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This picturesque town sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains and Lanín National Park, which boasts the 12,615-foot Lanín Volcano as its centerpiece. The area is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, and hiking, rafting and climbing are a few of the possibilities, not to mention some of the best snow skiing in the Southern Hemisphere.

The town was founded in 1898 and the architecture has a definite European feel, with many of the buildings bearing touches of the Swiss, French, Italian and German immigrants who settled the land. The streets are lined with shops offering clothing, arts and crafts. Restaurants offer a sampling of fine cuisine from around the world.

Patagonia is quite different from the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires. San Martin has no tango halls or big-city atmosphere, but it does have a fine selection of restaurants that you can't cover in one trip. While beef is the mainstay, pasta, trout and lamb are readily available. And don't miss a chance to try chivito (goat). Argentines typically enjoy dinner around 11 p.m. or so. If you like to party, San Martin has a disco and casino... but keep in mind that these hot spots don't get going until after dinner, which means starting your night on the town after midnight!

Argentine wines are justly famous, though not as well known to Americans because Argentines drink most of the best wines and don't export them. While in Argentina, you will have access to some of the finest wines that are not available in the States, and the recent devaluation of the peso makes a GREAT bottle of wine very accessible.

But the crowning touch of Patagonia is its friendly people. Argentines appreciate Americans and the influx of American dollars. The locals - who are mostly of Spanish, English, Italian and German decent - reflect this appreciation in many ways and will go out of their way to make your stay in Argentina most enjoyable. Spanish is the main language, but you will find that English is widely known and that it is very easy to get around the area speaking little or no Spanish.
Argentina is a laid-back, old world environment where the people are friendly, the food and wine divine, and the landscape breathtaking. Simply put, it is a place not to be missed.

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