If you tire of the gnome-in-the-chocolate-shop ambience of Bariloche and other cutesy Lakes District destinations, regular old Esquel will feel like a breath of fresh air. Set in western Chubut’s dramatic, hikeable foothills, Esquel is a hub for Parque Nacional Los Alerces and an easy-going, friendly base camp for abundant adventure activities – the perfect place to chill after hard travel on RN 40.
Founded at the turn of the 20th century, Esquel is the region’s main livestock and commercial center. It’s also the historic southern end of the line for La Trochita, the narrow-gauge steam train. The town takes its name from Mapundungun, meaning either ‘bog’ or ‘place of the thistles.’
RN 259 zigzags through town to the junction with RN 40, which heads north to El Bolsón and south to Comodoro Rivadavia. South of town, RN 259 passes a junction for Parque Nacional Los Alerces en route to Trevelin.