Esquel’s airport is 20km east of town off RN 40. Taxis (AR$400) shuttle visitors to town. New low-cost airlines, including Norwegian Air (www.norwegian.com/ar) plan to offer flights to Buenos Aires starting in mid-2018.
Aerolíneas Argentinas flies to Buenos Aires (oneway from AR$3490) several times a week.
Esquel’s full-service bus terminal is close to the town center.
Transportes Jacobsen goes to Futaleufú, Chile (AR$105, 1½ hours), at 8am and 6pm Monday and Friday. Buses go hourly to Trevelin (AR$30, 30 minutes), stopping near the corner of Av Alvear and 25 de Mayo on the way out of town.
In summer Transportes Esquel goes through Parque Nacional Los Alerces (1¼ hours) to Lago Futalaufquen at 8am daily (and also at 2pm and 6pm in January). The first bus goes all the way to Lago Puelo (six hours), stopping in Lago Verde at 10:30am and Cholila (AR$150) at noon. An open ticket allows passengers to make stops along the way between Esquel and Lago Puelo or vice versa. Note that the service is reduced in low season.
From December through April, tourism bus service Chaltén Travel (www.chaltentravel.com) picks up passengers from the rotunda at the junction of RN 40 on odd-numbered days to go to El Chaltén, El Calafate (AR$2140) and destinations in between via RN 40.
Buses to Esquel
Compact rentals start at around AR$1600 per day, including 100km and insurance. Try Los Alerces Rent A Car, which has a good range of vehicles.
La Trochita: The Old Patagonian Express
Clearly an anachronism in the jet age, Ferrocarril Roca’s La Trochita, Argentina’s famous narrow-gauge steam train, averages less than 30km/h on its meandering journey between Esquel and Nahuel Pan – if it runs at full speed. The train Paul Theroux facetiously called the Old Patagonian Express is more tourist attraction than public transportation. It departs weekly in low season but almost daily in January and February.
Like many state projects, its completion seemed an interminable process, beginning in 1906 and finishing in 1945. It has suffered some of the oddest mishaps in railroad history. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the train was derailed three times by high winds, and ice has caused other derailments. In 1979 a collision with a cow derailed the train at Km 243 south of El Maitén; the engine driver was the appropriately named Señor Bovino.
La Trochita’s original 402km route between Esquel and Ingeniero Jacobacci was probably the world’s longest remaining steam-train line, in full operation until 1993, with half a dozen stations and another nine apeaderos (whistle-stops). Belgian Baldwin and German Henschel engines refilled their 4000L water tanks at strategically placed parajes (pumps) every 40km to 45km. Most of the passenger cars, heated by wood stoves, date from 1922, as do the freight cars.
Nahuel Pan is the first station down the line, 20km east. The trip takes 45 minutes. It's popular with groups, so book ahead. For a small additional charge, you can organize with one of the Esquel travel agencies to return by minibus.