Cerro Llao Llao is one of the lesser-known jewels of Argentina’s Lake District. Located near the mountain city of Bariloche in Nahuel Huapi National Park, this lofty lookout point in the countryside offers some incredible vistas, and is very easy to reach via a short hike. In a single day’s hiking on our last visit, we were able to see the pristine waters of Lago Moreno and ascend to the park’s highest point in the area, Cerro Llao Llao, for a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding lakes and mountains. In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about this off-beat trail.
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Cerro Llao Llao: a quick overview
At 1,025 metres altitude, Cerro Llao Llao is the highest point in Parque Municipal Llao Llao, which is part of the wider Nahuel Huapi National Park. Sounds like tough going? Don’t be fooled, it’s actually not very difficult to hike. The ascent is steady, and typically takes less than half an hour once you reach the base. The payoff at the top is magnificent – snow-capped mountains rising up from the water’s edge, and stretching out into the distance.
Cerro Llao Llao makes a fantastic alternative to the more popular Cerro Campanario, or you could even combine both hills into a day’s hiking, using public transport in between.
The route we took to Cerro Llao Llao, which we describe in this guide, comprises a 15-kilometre loop hike from Puerto Pañuelo, located approximately 25 kilometres west of Bariloche. The terrain is easy going and filled with scenic viewpoints and lake beaches, which make ideal stop-off points.
This hike can be completed comfortably in 3–4 hours. We stretched it out over a day, building in plenty of breaks to eat, rest, take photos and admire the view. However, if you’d prefer a much simpler, shorter return hike directly to the lookout, see the section on ‘alternative shorter hikes’ below.
We decided to take a guided morning tour of Circuito Chico the day before we did this hike. This was really useful for getting to know the area, and we also got to see the awesome views from the top of Cerro Campanario.
Tip: visit the tourist office in Centro Civico, Bariloche, and they will happily provide you with a free map of the hiking routes.
Where to stay for the Cerro Llao Llao trail
The nearby city of Bariloche is the ideal launchpad for exploring Nahuel Huapi National Park, and there are good public transport links to reach the start of the Cerro Llao Llao trail (explained below). Our guide to the best hostels in Bariloche compiles some excellent budget options.
An iconic, but perhaps a little extravagant option, would be a night’s stay in the legendary Hotel Llao Llao, located at the foot of jagged mountains near the start of the trail. The hotel was opened in 1938 and has become one of the area’s most popular landmarks, included on many day tours in the park. You’ll need to splash out, though – rooms begin at around 200 US dollars a night!
Airbnb is a popular alternative, whether you want to stay in the city or closer to the trail. I have to admit, we like having our own space to prepare before a hike and get refreshed afterwards! There are some great options in the area, such as this lovely entire flat, located a couple of hundred metres from the trailhead and very reasonably priced.
How to get to the Cerro Llao Llao trail
The starting point of the trail is easy to reach by bus from Bariloche. To ride the local buses, you will need to buy a ‘Sube’ card. This is a contactless top-up card system that is used in major urban areas across Argentina. If you visit Buenos Aires before Bariloche, the chances are you’ll already have one.
From Avenida San Martín take the 20 bus (see the route map here) to Circuito Chico. The journey costs 35 Argentine pesos.
Get off at Puerto Pañuelo, which is the second to last stop. The bus stops at the junction of Circuito Chico, Giusseppe Verdi and Avenida Exequiel Bustillo.
Once you’ve taken a moment to enjoy the view of Lago Nahuel Huapi, walk downhill along Circuito Chico with the lake to your right. Follow the road into a forested area, and after 300 metres or so, the Sendero de los Arrayanes trailhead will be on your left.
Part 1: Sendero de los Arrayanes
The Sendero de los Arrayanes trail is around 3 kilometres of gentle pathway through lush forestland and along the shores of Lago Moreno.
The path winds through diverse vegetation, flowers and bamboo for about a kilometre until you reach Playa Moreno, a beach on the lake. This is a nice spot to stop, with a view of the famous hotel Llao Llao across the water.
After another half hour’s walk you will reach Mirador Lago Moreno, the best viewpoint along this part of the trail. On the far side of the lake, forested hills and snow-capped mountains rise majestically above the water. This is an ideal place to stop for some rest and a bite to eat.
Soon after you continue, the path reaches the Circuito Chico road and the Sendero de los Arrayanes trail ends.
Part 2: the path to Villa Tacul
At the end of the Sendero de los Arrayanes trail, you have two options. You can cross over the road and continue the path into Parque Municipal Llao Llao. Alternatively, if you turn left down Circuito Chico, you can take a short detour to see Lago Escondido, about half a kilometre down the road.
Both options will eventually lead you to the path to Villa Tacul, a beach that looks out onto the huge Lago Nahuel Huapi.
Before you reach Villa Tacul, you can follow the path out to a lake-edge viewpoint at Bahia Llao Llao. After taking your time to admire the view here, the path swoops back round to the beach, which occupies a small inlet on the lake.
It’s another beautiful spot for a view, but we wouldn’t recommend getting in the water – the glacial lake is intensely cold!
Tip: take a map and mark the milestones on the hike, such as Lago Moreno, Villa Tacul, Bahia Llao Llao and Cerro Llao Llao. This will help you avoid straying from the route.
Part 3: climb Cerro Llao Llao
Now for the best part of the day. The rewarding view doesn’t come without a little uphill work, though.
Follow the path onwards from Villa Tacul, and you will reach a turn-off to the right signposted to Cerro Llao Llao. From the foot of the hill, it takes about 20–30 minutes to trek up the zig-zagging path to reach the summit.
Awaiting at the top is a breathtaking panoramic view of Lago Nahuel Huapi, Lago Moreno and mountains across the entire horizon. For us, this was one of the most memorable sights during a month of trekking in Patagonia – and there was a lot of competition for that honour!
Some people say the nearby Cerro Campanario is the best viewpoint in Bariloche, but while they’re both fantastic, this was our favourite. This video gives a little taster of what you’ll see… but it’s no substitute for being there of course!
Part 4: return to Puerto Pañuelo
Sadly, the final leg of the day’s hike is the least visually pleasing. After descending from the top of Cerro Llao Llao, take a right and follow the path all the way back to the Circuito Chico road.
The track does pass through some interesting sections of woodland, where you can discover some of the nuances of the region’s biodiversity.
You will rejoin the road about five minutes’ walk along from where you started the Sendero de los Arrayanes trail earlier in the day. Simply follow the road up to Puerto Pañuelo, where you can hop on the 20 bus back to town.
Alternative shorter hikes
If you don’t want to trek this entire circuit, each segment of it is possible to undertake separately. If you would prefer to only see the highlight of Cerro Llao Llao, you can make the return hike to it from Puerto Pañuelo in a couple of hours.
Instead of turning left onto Sendero de los Arrayanes at the beginning, walk a few metres further on and you will reach the entrance point to the Cerro Llao Llao trail on your right.
Similarly, a return hike of Sendero de los Arrayanes would take about two hours. You can either return on the same path, or loop back around on the Circuito Chico road.
What to take for trekking in Bariloche
The trail in Parque Municipal Llao Llao isn’t a very strenuous one, and you don’t need to bring hiking poles. It’s still wise to wear sturdy walking boots, and a warm, waterproof jacket to protect you from the elements.
Also be sure to pack plenty of drinking water, snacks, a picnic for lunch, and some sunscreen.
Best time to hike the Cerro Llao Llao trail
We did this trail in September, which is right at the beginning of the trekking season. As Bariloche is in northern Patagonia, it warms up a bit earlier than famous spots further south like Torres Del Paine and El Chaltén. For more insight into the seasons in the region, see our post on the best times to visit Patagonia.
Many of the nearby mountain hiking routes and refugios were still closed at this point. Parque Municipal Llao Llao, however, is open all year round, including the path up to Cerro Llao Llao. We would still recommend visiting in the warmer months between September and April.
Tip: the view from Cerro Llao Llao faces west, so if you time your arrival just right, you can see a mesmerising sunset across the lakes and mountains.
For more ideas for your visit, see our article on things to do in Bariloche. For further resources on travelling in the region, read our Patagonia itinerary and travel guide and Patagonia trekking guide.
Have you been trekking in Bariloche and have an experience to share? Let us know in the comments below.
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