Junín de los Andes
Where the steppe meets the sierra, the Río Chimehuin gushes from the base of 3,776-meter Volcán Lanín to become one of Argentina’s top trout streams near Junín de los Andes. Styling itself Neuquén’s “trout capital,” Junín also provides the best access to the central sector of Parque Nacional Lanín, which takes its name from the symmetrical cone along the Chilean border.
In addition to its natural attractions, Junín promotes itself as a pilgrimage site for links to the recently beatified Chilean Laura Vicuña, a young girl who (legend says) willed her own death to protest her widowed mother’s affair with an Argentine landowner, and for the ostensible blend of Catholic and Mapuche traditions here. Founded in 1883, during General Roca’s so-called “Conquista del Desierto” (Conquest of the Desert), it’s Neuquén’s oldest city.
At the confluence of the Chimehuin and its Curruhué tributary, Junín (pop. 10,243) is 402 kilometers southwest of Neuquén via RN 22, RN 40, and RN 234, and 41 kilometers northeast of San Martín de los Andes via RN 234. It’s 218 kilometers north of San Carlos de Bariloche via RN 234, RN 40, and RN 237.
The main thoroughfare is north–south RN 234; the compact city center, a regular grid around Plaza San Martín, lies east between the highway and the river.
The Museo Mapuche (Ginés Ponte 540, 9 a.m.–noon and 2–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–noon Sat., free) focuses on indigenous artifacts and historical exhibits, but it also displays fossils.
Recent developments reflect Junín’s promotion of religious tourism. The recently modernized Santuario Nuestra Señora de las Nieves y Beata Laura Vicuña (Ginés Ponte and Don Bosco) has become an airy, luminous structure incorporating Mapuche elements; it also holds an urn with one of Laura Vicuña’s vertebrae. It’s open for guided tours 9 a.m.–7 p.m. daily.
In the western foothills, the Vía Cristi is a Stations of the Cross footpath climbing two kilometers to the summit of Cerro de la Cruz.
Entertainment and Events
Late January’s Feria y Exposición Ganadera is the landowners’ extravaganza of blue-ribbon cattle, horses, and sheep, as well as rabbits and poultry. Gauchos also show off their skills, but they take center stage at mid-February’s Festival del Puestero.
The pre-Lenten Carnaval del Pehuén fills the streets with parades, costumed celebrants, water balloons, and confetti. Mid-July’s Semana de Artesanía Aborígen lets the Mapuche showcase their crafts.
Both Argentines and foreigners flock here for fishing on the Chimehuin, the Aluminé, their tributaries, and Parque Nacional Lanín’s glacial lakes. Catch-and-release is the norm; for licenses and suggested guides, visit the tourist office on Plaza San Martín. For nonresidents of the province, licenses cost US$20 per day, US$66 per week, or US$92 for the season; the national parks have separate licenses.
The Club Andino Junín de los Andes in the Paseo Artesanal (Padre Milanesio 568) provides information on hiking and climbing Volcán Lanín and other excursions, as does Parques Nacionales (Padre Milanesio 570, tel. 02972/49-2748, www.parquenacionallanin.gov.ar).
Getting to Junín de los Andes
Aeropuerto Aviador Carlos Campos–Chapelco (RN 234 Km 24, tel. 02972/42-8388) lies midway between Junín and San Martín de los Andes. Air schedules change frequently, especially in ski season. Aerolíneas Argentinas (Belgrano 949, tel. 02972/41-0588) flies regularly to Buenos Aires, usually to Aeroparque but sometimes to Ezeiza. LADE (Villegas 231, San Martín, tel. 02972/42-7672) flies occasionally to Aeroparque and to other Patagonian destinations. American Jet (tel. 0810/345-9876, www.americanjet.com.ar) has just begun weekday flights to Neuquén.
Services at Junín’s Terminal de Ómnibus (Olavarría and Félix San Martín, tel. 02972/49-2038) resemble those at San Martín de los Andes, including trans-Andean buses to Chile.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition