17km (10 miles) W of Trelew
Just a 10-minute drive west of Trelew, you'll find the lush, green town of Gaiman, settled in 1870 by immigrants from Wales. It's a pleasant place to take a walk and to admire the very English-looking houses. Almost every house in this town of 4,500 residents is open to the public in some way, as a teahouse, a small inn, or some other type of hospitality center. People in Gaiman -- many of them descendants of the original families such as the Joneses and Roberts -- are both exceedingly friendly and proud. They cling to their unique heritage with the same sense of purpose that brought their ancestors all the way here more than 130 years ago. Gaiman is also known for its singing choirs that blend traditional Welsh tunes with Argentine folk music. Each October, the town hosts the Eisteddfod music and poetry festival, which draws people from Wales and other Welsh communities around the world. Some of the choirs perform at the teahouses.
From Trelew, buses such as 28 de Julio (tel. 2965/472056) depart regularly for Gaiman from Plaza Roca. Fewer buses run on the weekends. The trip is about 25 minutes and costs about $3 (£2). A remise from Trelew to Gaiman should cost around $12 (£8.20). If you are driving, take Ruta 25 west from Trelew.
What to See & Do
The Welsh museum, Museo Histórico Regional Gales, at the corner of Rivadavia and Sarmiento streets (no phone), is an interesting place to get the lowdown on the town and its origins. The Welsh immigrants built the Chubut railway, and the museum is housed in the old railway station. It contains some interesting documents and relics from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Admission is $1 (70p).
If you are keen on continuing to explore the Welsh scene, take a side trip to the nearby village of Dolavan, 18km (11 miles) west of Gaiman via RN 25. It's an authentic little farming village, with wooden water wheels and a historic town center with old brick buildings, including the old mill known here as the Molino Harinero, Maipú 61 (tel. 2965/492290). Built in 1880, it still operates, has a small cafe serving hearty sandwiches, and opens sporadically for guided tours. The little brick chapel, built in 1917, is typical of the Welsh architecture that blends so naturally with the environment. It's one of a handful of similar constructions that dot the countryside of the Chubut River valley.
Where to Stay
Many of the small teahouses have a room or two available for rent. They are generally spanking clean. Try the friendly Hostería Gwesty Tywi, Jones 342 (tel. 2965/491292; from $45/£30 double). The most charming place to stay near Gaiman is the rural Posada los Mimbres, Chacra 211, Gaiman (tel. 2965/491299; www.posadalosmimbres.com.ar), which is housed on a sprawling farm 6km (4 miles) from town. There is an old house, built more than 100 years ago, and a new one that is much brighter; both have three doubles that cost $228 (£154) with breakfast included.
High Tea in Gaiman
Most visitors come to Gaiman to have real Welsh tea, a tradition that was built on the difficult life of the early settlers, who came home in the afternoons and found solace in a cup of warm brew sent specially to these outposts from the United Kingdom. The tradition lives on, and it's now shared with the public: The late Princess Diana herself enjoyed tea here in 1995, when she made an official visit. The chair she sat on is displayed inside a lovely house that has become one of the best teahouses in Gaiman: Ty Te Caerdydd, Finca 202 (tel. 2965/491510), serves Welsh tea complete with sandwiches, scones, homemade jams, cakes, and lemon pie every day from 2 to 8pm. The cost is $8 (£5.40) per person. Ty Nain, Yrigoyen 283 (tel. 2965/491126), will fill you up with torta galesa (Welsh cake) and a bottomless pot of tea, also for $8 (£5.40).The lovely 1890 home is sparkling clean and has a small museum of Welsh-Argentine history out back. Note that the Gaiman tea experience is popular with bus tours; if you are on your own, look for a spot that doesn't have a bus parked out front if you want some personal attention.