Altitude: 1,600 meters/5,248 feet, Population: 475, Telephone Code: 02948
The town of Caviahue takes its name from the neighboring lake with the same name, which means â€śsite of gathering and celebrationâ€ť in the indigenous Mapuche language. Hundreds of years ago, the Mapuches made an annual trek to the thermal waters in the area due to their health benefits, which continue to draw many visitors today. Caviahue was not officially registered as a town until 1986 and has grown quickly since then. Growth has been primarily centered around increasing the tourism industry. In 1999, the Neuquen provincial government declared that Caviahue and Copahue would actually technically only constitute one town in the future, Caviahue-Copahue. However, both areas are still considered unique and separate in many ways. As part of the Copahue Provincial Park, the areas surrounding the town offer nice hiking and biking opportunities that lead visitors by rare Pehuenia (monkey-puzzle) trees, waterfalls and fishing ponds. In the winter, the Caviahue ski resort (<u>www.caviahue.com</u>) sits on top of Volcano Copahue and allows travelers to take advantage of 36 different runs that are serviced by 11 lifts. The ski resort has grown rapidly over the past few years but still remains cheaper than many other Patagonian resorts. A free snow track sits near the bottom of the volcano so cross-country skiers have a well-maintained area to enjoy their activity. Other winter sports such as snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice skating and snowmobiling are available in the area as well.
The even smaller town of Copahue sits 18 km South of Caviahue and is famous for its volcano and thermal spa. In the Mapuche language, Copahue means â€śsite of sulfur,â€ť which is easy to understand because the hot springs release a sulfuric smell that permeates throughout the entire town. Copahue is much smaller and less attractive than Caviahue, and it also sits at a much higher elevation, which can be less comfortable to visitors. The high elevation leaves the town vulnerable to harsh weather conditions, which leaves Copahue covered by snow for most of the year. Due to storms, this thermal spa resort town closes for seven months every year; visitors who want to enjoy these renowned hot springs (<u>www.copahuespatermal.com.ar</u>; Tel. 0299-442-4140) must visit during the summer months from December to April. Throughout the entire year, visitors can relax at a spa in Caviahue (Tel. 0299-442-4140), to which thermal waters are transported from the natural source in Copahue. From January to March, travelers can also enjoy organized hikes or horseback rides up volcano Copahue, which takes a full day Caviahue Tours (http://www.caviahuetours.com/) is a great tour operator.
Budget travelers should plan to stay in Caviahue instead of Copahue, which includes more expensive options such as the Hotel Valle del Volcan (http://www.hotelvalledelvolcan.com.ar/) and Hotel Termas (http://www.hoteltermascopahue.com.ar/). Those hotels are located near the thermal spa and cost between $140 and $520 per night. Hebes House (http://www.hebeshouse.com.ar) in Caviahue is the only hostel in the area but is a quality option and an HI member. There are also a greater number of restaurants in Caviahue, the majority of which are located within hotels. RaĂces (Av. Bialous and Los Esquiadores; Cel: (02942) 15 454370) is a tea house and restaurant that serves local trout, lamb and rabbit. Restaurante QuiĂ±e's (<u>www.caviahuequinie.com.ar/restaurante.html</u>) popular menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free options as well as homemade soups and pastas, wild boar, deer, trout, lamb and goat. On Saturdays at 7:00, ConfiterĂa MachivĂ© provides a free tourist information session alongside their smoothies, sandwiches and typical cafe fare.
In March, Caviahue celebrates pine nuts from Pehuenia (monkey-puzzle) trees with their Fiesta del PiĂ±Ăłn. The Fiesta del VolcĂˇn, which honors the Copahue volcano takes place annually in late August or early September. Visit Caviahue's tourism office [Bungalows 5 and 6 on 8 de abril; tel. 495 036], which is located four blocks away from the lake.