El Bolsón is a town situated in the southwest of Río Negro Province, Argentina, at the foot of the Piltriquitron Mountain. Due to a series of valleys through the mountains of Chile to the Pacific Ocean, El Bolsón has an unusually mild climate for its southern location.
El Bolsón area's first non-indigenous inhabitants were German immigrants that arrived to the valley from Chile as an offshoot of of the colonization of Llanquihue. In the 1970s hippies from Buenos Aires migrated to El Bolsón. This is a popular destination for Argentinian students and some international hippies and hippie wannabes. It is a relaxed, nice place with lots of budget accommodation options, a reasonably-sized handicrafts market, a number of micro-brew beers (you be the judge about the range of quality), and tons of often free live music etc. All in all, a good place to be.
There are buses from Buenos Aires via Bariloche. You can also get there from Trelew.
El Bolson is a small place and is easily walkable. There was a bus service in 2010 to get from the downtown to nearby trailheads.
The markets in the city centre are worthwhile. The hiking in the area is really fantastic and the views from the city are lovely.
Hiking in the area is popular. The Club Andino Piltriquitron can provide information. You should register with them if you plan on doing any multi-day trips and they can store your luggage for a small fee. There are a number of refugios which you can visit during your hike. Some of these cabins have hot showers, bathrooms, unlimited yerba mate, meals etc. There is a range in how rustic these cabins are. You can camp around them and use facilities, or, if you don't have your camping gear (but do have a sleeping bag), you can sleep in the upstairs for a small fee. Many of these refugios sell homemade beer, wine, and food- much of which is grown or raised on-site. The more popular cabins can get very busy (so best to arrive early if you don't have a tent), but the wonderful staff do their best to accomodate. Warning: some of the trails can be treacherous at times, so good footwear is advised. The scenery is spectacular.
Great hiking opportunities around El Bolson. You can see Mirador Del Azul (very nice viewpoint with a view for a nice river valley), then Indian Head (a big rock in a form of a head) (price 70 peso for entrance), and after that Cascada Escondida (big and nice waterfall - more than 25M height) also entrance fee 70 pesos.
You can enjoy view of El Bolson from viewpoint and see old church and cemetery and continue to go to El Bolson following the river.
Hairdressers. There is only 1 in town, as is noticeable. It's by the service station on the main road.
A visit to the Artisan's Market is almost a must, where you can find all sorts of handicrafts ranging from metal-work, jewelry, knitting, wood-carving, clock-making and so on. If you see something you like, take the opportunity to buy it as the artist might not be there the next day - some of them are just traveling through.
There are four supermarkets in town - two "Todo's" and two "La Aninoma", where you can find pretty much anything you may need as far as food goes. They also sell clothes, toys, detergent, soap and so on.
There's a traditional and tasty ice cream shop in the center near the central park called "Jauja" which offers a great variety of tastes, some of them really Argentinian like "mate cocido" or some unique Patagonian ones like "sauco", "cassis", "calafate", "mosqueta" (all native fruits). Prices are not expensive nor cheap, but the experience is worth any price.
Artisan's Market also offers great variety of good homemade food, such as waffles with cream and raspberry, or with dulce de leche, and so on. You can also find empanadas, pizza, and all sort of homemade food, good in quality and cheap in price.
As this is the hop capital of Argentina, there are many local breweries situated in town. Here are a few:
If you do not need to book in advance, head to the visitor information center. They have helpful staff and a large board of up to date hostel information including location, pricing, and if it is currently closed for the season.
Hostels may be full in the high season so if you're picky you should book in advance.