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Los Antiguos

Los Antiguos is a favorite stop for travelers on the Argentine-Chilean Patagonia circuit. It’s a quiet town near the shore of the intensely blue Lago Buenos Aires (in Chile, Lago General Carrera-the second largest lake in South America, covering over 2,240 sq km / 865 sq mi). Los Antiguos was also a cherished place for the Aonikenk who spent their twilight years here. They called it I Keu Kenk (My Ancestors or The Ancient Ones). The village is surrounded by that nation’s burial grounds, and the region’s warm microclimate is an enjoyable retreat from the cold Patagonian plains and fjords.

This climate is also favorable for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. The season from early October (strawberries) to April (apples). The biggest crop, though, is cherries, earning Los Antiguos the title, “Capital Nacional de Cerezas,” with a festival in January. Over a dozen chacras (small farms) are open to visitors, who can tour the grounds and buy local produce. Don Neno prepares sweets, marmalades and over 30 types of liqueurs (San Martín and Tehuelches, Tel: 54-2963-491-403, E-mail: don_neno_xxi@hotmail.com). The tourism office has a pamphlet of the Chacra circuit.

Avenida 11 de Julio, bedecked with flowering planters, is Los Antiguos’ main street, where you'll find the tourism office and other major businesses. The cobblestone municipality building is a stunning pink, with eight Argentine flags flapping in the breeze.

Across from the city hall, a staircase leads up to Mirador Uendeunk (Good Spirit). Atop the hill, the statue of an Aonikenk man points towards the lake and Cerro Castillo on the distant horizon.

In the late afternoon, young men with fishing rods in hand head to the lake, about one kilometer (0.6 mi) north of downtown. Fishing is a popular pastime here. Anyone casting a line into the water will be rewarded with salmon, and rainbow and brown trout. (If you want to try your luck, get a fishing license at the tourism office.) Lago Buenos Aires is also a great place for non-anglers, who come to drink in the landscape’s beautiful snowy mountains skirted with jade-green forests. The lake also teems with flamingos, black-necked swans, herons, ducks and other waterfowl.

Besides the national cherry festival, Los Antiguos hosts other parties. At the end of October is the Fiesta del Lago, with a fishing tournament, concerts and other activities. DĂ­a del Pueblo is February 5 and features a free asado (BBQ) for everybody. On Good Friday, during Semana Santa, a procession follows the Via Crucis from the west side of town to the crucifix on the Chilean border.

Los Antiguos hasn’t always been so bucolic. The violent eruption of Volcán Hudson (August 8-15, 1991) generated electrical storms and torrential rains in this area. The ash fallout measured up to 45 centimeters (18 in).

Before Ruta Provincial 43 leaves town, heading towards Perito Moreno and Comodoro Rivadavia, a hand grasping a bunch of cherries bids travelers farewell. Another road, Ruta Provincial 4, heads southward to Lago Posadas. The dirt route follows the RĂ­o Zeballos and past Monte Zeballos (2,743 m / 8,915 ft). Along this seldom-transited road are rock paintings done by Aonikenk and their predecessors.

(Altitude: 248 m / 814 ft, Population: 2,047, Phone Code: 02963)

Services

The very helpful SecreterĂ­a de Turismo has maps, lodging, bus schedules and other information (daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Av. 11 de Julio 446, Tel: 54-2963-491-261, e-mail: losantiguos@epatagonia.gov.ar, URL: www.losantiguos.gov.ar). The village also has police (Gregores 12, Tel: 54-2963-491-250), hospital (Patagonia Argentina 68, Tel: 49-1303), pharmacies, post office (Gregores 19), phone/Internet centers and laundries. Banco Santa Cruz has ATMs and exchanges U.S. dollars and euros (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-1 p.m. 11 de Julio 531). Some local businesses also exchange U.S. dollars, euros and chilean pesos.

ArtesanĂ­a

  • Quinto Gusto (Av. 11 de Julio 477, E-mail: quintogusto@hotmail.com) —homemade, gourmet alfajores, Patagonian wine
  • Pesca Aike PatagĂłnico (11 de Julio 853)—fishing and camping gear

Tours

  • Oswaldo Zeme (Tel: 0297-1513-7813)—fishing
  • Cesán Pablo (Tel: 0297-1540-1349)—to area sites

Hotels

  • Camping Municipal (Ruta Provincial 43, east side of town, Tel: 54-2963-491-265)--$1.50 per person, per day, plus one-time $4.50 tent charge; also extra fees for vehicles; also rents cabañas
  • Albergue Padilla (San MartĂ­n 44, Tel: 54-2963-491-140)—dorm $11.50, double prĂ­vate room $34
  • HosterĂ­a Antigua Patagonia (Ruta Provincial 43, east access, Tel: 49-1038, URL: www.antiguapatagonia.com.ar) —single $57, double $69

Restaurants

  • Misereren Restaurante (Perito Moreno and Presidente PerĂłn, Tel: 54-2963-491-162)
  • El Negro B Parrilla (11 de Julio 571, Tel: 54-2963-491-358)

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Other places nearby Los Antiguos : Perito Moreno, Rio Turbio, Parque Nacional Perito Moreno , Cueva De Las Manos , Lago Posadas, El Chaltén, Gobernador Gregores and El Calafate.







By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

09 Jul 2010

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