Esquel is located in the province of Chubut, at the foot of the Andes mountain range. Its natural environment is spectacular, to which you should dedicate at least 2 or 3 days of your trip. Discover in this article things to do in Esquel and enjoy!
Esquel is a small city and from any point you can see the high mountains that surround it, just like in El Bolsón. Famous for being the final station of the Trochita, for its ski center La Hoya and the beautiful Los Alerces National Park.
The whole area, or one could say almost the whole province, began to be populated especially after 1865, with the arrival of the Welsh settlers. Although “esquel” is not a word derived from Welsh but from the Tehuelche language, its neighbor Trevelin does have a Welsh name meaning Town of the Mill (Trelew means Town of Lewis).
In this article we will not only cover everything there is to see in Esquel, but we will also tell you things to do in Trevelin.
📜 TABLE OF CONTENTS
Things to do in Esquel in 2 or 3 days
1) In search of the Trochita
On our trip to Esquel, we passed by one of its most visited places, the Viejo Expreso Patagónico train station. We went late in the afternoon and found everything closed (even the museum). We were also unable to see the famous “Trochita” train. And although the recommendation is to go earlier (and even take a train ride), we were still able to enjoy the beautiful colors of the sunset over the mountains.
We were able to observe the reason for the name given to the train: the tracks are very narrow, 75 cms wide. As the tracks are called “trocha”, that is why the train is called “Trochita“. Moreover, its importance lies in the fact that today it is the only train of its kind in the world that is still in operation.
They have a tourist service that runs only 20 kilometers to Nahuel Pan (then they have a passenger service to El Maitén). It departs every Saturday of the year at 10 am and returns at 1 pm. In high season and on demand, it departs up to six days a week at the same time, and may even have another departure at 2 pm.
✏️ Visiting the train station and museum is free. If you want to travel on the Trochita train, round-trip tickets to the primitive town of Nahuel Pan cost $ 6,000 for Argentine residents ($ 10,000 if you are a foreigner) in 2022. Discounts are available.
If like us you don’t see the train, you can go to the access road to the city, right in front of the prison, where there is alocomotive that you will always find with children playing.
2) La Hoya Ski Resort
If you like winter sports, Esquel has the Hoya Ski Center, which is about 13 kms from the city on the mountain side. But if you are traveling to Esquel in summer, you can also take a chairlift and go hiking in the mountains.
📷 Book your tour of Esquel and La Hoya here.
3) Los Alerces National Park
One of the main things to do in Esquel is Los Alerces National Park, a large protected area that includes ancient trees, mountains and beautiful lakes.
🔘 Check out the rest of the World Heritage Sites we have visited.
Los Alerces National Park is so large that there are 3 access gates to this national park: north, center and south. What you need to take into account to gain access is the following:
- They only charge admission from December to April (until approximately Easter).
- The north door communicates with the center door. The northern one comes from Las Cholilas, another town similar to El Bolsón. The best one to enter if you are in Esquel is the one in the center.
- The south gate is the one that goes around the Futaleufú dam and since it is a private construction of great magnitude, it has barred gates and access is limited from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all year round.
The entrance fee to Los Alerces National Park is $800 for nationals and $2,700 for foreigners for the year 2022. Discounts are available for students, retirees and residents.
📷 Book your excursion to Los Alerces National Park here. Includes: transfers and guide.
Home Los Alerces National Park Center
At the Tourist Office we were recommended to visit the Pasarela del Río Arrayanes, before arriving at Lago Verde. So that’s where we went. From Esquel it is about 70 kilometers, half of which are paved and the other half is gravel.
The landscapes are a dream. We bordered Lake Futalaufquen, always with the mountains in the background, and shortly after arriving at the Arrayanes River, we found the parking lot to begin the hike to the footbridge. It is not very far and is an uneven dirt road (not suitable for baby strollers or if you have reduced mobility).
We had a picnic on the banks of the Arrayanes River and then we went on the “El Lahuán Solitario” Interpretive Trail. It is a 2 km hike in which the objective is to see a “Lahuán”, which in Mapuche means “grandfather”, and is the name given to the Alerce in that language, the millenary tree that the National Park protects and gives its name to.
Throughout the road to the Solitary LahuánWe came across several posters that told us which are the most important other trees in the areawith those that co-inhabit the larch (such as myrtle, cypress or radal) and those that co-inhabit the alerce (such as myrtle, cypress or radal). most typical animals of the park (such as the puma, the huemul or the colipo). A path where you not only breathe fresh air, but also learn.
Bordering the Menéndez River, we reach the Lahuán Solitario, which does not fit in a single photo because it is very tall. This tree is 300 years old and 62 cm in diameter.
We did not stop with just this hike, but continued on to the Chucao port, which is the departure point for excursions on Lake Menéndez. These take you to the ancient larch forest in Puerto Sagrario, where you can see the Torrecillas Glacier from much closer.
If you are interested in taking the Lake Safari to the Alerzal Milenario, there are daily departures from Puerto Chucao at 11:15 a.m. (you must be there at least half an hour before). The return is at approximately 4 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at Glaxiar.com.
Then we saw another sign that said that less than 300 meters away there was a viewpoint to the Torrecillas Glacier. As there were not many meters more, we continued walking until we found a small stone beach, and in the background we could see the glacier.
Afterwards we retraced our steps to return, although it was also possible to walk around, although it was a couple of kilometers more.
Portada Sur of Los Alerces National Park, the Futaleufú Dam
When we decided to stop by the Futaleufú Hydroelectric Complex it was a little late. We arrived at the access gate at 16:55 and it was open. There was no one to ask for schedules and we went in anyway.
The way to visit the dam is part of a circuit that climbs a winding road 120 meters high and crosses the 600 meters long dam. We went down for a few minutes over the dam to see the scenery. On one side, we saw the winding road we climbed and on the other the lake that has been generated as a result of the construction of the dam.
This large new lake that originates from the dam is called Amutui Quimey, which in the Mapuche language means “Lost Beauty”.
On the way we saw all the constructions related to the dam, a huge pipe coming out of the mountain to go back into it and the powerhouse. There are guided tours and even an interpretive trail that takes you through the history of the dam.
When we wanted to leave the park, we found that the gate was locked. In case the same thing happens to you as happened to us, there is a small telephone on the right side, which we called and although no one answered, the doors opened automatically, remotely, and we were let out. The advice is not to enter the south gate of the park after 4:30 p.m. and to dedicate more time to it, since there are also other trails to follow.
4) Things to do in Trevelin
Trevelin derives from a Welsh word meaning“Town of the Mill” and the reason why it is so called is because of the company“Molino Harinero de la Compañía Andes” inaugurated in 1918. It was a very important company in its time, founded by a Welshman.
After the death of its owner, in the middle of the 20th century, the business started to go bad and the mill ended up closing. Some time later, the Trevelin Regional Museum was inaugurated in the same building, where the history of the city, the Welsh immigration and the mill, of course, are told.
The city breathes Welsh culture. Not only does it have a couple of Tea Houses where you can delight yourself with the most delicious cakes and sweet things (if you are not planning to visit Gaiman, this is a recommended plan for things to do in Trevelin), but also has a specialized Welsh language school and Bethel Chapelideal to learn more about this culture.
📷 Check here the excursion to Trevelin and Futaleufú and make a reservation. You will discover the Welsh legacy of Trevelin and the Futaleufú Hydroelectric Complex.
On the way to the border with Chile, on route 259, there are also places that we were recommended to see, such as the Nant and Fall Waterfalls and Vineyards or the Nant Fach Flour Mill.
5) Crossing to Futaleufú in Chile
Futaleufú is the first Chilean town that crosses the Futaleufú River International Pass and for this we had to travel about 70 kms from the city of Esquel.
Our visit was rather administrative. Benji had entered Argentina with a European passport and, in spite of having also presented his Argentine ID card (we were thinking of having him get an Argentine passport in our country because it was cheaper than in Spain), they stamped his passport as a tourist and gave him a 90-day maximum stay. So we left for Chile so that Benji could re-enter the country with the Argentine DNI, which is allowed between the two countries.
We have an article with the advantages and disadvantages of traveling with dual citizenship and how we do about it, in case you might be interested.
We took a picnic lunch, some milanesa sandwiches to have a picnic somewhere outdoors. We chose the Laguna Espejo to sit and eat.
Then we went to the Plaza de Armas and observed the architecture of the town. Little wooden houses, the Chapel of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, the Chilean flag everywhere and the mountains looming in the heights. Beautiful place.
In front of the square is the Tourist Office, where you can get information about trails and other places to visit in Futaleufú.
📷 Check here the tours in Futaleufú and book your place.
Things to do in Esquel in 3 days, Ice tunnels
If you have an extra day, one of the excursions to do is the Esquel ice tunnels, which lasts six hours.
On the summit of Cerro La Torta, about 50 kilometers from Esquel, there are naturally formed ice tunnels that can reach up to 100 meters in length and where you can go inside with a specialized guide.
This phenomenon occurs because the temperature of the rocky ground melts the lower layer of snow, while the upper part remains standing for a while longer.
The tour is done in a 4×4 vehicle through the forest and then there is a one hour hike over the base of the hill to reach the tunnels. On the way you can appreciate a waterfall and breathtaking views of Los Alerces National Park.
The excursion can only be done with an agency, it is not possible to go on your own.
💯⚠️📌 Ice tunnels can only be seen during the summer, mainly from early January to early February.
Tours in Esquel, Piedra Parada
Another excursion to do in Esquel if you don’t visit in season where you can see the ice tunnels is Piedra Parada.
The excursion goes about 150 kilometers into the Patagonian steppe to reach the valley of the Chubut River, where this volcanic rock is more than 200 meters high.
In the area you will contemplate the enormous walls of the Buitrera canyon and ancient cave paintings. It is also a perfect area for climbing enthusiasts.
Practical information for traveling to Esquel
Where to stay in Esquel?
There are hotels, apartments in the center and beautiful cabins on the outskirts of the city. Three recommendations for lodging in Esquel are:
- La Cautiva Cabins: is located in Villa Ayelén, a neighborhood south of Esquel, on the road to Trevelin. They are simple and beautiful Andean style cabins, with wifi and kitchen. We stayed here.
- Pintó Hostel: hostel Pintó Hostel: economic double and shared rooms near the center of the city. It has a shared kitchen. Ideal for backpackers and young people.
- Hosteria Cumbres Blancas: very good facilities in the center of the city. It has a sauna and parking for cars. Excellent breakfast and service.
🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels in Esquel.
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