An Argentinian ghost town is re-emerging as a tourist destination after spending 25 years underwater. Epecuen’s revival as a visitor attraction is fitting – the scenic lakeside town was built as a tourist village in the 1920s.
Epecuen was once a bustling lakeside resort in the farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires. Filled with saltwater baths and spas, the area attracted around 20,000 tourists every season. The town sat on the shores of Lago Epecuen – a picturesque lake which enticed visitors with its waters, which carried ten times more salt than the ocean.
But summers spent floating on the water were later brought to an abrupt end, much to tourists’ dismay. A heavy rainstorm followed by a series of wet winters caused the lake to overflow its banks on November 10, 1985.
“On the 10th of November at 10 a.m. in the morning the embankment was breached, this stone wall that we had as a barrier, a very strong southerly wind made the water begin to flood through to the town,” said Norma Berg, a 23-year-old resident at the time of the flooding.
Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the streets, prompting people to flee. Within days, nearby homes were submerged under nearly ten meters (33 feet) of corrosive saltwater.
Twenty-five years would then pass before Epecuen would reemerge. Years of dry weather caused the floods to recede in 2007, uncovering the once bustling town.
Although Epecuen has not been rebuilt, its ruins are attracting tourists – many of whom are willing to drive six hours from Buenos Aires.
Those willing to make the journey are welcomed by rusted car remains, crumbled homes, and broken appliances. Tourists climb staircases that lead to nowhere, and wander through a graveyard where the water toppled headstones and exposed tombs.
Those looking for a guide contact Norma Berg, who takes tourists through the ruins and manages a museum which is housed in the town’s former train station.
It may not sound like a dream vacation, but 82-year-old Pablo Novak, who still lives on the edge of town, says it’s a popular one.
“Whoever passes nearby cannot go without coming to visit here,” he said. “It’s getting more people to the area, as they come to see the ruins,” he told AP. Novak was the only resident who refused to leave the town when the floods hit in 1985.
The local tourism authority is hoping Epecuen will be designated a heritage site, and hopes tourism will grow to be the future lifeblood of the area.
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