This fly fishing paradise fills up with anglers during the fishing season (November to April). During the rest of the year, however, Junin de los Andes (which everyone simply calls Junin) slows down to a small-town pace. The main plaza in Junin is tranquil, street signs have trout on them, the people are friendly, and town seems deserted during siesta time every afternoon. Here’s how to enjoy Junin de los Andes including a nearby national park and one of the quirkiest attractions in Argentina plus where to sleep, and where to eat.
What to do in Junin de los Andes
There are many world-famous trout streams around Junín including the Alumine River, the Malleo River, and the Quilquihue River.However, the Chimehuin River, which originates in Lake Huchulafquen, is one of the most famous fly-fishing rivers in the world if you’re after rainbow trout or brown trout. Try your hand at catching (and releasing) brown and rainbow trout with local fly fishing guide Carlos “Tuqui” Viscarro (tuquiviscarro AT gmail DOT com). Tell him we sent you!
Even if you’re not into fly fishing, there are plenty of things to do and see in and around Junin de los Andes.Junin is located just 16 miles (26 km) from the Huechulafquen entrance, and 40 miles (65 km) from the Tromen entrance to Lanin National Park. See how to explore the trails, waterfalls, volcanoes, and lakes in this park in our full post about Lanin National Park. The Chimehuin River wraps around the town of Junin and a riverside walkway and park is a popular place for a stroll or a picnic.
The quirkiest thing to do in Junin is a visit to Via Christi Parque Escultorico where you’ll find 23 sculptural installations artistically depicting the life of Christ. On a forested hillside above town, Argentinean architect and artist Alejandro Santana arranged cast concrete sculptures inspired by the crucifixion, death, and re-birth of Christ and promoting non-denominational and culture-inclusive messages about being a better human.Care has been taken to acknowledge that “god” has different names and meanings to different people. Jesus figures also take on different faces, some of them based on local workers, and the people and traditions of indigenous groups from around the region (Mapuche, Incan, Quechua, etc.) are amply represented as well. One of the benefactors of the project was a friend of Pope Francis (the first Pope from Argentina) and when she described the project to him he declared that it was not a traditional Via Cruce stations of the cross project and dubbed it a Via Christi. The name stuck. But this massive outdoor religious art park would never have happened if a local nun hadn’t convinced Santana to help renovate the church in Junín.
While working on that project, Santana read an inscription from the first priest of the parish predicting that Junín would become a “beacon of faith”. With those words in mind, he began imagining an illuminated Christ figure on top of the hill directly across town from the church. That illuminated figure is now the 23rd station of the Via Christi Parque Escultorio. It’s reached via a half-mile (1 km) series of ramps or a quarter-mile (0.5 km) walk up a steep direct staircase.The nearly 200-foot (60-meter) long figure is made from an elaborate metal frame divided into small triangular sections which are each filled with clear glass. The figure, which was constructed off-site and then disassembled and re-assembled on the hillside over a 6-month period, appears to be either sinking back into the earth or emerging from it (you decide). We entered the figure near its head and exited through the torso where Jesus’ spear wound would have been located (and yes, that experience was just about as eerie as it sounds). Solar panels allow the whole figure to be illuminated from within each night, thus delivering the “beacon of faith” the priest predicted.
Junin de los Andes is also a short drive from the town of San Martin de los Andes which offers other things to do and see including a museum/gallery that celebrates Patagonian inspiration and lake tours.
Where to sleep in Junin de los Andes
Junin has a lot of small lodges and guesthouses aimed at the fishing crowd. We stayed at Land Park Lodge & Spa which offers rooms and cabins. Rates include continental breakfast with good coffee, and the whole place was spotless and surrounded by gardens and greenery.
A good bargain option in Junin is the riverside Hosteria Chimehuin which offers a range of rooms in a range of price points (rooms with shared bathrooms are the cheapest and everything is spic and span). The place is old (they claim to be “the most historic hosteria in Neuquen”), but things are well-kept and clean. There’s an ample parking area, Wi-Fi, and a good breakfast with a large array of warm baked goods and good coffee. The hosteria is close to the town’s central area and has a large and grassy interior garden with chairs and tables and an ample parking area. *check out the photos of fishermen with their giant catches covering decades lining he was of the restaurant.Spring Creek Lodge, run by SET Fly Fishing which operates lodges in many of the best fishing destinations in Argentina, is a dream destination for fly fishers in search of big trout. However, Spring Creek also has a lot to offer non-fishing guests (like us) including guided bird watching on their property, off-site adventures like kayaking and horseback riding, and the chance to learn to make traditional Argentinean empanadas from their super-talented chef Federico Castro during one-on-one cooking classes. Accommodations are in stand-alone 2-bedroom bungalows with fireplaces. For one of the worthiest splurges in Argentina, head to the all-inclusive Tipiliuke Lodge about 22 miles (35 km) from San Martin. Technically speaking, this is another fishing lodge. In reality, it’s one of the best-run, most hospitable lodges for travelers of all sorts. Fly fishing trout seekers will be more than satisfied but we were kept busy as well including horseback riding on the lodge’s property guided by gauchos and a photo safari to capture images of some of the majestic (and enormous) red deer that thrive on the land. There’s also a small spa, a yoga room, tango classes, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a wood-fired dry sauna, and talented bodywork technicians. All guests enjoy well-appointed and stylish accommodations (don’t miss the poncho bathrobes) and terrific meals served family style.
Where to eat in Junin de los Andes
Ask anyone in Junin and they’ll tell you to eat at Restaurant Ruca Hueney. This large place is located right on the main plaza and has a generally pleasing fishing lodge look and feel (note the antler chandeliers). It’s owned by Lebanese immigrants which explains why the extensive menu includes middle eastern favorites (hummus, etc.) as well as Argentinean classics, and lots of dishes made with local deer. Try the tender and moist milanesa de ciervo, a pounded, breaded, and flash-fried deer cutlet. The wine list includes bottles from Patagonian wineries and the service is good.
How to get to Junín de los Andes
From Buenos Aires, domestic flights service a Chapelco Airport 12 miles (20 km) from Junin de los Andes. Or fly from Buenos Aires to Bariloche and rent a car there.
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