Altitude: 570 meters/1,870 feet, Population: 30,000, Telephone Code: 02945
This cute town of 30,000 is a gem for the traveler that enjoys places off the beaten path, with minimal tourists and friendly locals. Most people traveling through the area are on their way to the nearby and amazing Parque Nacional Los Alerces or Bariloche, but Esquelâ€™s kind people and quaint feel makes it a worthy stop.
A true Argentine town not dressed up for tourism, Esquel is an authentic welcoming oasis in the open steppe. The village, named after the native Mapuche Indian word for thorn (the local flora known for their stickier characteristics), was originally discovered by gold diggers in 1883. Today the town is in a fight for its life against a proposed gold mine that is predicted to irreversibly destroy water sources.
Instead of local income coming from metallic treasures, Esquel now is one of Chubut provinceâ€™s main tourist centers. The village is spread out over a flat valley, nestled at the base of towering peaks. The natural environment surrounding el pueblo is rich with activities, like world class fishing, great hiking and exciting class two, three and four white water rafting. It is also home to a little ski area, La Hoya, which offers some of the mellowest crowds and best terrain in the Lakes District. Esquel is also the caretaker for the world famous La Trochita, a 1906 narrow-gauge steam train.
The restaurant scene sticks to the normal Argentine fare of parrillas, pastas and pizza. The accommodations vary from classy hotel and spas to the basic hostel, many of which are located in the center of town. In Villa Ayulen, just outside of Esquel by two kilometers, is a large, safe neighborhood of cabaÃ±as (cabins) that offer the best bang for your buck. It should be known that Esquel is an Argentine town that strictly adheres to the siesta hours of 12:30 â€“ 4: 30 pm, meaning local businesses will be closed during these times.
Telephone code: 02945; elevation: 1,870 feet (570 meters); population: 30,000 full time residents.