Fast-growing Merlo, a traditional Puntano hill station on the western slope of the Sierras de Comenchingones, claims to have the world’s third-best microclimate after Lenk, Switzerland, and an unidentified California site. Despite an admittedly refreshing climate and recreational opportunities, foreign travelers are few. Like towns in the nearby Sierras de Córdoba , it’s busiest in summer, during holiday periods like Semana Santa, and on weekends.
Merlo (pop. about 22,000), 900 meters above sea level, is 194 kilometers northeast of San Luis  via RP 20 to La Toma, an eight-kilometer detour via RP 10 and RN 148 to Santa Rosa del Conlara, where eastbound RP 5 goes to Merlo. Plaza Márques de Sobremonte is the town center, but most services are on or near Avenida del Sol, two blocks south, which climbs steeply east to the barrio of El Rincón.
Adventure sports such as hiking, climbing, rappelling, and even paragliding are possible at Mirador de los Cóndores (tel. 02656/478208-9257 or cell 02652/15-576799, www.tierrakuntur31-8964 , orejarodriguez [at] hotmail [dot] com [dot] ar). At 2,100 meters in the Comenchingones immediately east of town by a steep road that’s paved until the last three kilometers, it also operates a comfortably scenic confitería with a short-order menu and particularly choice desserts.
Space prohibits mention of more than a handful of Merlo’s countless accommodations. Prices are highest in summer and during Semana Santa and winter holidays, when singles are few; at other times rates may be as much as 30 percent lower.
On woodsy grounds, Hotel Aguada del Zorro (Avenida Dos Venados 1277, tel. 02656/47-5740, aguadadelzorro@merlo–sl.com.ar, US$21 pp) is a friendly motel-style place with flaky management and slightly dark but well-kept rooms. Amenities include a pool, parking, and Wi-Fi in common areas that reaches some of the rooms.
In a quiet location just off Avenida del Sol, the only frills at the handsome, nearly new Hostería Cerro Azul (Saturno y Jupiter, tel. 02656/47-8648, www.hosteriacerroazul.com.ar , US$50 s or d) are cable TV and a good-sized swimming pool.
The rooms are good but the management a little grumpy at Hostería Argentina (Los Almendros 102, tel. 02656/47-5825, www.hosteriargentina.com.ar , US$30 s, US$53 d).
Posada del Valle (Poeta Lugones and Neptuno, tel./fax 02656/47-6103, posadadelvalle [at] merlo-sl [dot] com [dot] ar, US$58 s or d) is a fine place with six double rooms in a recycled older house; rates include a large homemade breakfast. It does not accept children younger than 14.
In a quiet neighborhood, the new and immaculately kept Hostería Sueños Dorados (Avenida del Deporte Sur and El Trapiche, tel. 02656/47-4440, www.sueniosdorados.com.ar , US$58–63) has comfortable if slightly dark rooms, a pool, and friendly ownership. The Windows-friendly Wi-Fi, though, doesn’t work with Macs or iPods.
Hotel Parque y Sol (Avenida del Sol 715, tel. 02656/47-5150, www.parqueysol.com.ar , US$69 s or d) has motel-style units on spacious grounds.
Hotel Mirasierras (Avenida del Sol and Pedernera, tel. 02656/47-5045, www.hotelmirasierras.com.ar , US$71 s or d) has good but plain and decent-sized rooms, as well as a pool.
Apart Hotel Piscú Yaco (Pasaje los Teros 235, tel. 02656/47-5127, www.aparthotelpiscuyaco.com.ar , US$50–84 s or d) enjoys a great location on a quiet alleyway, with ample grounds and a pool. The midsized rooms are simply furnished.
The Montana Café (Avenida del Sol 25) is a good breakfast spot with exceptionally succulent croissants. Heladería Michelangelo (Avenida del Sol 100, tel. 02656/47-7418) has outstanding ice cream.
Cirano (Avenida del Sol 280, tel. 02656/47-5638, www.ciranomerlo.com.ar ) is a large but cheerful and efficient parrillada and pasta place, with reasonable prices and above-average desserts. The wine list is conventional, from Mendoza’s biggest bodegas only.
Giorgio (Avenida del Sol 558, tel. 02656/47-6555) and Reina Mora (Avenida Dos Venados 740, tel. 02656/47-6637) have more sophisticated menus, including both Argentine and international dishes.
Merlo’s Terminal de Ómnibus (RP 1 and Independencia) is about 500 meters south of the Rotonda junction. Typical destinations, times, and fares include Buenos Aires  (11 hours, US$32–40), San Luis  (3 hours, US$6), and Mendoza  (6 hours, US$20). There are also services northeast across the Sierras to the city of Córdoba  (5 hours, US$12–14).