see + do
Comarca Andina (Andean region)
Concierge.com's insider take:
This less-traveled district, falling broadly along the 42nd parallel south, is a gently rolling, cypress-forested mountain region where fruit, berry, and hop farms fuel a strong tradition of locally manufactured beer, liquors, and preserves. The only air access is to Esquel in the south (Aerolineas Argentinas operates three flights a week from Buenos Aires, see Fact Sheet), where a narrow-gauge steam railway, La Trochita, still puffs gamely across the Patagonian steppe; the 3.5-hour Esquel–Nahuel Pan excursion departs once a week in winter, daily in summer (54-2945-451403; www.latrochita.org.ar; $16 per person). Welsh settler culture thrives in nearby Trevelin, but most visitors to Esquel come to hike in Los Alerces National Park (pictured), set up to protect ancient stands of alerce trees, some of which are more than 3,000 years old. Esquel offers few real hotels. Hostería Cumbres Blancas, the best of the bunch, offers a competent restaurant specializing in locally caught trout and game, a modest spa, and 20 cozy, light-filled rooms (54-2945-455100; www.cumbresblancas.com.ar). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid favored the bucolic Cholila Valley, just north of the park, where in 1901 they built a cabin and settled down as law-abiding ranchers—until Pinkerton detectives caught up with them four years later. Cassidy was enthralled by Cholila's benign climate and lush pasture; a century later, Argentine winemaker Bodegas Weinert cited the same qualities when it set up a vineyard in the nearby Epuyén valley, becoming the most southerly winery in the Americas. The valleys around El Bolsón, the northernmost town in Comarca Andina, provided protection of a different sort in the 1970s, when hundreds of hippies fled Argentina's fiery urban politics to live on communes.
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