Altitude: 1,002 meters/3,287 feet, Populaiton: 35,000, Telephone Code: 02942
With 35,000 residents, Zapala is the third largest city in the Neuquen province. This desert town was founded in 1913 by gauchos, or Argentine cowboys. A year later, the city's population took off when a railway was built that connected the town to Buenos Aires and provided merchants with a way to get their products to a larger market. Today, mining and oil, rather than tourism, are the major industries here. There are very few forms of entertainment for tourists, but many travel through Zapala on their way to Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca, which is only 30 km southwest of the town. Zapala is a fine place to stop and can give tourists an idea of what life is like for the Argentinians who live in this geographically diverse province. For entertainment, visit the casinos, museums, movie theater or art gallery, or rent skis in the winter. Spend your time here walking around the town's outskirts where you can find many rock formations, trees, flowers and animals that are unique to the area.