El Cholar

Toponymy: From mapundungun “Chod” or “Chos” (yellow/ocher), and “lar” (something fallen, ruined, or ravine) : “Ocher ravine”, making reference to the banks of the stream that runs through the village.

Access: By Provincial Roads 6 and 21

Temperatures in summer: Maximum average 29ºC / Minimum average 14ºC

Temperatures in winter: Maximum average 12ºC / Minimum average 3ºC

Distance from Neuquén (capital city): 397 km.

Distance from Buenos Aires City: 1384 km.

Department of Tourism: Avenida Güemes s/n | Tel: +54 2948 492503

Gas/Service station: No

El Cholar is situated 60 km from Chos Malal and 70 km from Pichachén international border crossing. Though the founding date is 1910, it is one of the oldest towns in Neuquen Province,, with several settlements dating from previous years.

At present, there are approximately 1000 inhabitants in the urban area of this town, which extends its reach to spots like El Cholar Arriba, El Cholar Abajo and El Chacay, as well as to the rural settlements of Vilu Mallín, Reñileo and others.

Buta Leche Cura Hill- Photo: Luis Alberto Reyes

El Cholar History

Early settlers arrived to this land during 1880, coming from the neighbouring Chilean Republic. Its closeness to the international border allowed a permanent influx of people from that country.

On May 9, 1910 the National Government gave 100 hectares for the establishment of National School Nº 31. This is considered to be the foundation date of the town.

San Francisco Mill. Opened in 1908 - Photo: Argentour.com

What to visit in El Cholar

San Francisco Mill

It is situated 1 km from El Cholar, in the area of farms. The mill is powered by water coming from a channel and falling over paddles, which in turn make a wheel-shaped stone rotate via a gearing mechanism. The stone grinds the wheat until some of its derivatives are produced: flour, ñaco, frangollo and bran. This attraction, founded in 1908, is the first mill in the province, and paying a visit to it allows both an approach to a historical mode of production and an understanding of economic and cultural reality of this area.

In 2008, this mill was declared of historical, architectural and cultural interest.

San Francisco Mill- Photo: Argentour.com

Cheese Factory

Home-made style cheese is an important economical alternative to the town, especially for small producers and family businesses.

Tasting pickled dishes in El Cholar is highly recommended, among which pickled hare, duck, geese and goat stand out.

Arreo de chivatos camino a Paso Pichachen - Photo: Argentour.com

Activities in El Cholar

Fishing Trocomán River

In this river -which flows only 13 km from El Cholar- sport fishing can be practised, mainly of rainbow trout. There can be fair-sized catches, mainly in the confluence of Reñi Leuvú, Vilú Mallín and Chochoi Mallín rivers.

Trocomán River- Photo: Argentour.com

Fishing Reñi Leuvú River

Tributary to Neuquén River, it is situated 13 km from El Cholar. Salmonidae fly fishing can be practised there, especially rainbow trout fishing.

Reñi Leuvú River- Photo: Argentour.com

Other Activities

Walks to the top of Buta Leche Cura Hill; horse riding in the valley.

View from Buta Leche Cura Hill - Photo: Sec. Turismo de Neuquén

Popular Festivals in El Cholar

Ñaco Provincial Festival

The first time this festival was held was in 1989, and in 2004 is was declared Provincial Festival. It is organized to honour the former settlers, who planted and harvested wheat, to turn it into ñaco.

El Cholar was formerly a wheat producer town. Once the wheat was ripe, the threshing step followed, separating the loosened chaff from the grain. At present, some producers still follow this practice, while the great majority has introduced agricultural machinery, achieving greater results in less time.

During the festival, delicious regional meals can be tasted. Rural activities like rodeos and taming are carried out, by locals as well as by people from surrounding areas.

Ñaco making process

Wheat is grown in small plots of land in farms all along the beautiful valley. Once wheat is ripe, it is harvested and taken to the threshing. Generally, harvesting is done by hand and traditionally mown using both a sickle with a wooden handle, or a scythe.

Once the wheat is in the threshing floor (called “era”), it is gradually spread so that it can be trodden by a troop of mares that gallop in circles. In the process, the grain begins to get loose from the ear.

When the threshing process is completed, the wheat is aired, separating the grain from the chaff. Then the grinding process begins, following the tradition of carrying it out in San Francisco flour mill.

The production of ñaco begins when the wheat is toasted in a callana over a fire. “Callana” is a quechua word that refers to the recipient where wheat and corn are toasted. Finally, the toasted wheat is grinded.

Ñaco Uses

Ñaco can be prepared in different ways: With water and sugar; milk and sugar; hot water, fat and salt (the latter being called “pavo”)

Chupilca: This drink is the combination of ñaco with beer and sugar; or with wine and sugar.

Paso Pichachen - Photo: Argentour.com

What to see in Northern Neuquén