Background and History
Comodoro Rivadavia has experienced rapid growth, and the city's population exploded in the last few decades. The picturesque center of the city and the surrounding desert hills and mountains indicate a beauty both natural and manmade that refused to be taken away by the oil wells, rigs, and very dense urbanization. Development of the infrastructure, and to an even larger extent, organization, has trouble keeping up with the rapid population increase and industrial projects, however, in recent years infrastructure has been significantly improved and the city has a more attractive appeal to tourists and travelers. No longer do tourists only come to Comodoro to change buses or flights, or see the beach or countryside (especially its wildlife), but now the city itself is more appreciated and treated perhaps a bit more fairly for its historical value and that of its petroleum industry.
Originally established as a port in 1889 to give the inland settlement of Sarmiento access to the sea, by the naval commodore Martín Rivadavia, the city grew when oil was being drilled in the area and large deposits were found around the settlement. The first foreigners were Welsh, part of the large Welsh colony in Chubut which can still be seen today, as well as Boers from South Africa, and a few Italians and northern Spanish and Galician immigrants, followed by Germans. Throughout its history people from other parts of Argentina came, and large numbers of Italian-Argentines, Spanish-Argentines, German-Argentines, Anglo-Argentines, Polish Argentines, Ukrainian Argentines, Jewish Argentines and Mestizo Argentines, and a small amount of Afro-Argentines mainly from Buenos Aires, and the descendants of these groups and their cultures are all present in the city.
Although it may not seem as such given the appearance of certain parts of the city as well as the reputation of the petroleum industry as a whole, Comodoro is a considerably affluent city, especially compared to many other settlements in Patagonia. Traditional urban apartments are mostly restricted to the city center, as despite the very high density of buildings in the urban area, houses predominate. However, these houses are often very close together with very little yard space and are often notoriously unsightly. In many cases unpainted concrete can be the rule; in others, a disagreeable combination in terms of the wood, concrete, and glass. Also many fences, often eyesores themselves, separate the streets from the houses, and the difference in style between one house and that right next to it (as well as the fences) only exacerbates the problem. This type of house is, unfortunately, very common in oil and mining towns throughout Argentina and Chile (except in the Andean areas which use their traditional architecture), especially those settlements which have underwent quick population increases. Even in the downtown and wealthy areas, the difference between one building and that immediately next to it, not always because one looks nicer than the other (in the wealthy areas this isn't usually the case) can often be overwhelming and is a notable characteristic of the city as a whole. It can be seen as a symbol of the spontaneous nature of Comodoro as a city; a city with over 200,000 inhabitants right in the middle of the Patagonian desert, with it and its few suburbs (technically one, as there is only one settlement nearby that is not part of the municipality, Rada Tilly) being located as far away from any other human settlement as is a typical isolated Patagonian village. Comodoro is really one of the largest cities in such isolation in the world.
Expensive cars and motorcycles (which the inhabitants often like to show off at every hour of the day) as well as high fashion among women can be frequently seen, even among those who live in below-average houses (although not houses of the type previously described, which do indicate some degree of the lower class albeit not as much as they would in other cities).
The city is interrupted by a hill almost high enough to be a mountain, with the shape typical of a mountain, known as Cerro Chenque or simply "El Chenque" ("The Chenque"), and this is symbolic of the city. Also, the fact that a key part of the city has been built on the other side of the Chenque with only a small area connecting them behind the mountain should send a message about the city and how its inhabitants adapted to their environment. Beautiful views of the vast urban expanse and the wilderness that surrounds it can be viewed from the top. Hiking the Chenque is usually a very good activity for a number of reasons: it is a pleasant hike which is not to long or steep and, being right in the middle of the city there is some infrastructure improving the path across the hill; it is also an immediate escape from the crowded urban area of a large city; at the same time is a way to truly experience the city, looking down and seeing the different neighborhoods.
The settlement of Rada Tilly to the south is home to the best beach in the area, and hosts a huge influx of Comodorenses coming to enjoy the beach every summer. Rada Tilly is also considerably affluent with a very large wealthy area with upscale homes near the beach resorts and also summer vacation homes for Comodorenses. That being said, Comodoro proper still has its share of nice beach areas, albeit a bit smaller, usually in protected areas.
Weather and Climate
Despite being further from the equator than much of America's snowbelt in New England and even much of Maine, Comodoro Rivadavia has a very mild climate. It is considered semi-arid, or steppe, but with high humidity due to the Atlantic. Precipitation is that of an arid area or desert, however, due to the evaporation rate (influenced by temperature) it is classified as semi-desert and supports vegetation of semi-arid habitats. Technically it is a tiny bit closer to the South Pole (90ºS) than the Equator (0º), with the city being located at about 45º50'S. Summers are hot enough to swim at the beach (some areas), and winters are extremely mild for the latitude with nighttime temperatures below 0ºC (32ºF) being the exception and not the rule, and comfortable daytime temperatures usually reaching 10ºC (50ºF) and rarely failing to reach 7ºC (45ºF). Freezing temperatures do, however, happen even though they are the minority of winter nights, and on occasion, snow will fall (although it is usually light).
Because of the varied topography, the climate highly depends upon area. Some areas will experience snow as rarely as once every 3 years; for others, it can be about 3 or 4 times a year. The downtown area does receive snowfall most years, and usually about twice, but it is light. Spring can be extremely windy, with this stretch of Patagonian coast being famous for wind, especially the town to the south Caleta Olivia in Santa Cruz Province known as the "Capital of the Wind" although it is almost never dangerous. Wind combined with humidity can make the temperature feel lower, although the wind is usually periodic. Aridity means higher sunshine levels and somewhat lower humidity than typically expected on the coast, however, here the coastal influence is so strong that unfortunately, Comodoro isn't always quite the sun-soaked paradise that deserts like Phoenix often are; nor is it as gloomy or fog-shrouded as costal deserts like Lima. Humidity also helps make temperatures feel hotter in late spring and early fall so the beach is still a possibility even then. Even after a considerably hot day, summer nights are usually pleasantly cool and refreshing and experience lower humidity as well as heat, adding to the nice cool sensation.
The downtown area has a good amount of attractions, as is usual for a city, and here there is considerable emphasis on the museums. The amenities of most cities' downtown areas are mostly to be found on San Martín Street and Rivadavia Avenue.
If you are coming from outside Argentina, you'll probably fly to Comodoro from Buenos Aires. Most large cities in Argentina have flights to/from Comodoro. Although the airport is called "international", none of the airlines servicing Comodoro have any routes to/from any city outside of Argentina. The following is a list of cities with service to General Enrique Mosconi International Airport.
Buses of Transporte Patagonia Argentina go to stops around the metropolitan area. There are also many taxis around the center of the city.