On December 14, 2020, a total solar eclipse will occur with full totality over parts of the Patagonia region of Argentina. The town of Junín de los Andes is close to the action and makes a great base camp for travelers who want to see this rare total eclipse. Use our total solar eclipse travel guide to Junín de los Andes to plan your December 2020 total solar eclipse travel in Patagonia.
Junín de los Andes, Argentina
This fly fishing paradise fills up with anglers during the fishing season (November to April). During the rest of the year, Junín de los Andes is more of a large town than a small city.
The main plaza in Junín is tranquil. The people are friendly. The place seems deserted during siesta time every afternoon. That’s why we love this place.
Where to see the 2020 total solar eclipse near Junín de los Andes
The December 2020 total solar eclipse crosses the South American continent just 24 miles (39 km) north of Junín de los Andes and the area has a very, very high chance of clear skies during the mid-day event. Junín falls within the outer limit of where totality will be visible. This means that you will be able to see the totality right from the town of Junín. However, the show over Junín will only last for 1 minute and 7 seconds, as opposed to a total eclipse time of 2 minutes and 9 seconds from viewing locations on the centerline.
A total solar eclipse experience flies by and you want to savor every second, so we’ve made a map for you with the centerline of the eclipse in Argentina marked in gray and accessible viewing spots where that line crosses a highway. Two prime viewing locations near Junín are marked with an orange moon. To reach the westernmost viewing spot, take Route 40 and turn onto Route 23 toward the village of Pilolil on the Aluminé River. This location is 33 miles (53 km) from Junín, which normally takes about an hour to drive. However, there will be a LOT of traffic during the eclipse, so travel time will be much longer. The second location is on Route 40 in the Catán Lil department about 49 miles (79 km) northeast of San Martin and is also about an hour away under normal driving conditions.
Non-eclipse activities around Junín de los Andes
Junín de los Andes is very close to two entrances to Lanin National Park. Created in 1937 with the 12,388-foot (3,776 meter) active Lanin Volcano as its centerpiece, the park is also home to lakes, trails, and forests of lenga, conifer, and pehuen trees.
The Tromen entrance to Lanin National Park does not require an entry fee and is located about 35 miles (60 km) from Junín (the last 6 miles/10 km are on gravel). There’s a ranger station, a basic campground, bathrooms (though they weren’t working when we were there), and Wi-Fi. A border crossing with Chile is located less than 1.5 miles (2 km) from the ranger station. Though many trails were still closed when we were there in early October, we were able to walk the 2-mile (3 km) Lanin Volcano North Face trail which is a gently sloping, clear trail that you can extend over a rocky area to get even close to the base of the volcano. Allow at least 1.5 hours roundtrip.
At the Huechulafuen entry to the Lanin National Park visitors have to pay a 400 ARS (about US$7) entry fee per person that’s good for just one day, though when we entered the park in the morning no one was at the entry station to collect a fee so we just drove in. To reach this entrance we drove about 30 minutes from Junín to reach the ranger station. Then we drove on a good dirt road within the park for another hour to reach Puerto Canoa on Lake Huechulafquen.
Along the way, we passed many farmsteads inside the park with fences, livestock, and ranch buildings. These are Mapuche communities that were allowed to keep their land and homes after the area was turned into a park. Today, many of them run camping areas (these get more developed and nicer the closer you get to Puerto Canoa) and some cabins. There are also a couple of hotels and restaurants inside the park around Puerto Canoa. NOTE: The final 6 miles (10 km) leading to Puerto Canoa is the narrowest and roughest stretch of road and it can get backed up with traffic in high season.
Some trails were still closed when we were in this part of Lanin National Park in October, but we were able to walk to the El Saltillo Waterfall. We reached the trailhead to the waterfall after a 20-minute drive beyond Puerto Canoa (follow the signs). The sloping, well-marked dirt, gravel, and stone trail covers about half a mile (800 meters) each way, gaining 300 feet (90 meters) to reach nearly the top of the falls. Some short stretches near the top are steep.
From a misty viewpoint very close to the El Saltillo Waterfall, we could admire its 85-foot (25 meter) drop down a steep creek. The water eventually runs into Lake Huechulafquen. We did this walk in 45 minutes round trip even though the sign at the trailhead inexplicably said it would take nearly two hours to do the hike. Allow 30 minutes up and 30 minutes down at a moderate pace.
Another great thing to do in this part of Lanin National Park is the 2-hour tour on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Huchulafquen onboard the Catamarán José Julián (1,000 ARS or about US$16 pp). The 60-seat catamaran, which was named for a local fisherman, is very comfortable, warm, and stable and is a great way to see the lake and the lakeshore as an onboard guide (Spanish only) talks about local flora, fauna, and natural features including a section of lakeshore covered by a lava flow.
Head up to the open-air upper deck of the boat for the best views. Fun facts: the water in the lake averages between 57 and 65 degrees F (14-18 degrees C) and the name means high lake in an indigenous language. You can reserve your space in advance or buy tickets at the company’s Puerto Canoa office. Note that this trip only departs in fair weather.
The Via Christi Parque Escultorico in Junín includes 23 sculptural installations artistically depicting the life of Christ. On a forested hillside above town, Argentinean architect and artist Alejandro Santana has 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 (like a massive 3-D stained glass project). 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.
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.
The December 2020 total solar eclipse takes place in the heart of fly-fishing season. 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!
Sleeping in Junín de los Andes
Junín has a lot of small lodges and guesthouses aimed at the fishing crowd. We stayed at Land Park Lodge & Spa. This is one of the newer options in town and they offer 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 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 central area of town and also has a large and grassy interior garden with chairs and tables.
Eating in Junín de los Andes
Ask anyone in Junín 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 small airport 12 miles (20 km) from Junín de los Andes. Or fly from Buenos Aires to Bariloche and rent a car there.
UPDATE: Did you see the December 2020 total solar eclipse? We did! Here are our best shots from the December 20202 total solar eclipse in the sky over the Patagonia region of Argentina.
And don’t miss our post about seeing the 2019 total solar eclipse.
Here’s more about travel in Argentina
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