Take a deep breath and look at the wide expanse that is Patagonia.
Wooden fences, horses running free and mountains towering in the background…
It’s easy to see how rugged Patagonia would be a draw to two of America’s most infamous outlaws.
Hollywood made it look like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ran straight to Bolivia where they met their untimely end.
In reality, they escaped.
After robbing the National Bank in Winnemucca, Nevada they fled to New York City where they eventually boarded the luxurious Herminia steamer to Rio de Janeiro.
They spent a few months in Brazil before deciding to give Argentina a try, arriving in Buenos Aires at the turn of the century blending in among throngs of European immigrants.
I wish I could trace their steps here in the city, seeing these outlaws experience tango and cultured cafes.
But understandably, they felt too exposed in the big city and made their way to the southern frontier.
It must have felt like home.
Utah and Chubut’s rugged landscapes can’t be much different from one another.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed following their footsteps across Patagonia.
Finally I made it to a place that’s been in my sights for years: Butch and Sundance’s homestead in Cholila.
This post is all about where to find Butch Cassidy in Argentina, the museums dedicated to them and places they hid out along the way.
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In this post:
Butch Cassidy in Argentina
Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Ethel Place spent 6 years trying to live a (mostly) honest life in Argentina.
You can trace their footsteps across Patagonia.
As a kid, I was fascinated by the wild west.
I even dressed up as Annie Oakley every single year for Halloween, without fail, without variation.
I’m happy to transfer that Annie Oakley obsession onto Butch and Sundance as I explore Patagonia, discovering the impact they left in their short 6 years here.
Do you also want to trace the outlaws’ Argentina trail?
BUTCH CASSIDY BIOGRAPHY | I love history and when I travel to new places I try to find a book that can give me more insight to where I’m visiting. For Cholila, I loved getting into this Butch Cassidy autobiography on Audible (sign up here). The reader’s accent is very Western and the delivery of an outlaw story in his voice is just perfection. It’s not a fast paced novel by any means but you really get into what made Butch tick.
While in Buenos Aires, the trio got in touch with American George Newbery (uncle to THE Jorge Newbery of aviation fame, the namesake of the airport).
George was a dentist and an aristocrat, rubbing elbows and cleaning the teeth of politicians.
He suggested that Butch and the gang head to Patagonia and American-owned general store (now called El Boliche Viejo and mentioned later in this post) on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi and Rio Limay.
The story gets really interesting and I can’t write it all out here or it would never end, but read all about their time in Argentina here.
This post is all about how to follow in the footsteps of Butch Cassidy in Argentina.
Butch Cassidy’s Cholila Homestead
After discarding Brazil and big city Buenos Aires as potential new homes, Butch, Sundance, and Ethel (remembered often as Etta) Place finally settled on tiny Cholila in northern Chubut.
At the time, Cholila had under 50 residents and today it remains tiny.
They changed their names to James “Santiago” Ryan, Henry “Enrique” Place, and Ethel Place (introduced as Henry/Sundance’s wife).
Purchasing 16 horses, a plot of land on the river, and eventually building a small complex of cabins with a warehouse and corral.
They registered a brand and grew their herd of cattle and sheep, building an honest new life.
How to visit the Butch Cassidy Cabins in Cholila
What remains of Butch Cassidy’s cabins in Cholila are on private property but are free and open to visit.
Museo Bar La Legal is a bar and history museum (dedicated largely to the outlaws) a few hundred meters from the entrance to the cabins.
On Ruta 71, put in Museo Bar La Legal into your map, if you’re coming from El Bolson you’ll pass the turn off for the cabins just before the bar.
It’s the right turn showing up on the map right before La Legal and once you turn right, you’ll immediately see the gates to the ranch with modest signs advertising the cabins on your right.
We drove right onto the property as the family must have been having lunch (it’s private property). No one was bothered we were there as we drove right up to the fenced in cabins.
Waiting for La Legal to open at a vague 4:30 pm, maybe 5:30 pm start (things are loose here in the country), we relaxed here at the cabins for well over an hour.
Exploring the rooms and lounging in the wildflowers, we listened to the water of the creek nearby.
It was easy to see why the three outlaws loved it here.
I wasn’t in any rush to leave myself.
When La Legal was finally open we headed over to check out the museum and have an early dinner/late snack.
The museum has a very modest entry fee and two rooms jam packed with information about Cholila and it’s resident bandits.
La Legal is an old general store and it still has that vibe, which I love.
The owners lean heavily into the Butch and Sundance legend and clients often pose for photos with pistols and cowboy hats.
We didn’t get a photo op but we did order a locally made wine from El Bolson and empanadas and shopped a bit of their selection of locally produced wares.
TRAIN ROBBERY REINACTMENTS IN PATAGONIA | La Trochita is a tourist train you can take in Esquel, it’s a short half day excursion where you can experience part of the historic Tren Patagonico. Sometimes they have special events where you can live a staged reenactment of an armed train robbery, surely inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s iconic robberies in the US (as these sorts of robberies didn’t happen here). Check their Instagram account to see if you can catch one of these rare events.
El Boliche Viejo in Bariloche
Between Bariloche and Villa La Angostura is El Boliche Viejo, a parrilla that inhabits a sort no man’s land between the two provinces.
It lies in Neuquen like VLA (Bariloche is in Rio Negro), it’s steps from the border crossing and not technically in any town at all.
When the region was being settled, this was a paraje – or a rest stop in the middle of nowhere (unlike today, resting between two major Patagonian cities).
It was founded by Texan immigrant Don Jarred Jones and his family.
In 1900, when the trio of bandits were making their way south from Buenos Aires to their eventual home in Cholila, the spent some time at the general store on the property of the Jones’ estancia.
Years later the Jones’ discovered they had dined and befriended the famous Butch and Sundance when they were caught and Jones saw them splashed in the newspapers.
Today the general store is a parrilla right next to the provincial border crossing, El Boliche Viejo.
I recently went and was surprised to find Butch and his gang’s photos on the walls and placemats.
Before going I was unaware that they had even passed through here.
But, if you’re a history buff and a steak lover, you should definitely carve out some time for this historic, local haunt.
La Leona in El Chalten
It is rugged, much more so than even Cholila, and arid.
There is only one rest stop on the entire route.
And like El Boliche Viejo, it’s a historic one.
A Danish family constructed this estancia in 1894, right on the spot where the famous explorer Francisco Perito Moreno (the Perito Moreno) was attacked by a female puma (also known as a leona).
In 1905, the trio of Gringos spent a month here while on the road to Chile to flee the country after falling into old habits by robbing a Rio Gallegos bank.
The walls of this rest stop are now a basic but informative make-shift museum paying homage to Butch, Sundance, and Ethel.
Stop for a bit of history with a torta frita and coffee before continuing onwards to El Chalten.
Or if you’re really wanting to get off the beaten path, stay a night and sleep like Butch.
Hotel Touring Club in Trelew
Trelew’s oldest hotel, the Hotel Touring Club, proudly boasts of a string of colorful guests.
Butch Cassidy was one of these among politicians, writers, and even a representation of Germany’s Third Reich.
Today a room on the main courtyard where they supposedly stayed has been converted into a museum dedicated to Butch.
The museum recreates how it must have been when he stayed here well over a century ago.
Visit the museum and have a drink at the bar if you’re in Trelew.
Robberies in Rio Gallegos & Cordoba
Despite trying to reform and live a straight life, the authorities never stopped searching for the bandits.
The Pinkerton Agency in the US, particularly Frank DiMaio (an agent looking to make a name for himself) had always been on his trail.
George Newbery had tipped off DiMaio to Butch’s presence in Argentina and rumor’s spread, they were even on the President’s radar.
With attention on the men due to another robbery elsewhere in Chubut committed by two Americans (somehow tied to Butch and Sundance despite a rock solid alibi) and Newbery’s alerting DiMaio, the pressure was on.
They resorted to old habits, robbing a bank in Rio Gallegos.
Spending three weeks casing the city, the robbery isn’t confirmed to be their work but it has all their hallmarks down to the relay of horses and supplies on a prepared escape route.
From this robbery they fled to the outskirts of Cholila and onwards to Chile, settling their affairs along the way.
Six months later four men robbed a bank in Villa Mercedes in Cordoba, making it clear that the bandits had returned to Argentina.
From here they fled, eventually ending in Bolivia where they died in a shoot out (to simplify the story and end this article).
I’m not sure if these banks or any sites in Rio Gallegos or Villa Mercedes have anything you can see today.
If there is I’d love to go!
If you’ve been and know anything, let me know in the comments because I WILL go.
Argentina Travel Resources
- TRAVEL INSURANCE | It is always a good idea to travel insured. It protects you in so many cases, like lost luggage and trip cancellations, medical emergencies and evacuations. It’s very affordable with the potential to save you thousands in the case of an emergency. I recommend SafetyWing.
- PHONE PLAN | These days, traveling with data is essential. Especially in Argentina where everything is managed on Instagram and WhatsApp. I recommend this E-SIM card. It’s hassle-free and affordable, for more read how to get an Argentina sim card.
- ACCOMMODATION IN ARGENTINA | booking.com is the most common hotel site used in Argentina and it’s where you’ll find the most options.
- RENTAL CARS | I love to travel Argentina via road trip, check out RentalCars.com for the best rates for rental cars here.
- BUS TICKETS | I like Busbud for long distance bus routes and tickets.
- VPN | If you’ll be using a public WiFi connection and want to secure your data, I highly recommend using a VPN, I personally use and have had a good experience with ExpressVPN. I also use it to access Hulu and American Netflix from Argentina.
- FLIGHTS | Always check Google Flights and Skyscanner for flights to and within Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina is the local airline with the most routes. FlyBondi and Jetsmart are two budget airlines with dirt-cheap prices (but expect to pay for every add-on like luggage).
- NEED HELP PLANNING? | I offer one-on-one travel consultations to help you plan your trip to Argentina. Pick my brain to get a local’s insight. Click here for more information.