash!
Near the center of the main street is an open area with outdoor seating. Surrounding the clearing are a bunch of food and beverage stands where you can grab a local beer, a burger, sausages, empanadas, and other foods. But the main draw to this spot is the curanto.
Curanto is made by digging a hole in the earth, lining it with hot stones, and covering the food with leaves and fabric until smoke begins to rise from the ground and the food is cooked. Curanto can include a variety of meats, such as sausage, beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, along with veggies like carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, and more. You can get curanto at a couple spots in Colonia Suiza, but we heard the market is the cheapest. Plus, you can watch as it is cooked!
Most visitors spend just a half day in Colonia Suiza, but if you want to stay longer and experience more of the area around the town, there are camping spots, hiking opportunities, kayak rentals, and beautiful scenery along the lakes in the area.