Bariloche, a botanist’s dream vacation

Surprising flowers await hikers in a variety of ecosystems.

Bonnie Tucker / FST
The delicate high-altitude Andean flowers that bask in the sun amid dry, coarse volcanic rocks in the northern sector of Argentine Patagonia are one of the miracles of nature that fascinate hikers at this time of year. Just a couple of months ago, the plants that support these miraculous blooms were buried beneath meters of snow.

At lower elevations on the same mountains, forest floors are strewn with beautiful yellow alstroemerias.

Sun-loving fire bushes border lakes and clearings, and shrubs bearing yellow and pink blooms beautify the steppe.

Meanwhile, the humid forests tucked away in Andean valleys are rife with fuchsias and wild orchids.

Around the northern Patagonian town of Bariloche, arid steppe, humid forest and high mountain environments are very near each other, and in the spring and summer the blooms that represent them await hikers who have a few days to explore the surroundings.

Diversidad, a travel agency run by native son mountaineer Clemente Arko, offers a wide variety of hiking excursions in this area, including specialized hikes for botanists. In addition to the photos of the viola, the forest-floor alstroemerias and the dainty wild orchid seen above, they have sent us the following photos of high-altitude blooms to share with you.

Seeing is believing.
One of the mountain tops around the Challhuaco Valley where these blooms can be seen is included in their four-day hiking program which includes other environments as well: the Mount Tronador area that offers nalca plants with sunshade-sized leaves, fire bushes, fuchsias and a “black” glacier; the humid forest of the Llao Llao Peninsula area, and the steppe with caves, ancient rock paintings and lots of birds.

PHOTO CREDITS: An example of floral mimicry, Diversidad. Alstroemerias in the forest, and detail of a bloom, Diversidad. Flowering fire bush and neneo shrubs, Bonnie Tucker. Fuchsias, Bonnie Tucker. Chloraea alpina orchid, Diversidad. Peak of Mount Challhuaco, Diversidad. Oxalis, Rhodophiala, Ranunculus and Viola flowers, Diversidad.