Altitude: 31 meters/102 feet, Population: 85,914, Telephone Code: 02262
At about 128 kilometers (80 miles) west of Mar del Plata with an elevation of 31 meters (102 feet), the port town of Necochea sits on a long stretch of broad, sandy beach. With a population of about 85,914 people, the town is nearly dead in the winter, although during the warm, humid summer it is packed with middle-class Argentines splashing in the surf and lounging in the sand. It also proudly calls itself home to the largest population of Danes in Argentina, the flat, tranquil landscape and choppy dark blue waters having reminded immigrants of their homeland in the early twentieth century, so pay a visit to one of the town's Danish-style delis if you're ever hit with a craving for some Scandinavian cheese and sausage. Necochea also claims some of the best waves in Argentina, so it attracts a lot of surfers. Its sandy, wooded parks also make it a popular vacation spot for equestrians, cyclists, and hikers alike.
Founded in 1881 and named for General Mariano Necochea, the town traditionally supported itself by importing wheat and repairing ships. Today it mainly gets by on summer tourism, although in recent years it has also become heavily involved in several projects concerning renewable sources of energy in an effort to preserve its pristine beaches and forests. In 2009 the town constructed its first windmill in the Parque Miguel Lillo, to be followed by several others scattered throughout town.
Necochea is a particularly great vacation spot for people on a budget, since entry to the majority of its most interesting attractions is either free or under $5. Parque Provincial Miguel Lillo contains tranquil beachfront as well as sandy forests, perfect for picnicking or outdoor sports. Across the RÃo QuequÃ©n Grande you can see Faro de QuequÃ©n, a 33-meter lighthouse built in 1921. A little beyond the lighthouse you can wander among the rusting shipwrecks of Playa los Ancantilados. Since Necochea doesn't try to appeal to ultra-wealthy vacationers, lodging and restaurants tend to be on the cheap side as well. Hostal del Rey charges about $5 a night for a bed in a spacious, quiet dorm, offering a decent complementary breakfast as well (Tel.: 02262-425170). You can usually find a private room and bath in one of the town's nicer hotels for under $40; Hotel NikÃ©n, a clean, elegant 4-star hotel, charges only $30 a night for a single room (Tel.: 02262-432323). Although Necochea is not known for its cuisine, there are a few decent, moderately priced restaurants located around Parque Miguel Lillo. La CabaÃ±a (Tel.: 02262-432082) doubles as a bar and serves up some great fresh seafood. El Viejo Contrabandista, specializing in pasta, is a slightly pricier option, but has a good location right on the beach (Tel.: 02262-432084). However you decide to spend your money while there, Nechochea is a good place to pass a lazy, sun-soaked summer.