Chos Malal

Toponymy: From mapundungun “Chod”, yellow/ocher. “Malal”, corral/enclosed area/valley. “Chos Malal”, Ocher Valley.

Access: By National Route 40 or Provincial Road 43 and 2

Temperatures in summer: Maximum average 29ºC / Minimum average 12ºC

Temperatures in winter: Maximum average 12ºC / Minimum average 1ºC

Distance from Neuquén (capital city): 399 km (by NR 40), 374 km (by PR 6), 329 km (by PR 7-gravel road)

Distance from Buenos Aires City: 1324 km.

Department of Tourism and Environment: , 25 de Mayo St. - Tel: +54 2948 421425

Gas/Service station: Yes


Tromen Volcano and Tromen Lagoon - Photo: Argentour.com


The former provincial capital of Neuquen is located 150 km from the border with Mendoza Province, alongside National Route 40, near Curí Leuvú river and its confluence with Neuquén river.

This locality is a key geographical spot in Northern Neuquen, as it is the entrance to visit the nearby towns.

The picturesque scenery includes farms, poplar and willow groves, streets with ditches combined with modern neighbourhoods built on the hillsides surrounding the town.

At present, the main economic activities relate to the agricultural area, especially goat rearing and the growing of fruit, vegetables and fine fruit. The town is famous for the quality of its kid’s meat, what gave origin to the annual festival “Fiesta del Chivito” and the popular commercialization of its meat as Chivito Criollo del Norte Neuquino (Kid from the North of Neuquen)


Neuquén River and Chos Malal city from Mayal Hill (1.700 m.a.s.l) - Photo: Luis Alberto Reyes.


Chos Malal History

On May 10, 1879, at the confluence of Curi Leuvú and Neuquén rivers, Colonel Napoleón Uriburu built up a fort which was named Fuerte IV División. Around it, on August 4, 1887, the town of Chos Malal was founded and declared capital of Neuquen Territory by Colonel Manuel Olascoaga.

In 1904 the capital was moved to the confluence of Neuquén and Limay rivers, what caused the town to lose settlement of provincial authorities, both judicial and administrative, and the moving of the regiment and even of the post office.

Between 1904 and 1937, the entire Northern area underwent a period of great isolation, where the only permanent residents were the hard-working farmers and the traders of European origin who had grown fond of the town.

By 1941, a branch of the National Bank was established, nationalizing the economy as Chilean currency stops circulating.


Manuel José Olascoaga Historical Museum - Photo: Argentour.com


Arriero llevando sus chivos a la veranada - Photo: Argentour.com


What to visit in Chos Malal

Fort IV Division and its Tower

On May 10, 1879, the fort began to be built for the regiment commanded by Colonel Napoleón Uriburu. In 1944, the old fort –together with its outbuildings- was declared national historical monument. This spot guarantees a spectacular view of the area.


El Torreón visto desde una Puesto de trashumancia junto al río Neuquén - Photo: Osvaldo Gagliardi


Manuel José Olascoaga Historical Museum

This museum displays elements concerning the life and work of Manuel Olascoaga, the history of the territory of Neuquen when Chos Malal was its former capital, the relevance of the Conquest of the Desert (Conquista del Desierto) and the lives of those who settled in the North of Neuquen.

Archaeological remnants as those found in Truquico Salt Mine and cemetery Caepe Malal provide information about the life of the settlers during the past centuries.


Manuel José Olascoaga Historical Museum - Photo: Argentour.com


Tromen Natural Protected Area

It was created in 1971, covering an area of 30 000 hectares, which are within the eco-region of the Patagonian steppe and high Andes, constituting a representative sample of the wetlands.

The area protects Tromen lagoon and Los Barros wetlands, both of which are characterized by the concentration of nesting and migratory birds. Among the species found, we can mention Black necked swans, cauquenes, ducks, herons, macá, ibises, sparrow hawks and flamingoes. Some migratory birds come from places as far as the Canadian tundra: pitotois, playeritos and swimming plovers.

The steppe surprises us not only for its apparent solitude, but for the variety of reptiles and small mammals that find refuge in rock cavities or that camouflage with the shrubbery. The same do snakes and more than five species of lizards of the genus “Liolaemus”, or the rare and little-known tuco-tuco, who share with the mountain chinchilla and other small rodents the lowest rungs of the food chain. This explains the high number of birds of prey, foxes, ferrets and pumas that can be found in this area.

On February 2, 2006 the area was declared a RAMSAR site. The aim of the RAMSAR sites is “the conservation and rational use of wetlands through local, regional and national actions, and thanks to international cooperation, as a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development worldwide”.


Flamencos en la Laguna Tromen - Photo: Alejandra Melideo


Tromen volcano

It lies 55 km from Chos Malal. With 4114 meters above sea level (though other measurements indicate 4108 m.a.s.l.), it is considered to be the second highest peak in Patagonia, after Domuyo with 4709 meters above sea level.

Tromen is a stratovolcano, and it is located within the Tromen Natural Protected Area. Its name comes from mapuche “tomen”, which means reed or bulrush. Tromen volcano is also known as “Pun Mahuida”, meaning “black hill, covered by clouds”. Geologically, this is one of the youngest volcanoes in the Andes, dating from the Pleistocene (approximately 1.8 million years of age), and its most recent lava flows date back only 1500 years. These have been highly recorded in cave paintings by the Aborigines.


Tromen Volcano Climbing. In the background Wayle Hill and Domuyo Peak (4709 m.a.s.l) - Photo: Osvaldo Gagliardi


Cerro Wayle Snowpark

This young ski resort is situated 50 km to the north of Chos Malal, via PR 2 and then PR 37 (both of them gravel roads).

Wayle means “hollow place, without a center” in Mapuche. This hill (3296 m) has a particular feature: four ridges form a kind of inner pot that allows the practice of both downhill and cross-country skiing styles. At its base (2260 m) there is a tearoom refuge with all the amenities necessary to make your visit enjoyable, and a rental agency with complete downhill skiing equipment, though the stock is quite low. There are three pistes of 300 meters each, a drop of 200 meters suitable for skiing, and very good conditions for those who prefer off-piste skiing.

Chorriaca

Located about 90 km southward of Chos Malal along NR 40, this place is characterized for being a major source of sodium chloride. The town extends its reach and assistance to the sites of Mina Continental (15 km), Coihueco (10 km), Balsa Huitrín (40 km), Agua Dulce (5 km), Paso Hacha and Trahuncurá.

The urban conglomerate –which has its place on the lot reserved for the indigenous group Kilapi - can be seen from 1000 m far, from NR 40. Though small, the urban structure does not differ from that of other provincial towns, with low houses showing the homogeneity of the provincial government housing projects. Basically, Chorriaca is an indigenous community with basic services covered.

Taquimilán

This picturesque locality lies by PR 29, southward of Chos Malal, straddling the homonymous stream.

Among the different tourist attractions that can be found here, we must mention the ruins of Santa Marta and Esperanza Cimita coal mines, where two explosions took place: the first of them in June 1943, in Santa Marta mineshaft 25; and the second on June 2 the following year in La Esperanza mine. The explosions resulted in twenty-three fatal victims, six of which died in the mine galleries.

The so-called “Ciudad Encantada” (Enchanted City) deserves a special mention. The mystery revolves around an image that can be perceived in Taquimilán around May and/or June. At twilight, south-southwestward Taquimilán, the image of what seems to be a remote village with ancient buildings can be built up. In 2009, the mysterious vision could be appreciated –and even recorded- for several days.

Villa Curi Leuvú

PR 42 must be taken to get to Curi Leuvú Village, which lies at the bank of Curi Leuvú river, extending its communal lands to Chacay Melehue, Caepe Malal, Los Menucos, Aquihuecó and Ñiraico.

Read More about Villa Curi Leuvu

Laguna y Cascada del Risco Negro

Located in the Cordillera del Viento, this lagoon is suitable for fishing while enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Gliding in Chos Malal

Cordillera del Viento has optimum conditions for gliding, since its natural features provide a favourable frame for the practice of flights of different nature. It is for this reason that people from all places come to Oscar Reguera Aerodrome. A light aircraft pulls up the glider until it gets to the required height and then releases it free, leaving the pilots to apply their expertise, taking advantage of the natural conditions in Chos Malal: the wind, the different rising air currents (known as hill lifts and wave lifts) and the thermal conditions that allow gliders to fly and stay airborne for hours.

Many pilots have achieved their coveted records in Chos Malal, where they come back year after year, convinced that there are few places in the world with conditions as suitable for gliding as in Cordillera del Viento.

Not only has Argentine speed record been established here, but Argentine and World distance records have also been set in Chos Malal, with flights reaching almost 10 thousand meters high and over 1000 kilometers long.


Flying close to Tromen Volcano - Photo: Centro Nacional de Vuelo a Vela




What to see in Northern Neuquén