The long roads of Argentine Patagonia offer a thousand landscapes that surprise the traveler challenging his imagination with new images, colors and shapes at every step he takes. This is bound to happen during the fall in El Bolsón and especially when going through the Fogel canyon.
As a prelude to a picturesque and vigorous community, the access road is wide and smooth, forging through the rainbow-hued surrounding hillsides. Only the gentle and welcoming town of El Bolsón could contain the euphoria the traveler experiences when confronted with this outpouring of beauty.
El Bolsón owes its name to its cupped shape, enclosed by mountains and ancient glaciers, that refuge it under the aegis of the high mountain tops. The town is located at the foot of Mt Piltriquitrón and on the banks of Quemquemtreu river, totally surrounded by snowcapped peaks, venerable forests, and unpolluted river and lake waters.
Its first settlers were of Chilean origin. In 1902 the valley was declared to be Argentine and in 1933 the city was founded at 128 kilometers from Bariloche and 20 from Lake Puelo.
To get there you have to skirt lakes Gutiérrez, Mascardi and Guillelmo along National Route Nº 258, and after crossing Pampa del Toro, Cañadón de la Mosca and El Foyel, you get to El Bolsón, on a day-long trip.
Most of its buildings are of stone, with cypress wood roof tiles. There are good hotels and campsites there, as well as good bus services to Bariloche and Chile through the Cardenal Samoré Pass.
It is an enchanting town in the middle of the fertile Valle Nuevo, surrounded by the Nevado range on the west and Mt Piltriquitrón mountain on the east, the latter being a favorite skiing spot in winter.
Further on, through farms and orchards growing hops, wheat, corn, sweet and sour cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants and apples, one gets to Lake Puelo to enjoy its very special light blue-turquoise coloring.
El Bolsón, geographically, historically and ecologically is linked with Lake Puelo, El Hoyo, Epuyén, Cholila, El Manso and El Maitén valleys. All of these areas have begun to systematically develop eco-tourism
In 1984 El Bolsón was declared a "nuclear-free zone". Thus an attempt is being made to keep this area free of radioactive contamination for future generations. This defense of the environment is a constant local concern, reflected in the Municipal Constitutional Charter, that names it an Ecological Municipality.
Its heterogeneous community is formed by generations of immigrants from all the provinces in the country, as well as an important wave of European immigration attracted by the magnetism of its exuberant landscape and the quiet mountain village life.
El Bolsón is a place that can be enjoyed all year round. In winter, its landscape is rounded off with ski practice on Mt Perito Moreno, 25 kilometers away, and well furbished with all necessary facilities.
The rest of the year different open air activities are carried out in close contact with nature. Spring and fall, with their multiple colors and shades, invite one to enjoy diving into a multicolored havoc of red, ocher and yellow.
The community is developing a certain level of agricultural activity by growing hops as a fragrant for the beer industry (a good source of income), with harvesting in March, and by producing fine fruit preserves from strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, sweet and sour cherries, boysenberries, Corinth grapes, elderberries, maqui, calafate (local araucano names), and cassis.
In the area goats and sheep are also kept for the manufacture of dairy products such as cheeses and yogurts, there are trout nurseries and regional chocolates and ice cream are made.
Among the mainstays of the local economy are also a wide variety of woolen fabrics, treatment of dry flowers and plants and crafts made with these products, forestry and tourism, and craftwork in a wide variety of materials. The National Hop Festival takes place here from February 17 to 20 each year.
REGIONAL ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the foot of Mt Piltriquitrón at Pagano Square, a large number of craftsmen gather to sell a wide range of legitimate craft products.
This is the "Feria Regional de El Bolsón" (El Bolsón Regional Fair), in which multiple cultural expressions constitute an authentic reflection of the people who work every day to create this veritable art gallery of colors, music and scents that typify this world-famous crafts fair.
Formed by a group of 70's "hippies", the Fair today has more than 250 stands inviting tourists to explore, sample and examine the whole range of original and delicious regional products, such as: ceramics, wool products, woodwork, leather work, metalwork, dry flower crafts, jams and preserves, fresh vegetables, just-picked flowers, hand crafted knives, handmade candles, clothes, cheeses, food of all kinds, musical instruments, and every conceivable item that is produced by the local artisans, making the Fair one of the most important ones in South America.
On your trip to El Bolsón, you cannot miss visiting this perfect reflection of the number and variety of local craftsmen, including some who work at their trade in full view of visiting tourists, who may admire their skillful and truly typical workmanship.
EXCURSIONS AND SPORTS IN EL BOLSON
From El Bolsón day trips can be made to the picturesque local Andean Region areas: Lake Puelo, Cholila, El Hoyo, Epuyén, El Maitén, etc. Besides, there are always things to do, such as:
- Hang-gliding from Mt Piltriquitrón.
- Foot or horseback excursions or car trips to Mallín Ahogado and Catarata, Cabeza del Indio, Azul River and its camping ground, Las Golondrinas, Villa Turismo, Azcona, Lake Puelo, Lake Cholila, Lake Rivadavia, Lake Epuyén, Our Lady's Groot, Escondida Waterfall, Falda Piltriquitrón, Cerrito Amigo and Mt Radal.
- Fishing from November to April (trout fishing deserves special mention, not only for the quality of the specimens caught, but also because of the magnificent scenery of crystal clear rivers and blue lakes that fishermen can enjoy while waiting for the bite).
- Rafting on Azul River.
- Horse trekking along the hills and mountainsides towards Chile and Bariloche.
- Alpine skiing on the runs of Mt Perito Moreno.
- Long-distance skiing on natural trails.
- Mountain Biking all over the area, all year round.
- Bird watching, in expert company.
- A museum-piece operational steam-engine train in El Maitén, "La Trochita".
- Trekking, preferably from September through April.
- El Bolsón from the air (bird's eye) in spring, summer and fall.
- Pine mushroom harvesting in fall.
- Agro-tourism, where you choose dates to share in farm activity.
- Fine fruit picking, especially in summer.
- Regional Festivities, December through February, one in each town.
- Arts and craftwork in the craftsmen's own home-workshops, whenever you like.
- Walnut and chestnut picking in April.
- Canoeing as from October in rivers and lakes.
- Bathing in the lakes during January and February.
- A dreamily restful landscape, all year round.
- Photo safaris, these are recommended in spring and fall.
- Camping from September through April.
- Mountain climbing - ask about the best walls or rock faces.
- The local craft chocolates and ice cream - only for the sweet-toothed.
- Jams, jellies and preserves, craft-made with local fruits.
- The Regional Crafts Fair, all year round.
- Tea houses, in winter holidays and during the summer.
- Finally, forget your diet and have your fill of the chocolates, ice creams, sweets, liqueurs, yoghurts, cheeses, candy, fruit, beer and other home-made and usually non-fattening delicacies
LAGO PUELO NATIONAL PARK
Fourteen kilometers south of El Bolsón is Lago Puelo National Park. After crossing the 42nd Parallel, the border line between Río Negro and Chubut, you go along the end of the slopes of Mt Radal on a paved road lined with small farms, craftsmen's workshops and forestry developments. The turquoise waters of the lake reflect the greens of the forest and the eternal white snows of the Mt Tres Picos.
Created in 1937, this is one of Argentina's smallest parks: it is only 23,700 hectares in area. Puelo is a Mapuche word, meaning "water on the east". It is the lowest valley in the area.
Due to its minimal height above sea level (only 200 meters), its geographical location and its geological formation, a unique Patagonian flora has developed here, in the midst of an exceptional landscape and micro-climate.
The turquoise blue of the water is due to sedimentation from the huge glacial fields and lesser glaciers located on the sources of the rivers Turbio, Azul and Epuyén. The precipitous green-blanketed mountain slopes gently plunge into the warm waters of the lake shores, inviting one to go on an interesting lake excursion.
Summer shore temperatures, due to the low altitude, reach 36º Celsius, warming the water to 20º Celsius and enabling lake sailing activity without the numbing coldness featured by most of Patagonia's lakes.
One of the Park's main attractions is its forests of pataguas or pitras, trees related to the arrayanes, which are rarely found in forests this size.
Their deeply scored trunks grow to an unusually large girth in the Park, creating a Gothic-cathedral-like atmosphere in the wooded depths, enhanced by a silence inducing the tourist to hushed awe.
The visitor who wanders along the Cordillera trails, discovering little fine-sand beaches and clear waters on the way, will participate in a major sense-surround spectacle that will remain engraved forever on his/her memory..
Recreationally speaking there is an information service as well as daily barbecue areas, campsites, restrooms, guided horse treks, a jetty, a launching ramp and the Park and Prefectura (Coastguard) offices.
The sailing enthusiast will find a wide offer of options: walks to the Chilean border, to the mouth of Turbio River, along the coast for a short distance, boat fishing or motorboat renting for unhindered sailing on the lake, or else canoeing.
Contact the Asociación Ornitológica (Bird Watching Association) of Lago Puelo and arrange a guided excursion to carry out this activity. Once you have got as far as the mouth of Azul River you will be loath to leave this valley.
LAGO PUELO VILLAGE
Although already given municipal status on April 2, 1928, this was a sleepy little place until a few years ago. Today, avidly seeking an alternative lifestyle, Puelo's population includes large numbers of new arrivals.
This is a dynamic community basing its prosperity on family industries associated with tourism services, the production and processing of fine fruits (jams and preserves), nursery gardening (flowers and plants), dry flower production, hops and crafts, among others.
The Lago Puelo Municipality includes the Urban Complex, Villa del Lago, Entre Ríos and Las Golondrinas.
The latter small city, located on the shore of Lake Puelo, harboring over 5,000 inhabitants, serves as urban center for the National Park by the same name.
The fertility of its soil enables agricultural and livestock activities like those of the neighboring areas.
It is approached from El Bolsón, crossing the gateway to Chubut that guides travelers to this remote spot in the Cordillera. For those that come from Chubut, you take the fork off National Route Nº 258, at the satellite receiving station.
Lago Puelo celebrates an annual "forest festival". This includes a colorful and varied crafts fair that acts as a framework for the festivity and musical shows. Coinciding with this event is the Ecopuelo Ecological Workshop, with the participation of different entities that promote environmental awareness.