Las Cuevas marks the rough edge of Argentina. The international Cristo Redentor tunnel, located at the western edge of this tiny mountain town, leads highway travelers to Chile. The few who take the time to stop in Las Cuevas are rewarded with unhindered views of the Andes, a rare hostel built in the townâ€™s archway, and a twisting and turning sightseeing trip to Cristo Redentor on the former international road.
Despite being home to, literally, a handful of permanent residents, Las Cuevas plays a significant role in Argentinaâ€™s border security. Military, border guards, and immigration offices work together to control the ridiculous amounts of cargo trucks that travel along Ruta 7 every day. In fact, this is the main transportation corridor for the Mercosur and trade goods from Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina travel to busy seaports in Chile via this route. The town played a similar role when the Trans-Andino railway carried passenger and cargo across Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile. At the time, it was the first rail link between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
The only accommodation available to visitors, aside from free camping in the rugged wilderness, is the Hostel Arco de Las Cuevas. Built in a stunning wood and stone building, the hostel provides standard dorm and double rooms. Breakfast is included in all rates. Not surprisingly, the hostel also features the townâ€™s only restaurant and bar.
Everything the town lacks in services is quickly forgotten when the wealth of adventure is realized. Throughout the winter (July-September), alpine skiing is popular, as the town sits 12 kilometers (7 mi) west of Penitentes Ski Area, and 8 kilometers (5 mi) east of Portillo Ski Resort. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the immediate area provide a fresh way to check out the Cristo Redentor monument, normally accessed by car throughout the drier months (December-May).
Summer months bring hikers to the area. Day trips to Quebrada de Matienzo or Glaciar del Hombre Cojo are solid options for visitors with limited time, while a trek into Aconcaguaâ€™s Plaza Francais base camp is ideal for longer trips. The townâ€™s altitude, at 3,151 m (10,337 ft) makes it an ideal acclimatizing point for hikers with the summit of Aconcagua in mind.