While it lacks Patagones’s colonial character, Viedma long ago surpassed its neighbor in services and significance—it is even Río Negro’s capital despite its distance from other cities in this Atlantic-to-the-Andes province. Locals swim and kayak along the willow-shaded riverfront with its parrilla restaurants and sailing school.
Founded simultaneously with Patagones in 1779, Viedma became Patagonia’s de facto capital exactly a century later and then, following the “Conquest of the Desert,” capital of Río Negro territory. In 1955, it became capital of the new Río Negro Province. In the 1980s, President Raúl Alfonsín tried to move the federal capital here from Buenos Aires—a foolishly visionary boondoggle that, fortunately, never came to be.
Viedma (pop. 46,767) is 280 kilometers south of Bahía Blanca and 439 kilometers north of Puerto Madryn via coastal RN 3. It’s 982 kilometers east of Bariloche, Río Negro’s largest city, via the Río Negro Valley and Neuquén.
Getting to Viedma
Aerolíneas Argentinas (Colón 246, tel. 02920/42-2018) flies two or three weekly nonstops to Buenos Aires’s Aeroparque, and sometimes via Bahía Blanca. LADE (Saavedra 576, tel. 02920/42-4420) flies south to Puerto Madryn and Trelew and north to Bahía Blanca, Mar del Plata, and Aeroparque.
Sefepa (Cagliero s/n, tel. 02920/42-2130, www.trenpatagonico-sa.com.ar) connects Estación Viedma, on the southeast edge of town, with Bariloche by rail at 6 p.m. Friday. The 15-hour trip costs US$15 in hard-backed económica, US$32 in reclining Pullman, or US$60 in camarote sleepers; children ages 5–12 pay half.
Viedma’s Terminal Patagonia (Guido 1580, tel. 02920/42-6850, www.terminalpatagonia.com.ar) is 13 blocks south of downtown. Sample destinations, times, and fares include Las Grutas (2.5 hours, US$4.50), Puerto Madryn (6 hours, US$19–24), Trelew (7 hours, US$22–26), Neuquén (8 hours, US$25), Comodoro Rivadavia (11 hours, US$40–48), Buenos Aires (12 hours, US$41–57), Bariloche (14 hours, US$30), and Río Gallegos (20 hours, US$65).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition