Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 21 Jul, 2007
The Las Quijadas National Park is out of the way to visit it together with Talampaya and Ischigualasto (Valle de la Luna), but you will certainly want to get off the bus at San Luis, and hire a taxi (it is very difficult to get…Read More
The Las Quijadas National Park is out of the way to visit it together with Talampaya and Ischigualasto (Valle de la Luna), but you will certainly want to get off the bus at San Luis, and hire a taxi (it is very difficult to get a local tour to visit this park, but in any case taxis are not expensive in San Luis, and you can do the round trip, plus two hours waiting time, for some 50 to 60 dollars. You need to bargain with the taxi drivers, I did it for 40 dollars, but some were asking for nearly double that price. That was half a year ago, and prices have increased slightly since then. As in the other parks I mentioned, you will find the work of wind and water erosion. This was historically a land of gangsters over a century ago, when they used to steal the horse-driven carriages, and disappear in the midst of nowhere, taking advantage of the natural accidents of the area. Today the whole province of San Luis is pretty safe, and I am only mentioning this because the name of the area came as a result of the cow skulls that they use to leave after enjoying their abundant barbecues... Quijada means Jawbone in English.
If you visit San Luis you will also want to visit the beautiful spots there are near the capital, Potrero de los Funes, Cruz de Piedra, El Volcán, El Trapiche, La Florida (the largest artificial lake in the province, with a two-mile dam divided in sections), Río Grande (silverside fishing), La Carolina (a former mining area, where you can still take gold-searching tours, or practise rock climbing or tyrolese). I have covered all those areas in my report San Luis for Budget Travelers. There are no vehicle tours inside the national park. There are three trekking tours, the first one lasts only 45 minutes. The longest one takes nearly three hours. I took an intermediate option: Circuit 1 plus part of Circuit 2, at a cost of 3 dollars and a half. The fee of the National Park guides is very reasonable. There is no place where to eat inside the national park, at the most you can buy soft drinks and a sandwich. So leave with enough time to come back for lunch or dinner.
I am sure you will enjoy San Luis as much as Ishigualasto and Talampaya, although if I had to choose, Las Quijadas would be my third option, before El Chiflón, but after the other two parks. Since the nearest city to this National Park is San Luis, it is recommended that you stay overnight in the city. There are very nice 4-star hotels, like the hotel Quintana in the downtown (40 dollars for a single room or 57 dollars for a double room), or the Hotel Potrero de los Funes if you want to stay in the countryside, some 11 miles away from the capital facing a very nice lake surrounded by foothills. The cost of a single room in the Potrero de los Funes hotel should be costing today some 50 dollars per night. Sorry, but they have no published rates. It was cheaper than the Hotel Quintana when I was there the last time. I prefer this last option. Here are the links for both hotels: www.hotelquintana.com.ar www.hotelpotrero.sanluis.gov.ar. Since I could not afford those rates, I stayed at a cheaper and very nice hotel: Plaza Pringles, just half a block away from the main square. It is rated as a 2-star hotel, but really deserves 3 stars, in my opinion. My only complaint is that its restaurant is rather expensive, so after checking the prices I decided to each in some nearby restaurants. This is their link. As I said, I highly recommend the hotel, but not its restaurant. www.guiahoteleraon-line.com/empresa.php?id=14688
Enjoy your stay in western Argentina. There is a lot to enjoy. And both San Juan and San Luis are only two to three hours away from Mendoza city. Actually, you can travel in triangle. Bus services: From CORDOBA: Andesmar and Mercobus are the best: www.andesmar.com.ar www.mercobus.com.ar. From BUENOS AIRES: Autotransportes San Juan, Andesmar and other companies. www.atsj.com.ar www.andesmar.com.ar From MENDOZA: All these companies, plus CATA and others. Welcome to Western Argentina (Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis). I know you will enjoy your visit.
While in San Juan, you are only two hours away from Mendoza city, a beautiful city where I enjoyed living during three years and a half. It is a charming city, with all the comfort of large cities, but without the problems involved in large…Read More
While in San Juan, you are only two hours away from Mendoza city, a beautiful city where I enjoyed living during three years and a half. It is a charming city, with all the comfort of large cities, but without the problems involved in large cities, as long as you are wise enough to avoid crowded or solitary areas. In Mendoza city you can take the Alta Montaña tour all the way up to the Aconcagua (the highest mount in the American continent) and Las Cuevas (international border with Chile), you can visit the Atuel Canyon (far smaller than the Great Canyon, but really enjoyable), or a Friday night tour to the international ski center of Las Leñas, where I would never stay overnight because an hotel room can cost nearly 300 dollars for one person per night during the high season, but that you can visit on a one-day tour leaving on Friday night on Andesmar Turismo and arriving back Saturday at midnight for a cost of only some 30 dollars. I did the tour and really enjoyed it. Everything is expensive at Las Leñas, so if you go out eating, look for the specials. I had chicken with potatoes and a soft drink for 7 dollars, but bottles of wine were costing anything from 20 to 180 dollars...
If you are over 65, request a Senior free pass for the ski lift at Public Relations. The ski lift pass is extremely expensive. In any case you will not be allowed on the ski lift if you take no skis, but there are roads like the one that goes to La Cima Restaurant, from where you can take fantastic views of the area. If you stay at San Luis, you should not miss the trip to La Carolina. You will visit Potrero Los Funes, Cruz de Piedra, El Volcan, el Trapiche, Río Grande, and La Carolina, a beautiful old mining village. You will probably have to hire a taxi. I paid some 43 dollars for this trip, because I had no other option... I wanted to go all the way. But you can travel on local buses to all the other places I mentioned for less than one dollar, and these bus lines run quite frequently. The village of Calingasta in San Juan is another charming option. It is nearly beneath the Andes, it is a vineyard, peach, walnut, and garlic producing area, and also a mining center. There are only two hotels in the village, if you can call them hotels, but both have good comfort. The Hotel de Campo Calingasta even has a swimming pool and a very good restaurant. The Pensión Nora in the downtown has air-conditioned rooms with color TV. You have the choice. A year and a half ago a single room was costing only ten dollars per night. It could be costing some 15 yo 18 dollars by now. So hurry up, or you might have to pay a higher price once you make up your mind...
There are nice places to visit in the area: El Alcazar, a natural formation where you will enjoy seeing the work of water and wind erosion, two astronomical observatories (Leoncito and Casleo), trout fishing in the Castaño River... You will have to travel in taxi, but these are not expensive; less than one dollar per mile. One warning, there is no bank, nor any ATM in Calingasta, so go with enough cash to enjoy your stay, or you will have to travel to the nearest town (Barreal) that is half an hour away. If you go to the astronomical observatory (Calingasta has one of the clearest skies in the world), you will also see the natural racing track where Marlboro runs its wind-driven vehicle races. If is in better condition than many paved highways in the world... Enjoy your stay in Western Argentina. You will not regret having come to discover this beautiful area.
This was a unique experience for me, because I had never been to a National Park where you can notice the effects of wind and water erosion on the mountain before. That was about 3 years ago, and I really enjoyed it. All forms are…Read More
This was a unique experience for me, because I had never been to a National Park where you can notice the effects of wind and water erosion on the mountain before. That was about 3 years ago, and I really enjoyed it. All forms are natural. The national park as the policy of not doing anything artificial to preserve the natural forms. They say that by the time one form collapses, another one will have appeared in another section of the park. Here you are allowed to drive in on a taxi or your rented car, but you must be part of the caravan, and (supposedly) only stop where the National Park guide stops. There are some eight very interesting stops and the guide gives a detailed explanation (in Spanish). If you do not understand Spanish, I would recommend that you try to get a taxi driver that understands English, or a guided tour in English. I am not sure if you will be able to find a bilingual guide in Valle Fertil, it is a small town of some 10,000 inhabitants or less, so you might as well start practising your Spanish...
There is a small museum at the entrance of the National Park. You can go through it in twenty minutes, but if you are really interested in paleontology, you might take one hour or more. There are a couple of dinosaur skeletons (about five to six feet long) and a lot of printed information. You will see interesting forms, such as The Worm, the Submarine, the Sphinx, the Mushroom, and Aladin's Lamp (fallen). The Ball Game is another very typical place, where natural rounded small rocks, similar to those used in a very typical Argentine game called "bochas" (bowls). Please respect the environment, and do not carry any home as a souvenir.
Ischigualasto or the Valley of the Moon is only 50 miles away from Valle Fertil and about the same distance from Talampaya. If you intend to visit both parks, it is recommended that you leave early in the morning. It might take as much as twelve hours to visit both parks (and El Chiflón in between), but it is a unique experience, completely different to what you have seen in your lifetime, unless you have been to the Great Canyon in Arizona, or Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico. I should add that Valle Fertil is a very nice small town to visit, that the view from the Hosteria de Valle Fertil (3 stars) is beautiful, with a panoramic view towards the town, towards the mountainside and towards the dam and lake below, where there is good silverside fishing. There are bus services from Buenos Aires to San Juan (some 14 hours travel) of San Juan - Mar del Plata, Autotransportes San Juan (they have the Premium bed service, that they call "Cama Total") www.atsj.com.ar. There are also bus services from Mendoza: CATA and Andesmar. These are their web pages: www.catainternacional.com, www.andesmar.com.ar. Once you are in San Juan city, you have only 3 or 4 buses in the day to San Agustín de Valle Fértil, (Vallecito bus company) and they are in high demand. There are also some traffic van services that come to the village. If you cannot get seats on the bus, ask at the Information booth of the bus station, and they will tell you where you can get a traffic van. Travelling on a taxi would be far more expensive. There are also bus services to San Juan from La Rioja, Catamarca, Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy (www.andesmar.com.ar) I may add the travel from Mendoza to San Juan takes only a couple of hours, and that there are other tourist destinations in San Juan, such as Calingasta that I have referred to in other overviews. To see more information on Ischigualasto, click here: www.welcomeargentina.com/paseos/valle_luna/index_i.html Welcome to one of the most fascinating areas in Argentina.
Talampaya is the most beautiful park of its type in the land where the first dinosaurs lived, but if you do not know how to get there, it may become an unpleasant experience. I had not visited it from San Agustin del Valle Fértil (the…Read More
Talampaya is the most beautiful park of its type in the land where the first dinosaurs lived, but if you do not know how to get there, it may become an unpleasant experience. I had not visited it from San Agustin del Valle Fértil (the best option), because I had to return to Cordoba for my daughter’s graduation party. Thus, I left it for another trip. I took a bus from the city of La Rioja that would leave me "just in front" of the National Park. Of course, it left me at the entrance, but I did not know that the local tours left at a site that was four miles away from the National Highway. I would have had to go walking under a strong sun. Fortunately, a tourist gave me a lift and took me in his car, or I would have arrived too late at the departure point to see anything at all...
I definitely recommend these alternatives for visiting Talampaya: 1) THE BEST: Take the combined tour from San Juan de Valle Fértil. You will visit Valle de la Luna (the Moon's valley) and Talampaya in one sole tour. This tour leaves early in the morning (about 7 or 7.30am) and no bus arrives from San Juan as early as that. So you will have to stay overnight at Valle Fértil the previous night, and another night, since you will arrive back too late for boarding the last bus. The bus from the city of San Juan (Vallecito) takes some 4 hours from San Juan to Valle Fértil, and the best place to stay overnight is the Hostería de Valle Fértil (3 stars). A night there can cost some 40 or 50 dollars for a double room, but it is located on a beautiful panoramic spot, with view towards the mountains, towards the lake (where there is good silverside fishing) and also towering over the town. You can find rooms in the downtown as cheap as ten dollars per night, I saw some of them and decided to stay at the Hosteria. It also has an excellent restaurant. Since it is in high demand, it is advisable to make prior reservations, if at all possible, or avoid going on a weekend. Here is one of the links through which you can make reservations. Just in case, check the prices. I dealt directly with the hotel... www.e-mountain.com.ar/SJuan/Alojamientos/VFEHTLValleFertil.htm I did not take the local tour, but had to hire, because the combined tour would bring me back too late. Thus I went only to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) and El Chiflon that was also interesting. It was too much money for me, but fortunately I found another two tourists interesting in taking the tour, so it cost us some 15 dollars each one. But I was unable to make it to Talampaya that time. And, as I said above, a generous tourist took me from the highway where the bus left me to the departure point of the tours. You can also go to Talampaya from Villa Union and from Panecillo. Villa Union has a couple of good hotels, while Panecillo only has a very elementary lodge. The choice is yours. Keep in mind that even if you buy the combined tour to Valle de la Luna and Talampaya, you will also have to pay the admission to each national park (some 6 dollars in each one) and also the local tour inside the Talampaya National Park. This is because dinosaur skeletons were stolen years ago, and the national park requires that you take the tour on their own vehicles. You should calculate some 20 additional dollars for the tour, if you want to take circuits 1 and 2 (highly recommended).
The work of erosion is fantastic in the park. Natural forms made by wind and water erosion: The Sphinx, the Chimney, the Gulleys, the Totem, the Cathedral, the Botanical Park, do not require much imagination to admire the work of Creation. And Talampaya is very colorful. A reddish color predominates throughout the National Park. Unlike the Valley of the Moon, where everything is arid, Talampaya is in the canyon of a dry river that swells up when it rains, and waters the vegetation. You will only see vegetation by the riverside, but the scenery is completely different. Avoid the summer months. La Rioja and Talampaya have an Arizona-type climate, with very warm temperature, you will enjoy it far more in autumn, winter or spring. But this is one of the unique parts of Argentina you should not miss. Overnight camping is not allowed inside the park, so leave early in the morning and enjoy the visit. Welcome to the land of the first dinosaurs, maybe the smallest ones, but that existed in the Tertiary Geological Age.