Comodoro Rivadavia’s motto is “a city with energy,” and Chubut’s southernmost city is really Houston by the Sea. For nearly a century, ever since water-seeking drillers hit a crude gusher instead, it has been the locus of Argentina’s petroleum industry. Thanks to the former state oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), it has an outstanding petroleum museum.
On the surrounding hills, the landscape remains a jumble of drilling rigs, pipelines, storage tanks, and seismic survey markers. Ironically, though, Cerro Chenque’s high-tech windmills herald alternative energy.
A frequent stopover for southbound motorists, hilly Comodoro (pop. 135,813) is 369 kilometers south of Trelew and 780 kilometers north of Río Gallegos via RN 3; most services are on or near east–west Avenida San Martín, within a few blocks of the ocean. It’s 581 kilometers southeast of Esquel via paved RN 26, RP 20, and RN 40.
For a panorama of Golfo San Jorge’s curving coastline, climb the footpath to Cerro Chenque, immediately north of downtown. Nearly barren, prone to landslides that have covered RN 3, it’s now the site of Parque Eólico Antonio Morán, South America’s largest windmill farm.
On the Avenida Rivadavia median strip, a stiff climb from downtown, the orderly but uninspiring Museo Patagónico Antonio Garcés (Rivadavia and Chacabuco, tel. 0297/447-7101, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays, free) chronicles Comodoro’s development through fossils, aboriginal artifacts, and photographs.
In Comodoro’s old railway station, the Museo Ferroportuario (Avenida Rivadavia and 9 de Julio, tel. 0297/447-3330, ext. 345, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays, free) chronicles the train that hauled wool and produce from the city of Sarmiento, 149 kilometers west; intended to reach Lago Buenos Aires, it never went beyond Sarmiento, though it also carried crude from nearby oilfields to the port.
About three kilometers north of downtown, the Universidad Nacional de Patagonia’s Museo Nacional del Petróleo (San Lorenzo 250, tel. 0297/455-9558, museodelpetroleo [at] speedy [dot] com [dot] ar, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$4 foreigners, slightly less for Argentines) is a YPF legacy. On the grounds of Comodoro’s initial gusher, it presents a professional account of Argentina’s oil industry, from the natural and cultural environment to petroleum technology and its social and historical consequences. From the Comodoro bus terminal, take the No. 4 Saavedra or No. 5 Universidad bus.
Nearby, on sprawling shoreline grounds, dating from 1923, the Museo Chalet Huergo (tel. 0299/455-0225, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays, free) was the residence of YPF administrators and, during the oil-boom years, hosted guests like the Shah of Iran. Today, though, it’s the centerpiece of a public park and home to special events and exhibitions.
Because Comodoro is the largest city in almost 1,000 kilometers of highway, hotels can fill up fast, and reservations are advisable. Prices have risen substantially.
Hotel del Mar (Ameghino 750, tel. 0299/447-2025, hoteldelmar [at] hotmail [dot] com, US$25 s, US$40 d) is one of several plain but acceptable accommodations, along with Hostería Rua Marina (Belgrano 738, tel. 0297/446-8777, US$27 s, US$49 d) and Hotel Español (9 de Julio 850, tel. 0297/446-0116, US$34 s, US$58 d, without breakfast).
Rehabbed Hotel Azul (Sarmiento 724, tel./fax 0297/447-4628, www.hotelazul.com.ar, US$61 s, US$66 d) always had pretty good rooms, but the common areas are now more presentable. Residencial Comodoro (España 919, tel. 0297/446-2582, US$49 s, US$68 d) is comparable.
The traditional Hotel Comodoro (9 de Julio 770, tel. 0297/447-2300, www.comodorohotel.com.ar, US$76–91 s, US$86–105 d) continues to lag behind some newer options.
Really two hotels in one, the Austral Hotel (Rivadavia 190, US$79 s, US$91 d) and the recent addition Hotel Austral Plaza (Moreno 725, tel. 0297/447-2200, www.australhotel.com.ar, US$155 s, US$167 d) share a reception area, telephones, bar, confitería, and restaurant. The Austral’s rooms are comfy enough, if a little small, but they’re less extravagant than the Plaza’s. Rates have risen substantially at both; guests at both enjoy the same buffet breakfast.
Hotel Lucania Palazzo (Moreno 676, tel. 0297/449-9300, www.lucania-palazzo.com, US$162 s, US$181 d) is a four-star high-rise with all the amenities and skyrocketing rates.
Comodoro has several quality parrillas, including Bom Bife (España 789, tel. 0297/446-8412, lunch and dinner daily) and La Rastra (Rivadavia 348, tel. 0297/444-3623, lunch and dinner daily).
Pizzería Giulietta (Belgrano 851, tel. 02965/446-1201, lunch and dinner daily) serves fine pasta as well; in the same vein, there’s Cayo Coco (Rivadavia 102, tel. 0297/447-3033, lunch and dinner daily).
Waterfront Puerto Cangrejo (Avenida Costanera s/n, tel. 0297/444-4590, lunch and dinner daily) serves ample portions of similar fare in the US$10–13 range.
The Hotel Austral Plaza’s Tunet (Rivadavia 190, tel. 0297/447-2200, lunch and dinner daily, US$10–25) is Comodoro’s top restaurant, with an elaborate fish and seafood menu that also includes tapas.
Chocolate’s (San Martín 231, tel. 0297/446-4488) serves Comodoro’s best ice cream.
Getting to Comodoro Rivadavia
Aerolíneas Argentinas (Rivadavia 154, tel. 0297/454-8190) flies two or three times daily to Buenos Aires’s Aeroparque. LAN Argentina (tel. 0297/454-8171 at the airport) also flies to Buenos Aires.
Comodoro is a hub for LADE (Rivadavia 360, tel. 0297/447-0585), which flies northbound to Aeroparque and intermediate towns, westbound to Gobernador Gregores and other towns, and southbound to El Calafate, Río Gallegos, and intermediate towns.
Comodoro’s Terminal de Ómnibus Teniente General Angel Solari (Pellegrini 730, tel. 0297/446-7305) has regional, long-distance, and limited international service to Coyhaique, Chile
.At 8 a.m. Wednesday and Saturday, ETAP (tel. 0297/447-4841) departs for Coyhaique (9 hours, US$25); these buses usually run full and schedules can vary, so reservations are essential.
Other sample destinations, times, and fares include Caleta Olivia (1 hour, US$3), San Julián (5.5 hours, US$12), Trelew (5 hours, US$18–21), Puerto Deseado (4.5 hours, US$15), Puerto Madryn (6 hours, US$20–25), Los Antiguos (6 hours, US$30), Esquel (10 hours, US$28–40), Río Gallegos (11 hours, US$35–50), Bariloche (14 hours, US$38–50), and Buenos Aires (25 hours, US$75–108).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition