By Joshua Rapp Learn, Contributing Reporter
ARGENTINA – The dry Patagonian Steppe demands some sort of solace in the summer, and a collection of grottos cut into the rocks are one of the regions best vacation getaways. Especially when those grottos burrow into the golden cliffs of the Argentine coastline.
Las Grutas could be one of Argentina’s best beaches, but then it isn’t exactly a beach. There is plenty of sand, but by the time you get to the water the sand gives way to a hard plateau of stone that eventually drops off if you wander too far out along the slippery rocks.
When the tide begins to go down, the flat nature of the underlying bedrock makes the water seem to disappear immediately, leaving nothing but flat rock and a few deep swimming pools that have been cut into the rock.
The grottos are the coolest place to spend the hot hours of the day, which during the summer last well past sunset. On the coastal edge of a desert, Las Grutas boasts some of the hottest temperatures in Argentina. The hot air means that even the seawater is hot, (sometimes up to 25 degrees Celsius!), so many people bring their towels and beach chairs into the cave-like pockets of Las Grutas’ namesake.
A little over 1000 km from Buenos Aires, Las Grutas is situated on the northwest corner of the San Matías Gulf in the Río Negro province. The town’s development is fairly recent. The first people moved into Las Grutas only seventy years ago but the basic settlement really didn’t begin to grow until the Eighties, when businessmen began to invest in the area. It grew in popularity after that, eventually becoming a sort of Mar de Plata for tourists from Patagonia and the rest Argentina’s interior.
Today the beaches along the village are nearly as packed as Argentina’s more well-known beach resorts like Pinamar and Mar de Plata. Investment has built up a large selection of restaurants lining an attractive pedestrian boardwalk while others serve candlelit dinner on patios hanging right over the cliff-side.
Along with the restaurants come a large number of lodging options. One of the popular trends in Las Grutas is the Apart-Hotel, which is like a regular hotel suite with a kitchen and sometimes even a garage. Good options are Apart Hotel Kette, and Departamentos Alvigi. If you are on more of a budget, Designio 48 is a good hostel with a great atmosphere.
One of the best ways to get to Las Grutas is on the Patagonian train that stops there between Buenos Aires and Bariloche. Information about the train can be found at http://www.trenpatagonico-sa.com.ar/Inicio.html.