San Juan

Bare nature, rich archeological remains and a valuable historic legacy share space in the Province of San Juan, where wines and fine cuisine do not pass unnoticed. Ischigualasto Natural and Provincial Park takes a leading role in Valle Fértil (Fertile Valley.) This paleontological site with amazing landforms has been declared World Heritage together with Talampaya National Park in the neighbor city of La Rioja. Charm is everywhere in the Valley of Calingasta and Jáchal, where quaint settings and ancient chapels live together with the hectic pace and the calmness offered by nature in the south in Barreal and Pampa del Leoncito (land sailing and astronomic sights are the starting point) and in the north, in the Cuesta del Viento dam (perfect for water sports.) To the West, the Andes Mountain Range offers the most beautiful sceneries whereas in the City of San Juan, the province’s capital, you can find a mixture of modern urban pace with history and many cultural attractions.

Travel to San Juan

Excursions to San Juan

San Juan & its surroundings: Dique de Ullum & Cavas de Zonda

We visit the principal places of interest in the city of San Juan, which is located in the centre north of the Valle del Tulum. This city was practically destroyed by an earthquake in 1944, thus it is one of the newest cities in Argentina. It is the city where Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was born, he was president of Argentina and a great creator of the public education. The most important attractions in San Juan are the Embalse de Ullum, the Quebrada de Zona and the Ruta del Vino (Wine Route). Within our visit we can visit the house where Sarmiento was born, the only colonial testimony left in the city, with 9 rooms and 3 servants´ rooms with 2 courtyards, typical distribution of that time. Another place worth visiting is the Cathedral, in honour of San Juan Bautista (St. John Baptist), which is one of the most modern churches as it was first built in 1712 by the Compañía de Jesús and rebuilt in 1979 after the earthquake. Other interesting places are the Auditorio Juan Victoria, the cultural place par excellence, the Museo Sanmartiniano, etc. Then we visit the Ullum dam and the Cavas de Zonda, where we will taste first quality San Juan wines.

Barreal, Calingasta Valley & Pampa del Leoncito (Astronomical Observatory)

We set off to Pampa del Leoncito, then we go to the Astronomical Observatory and the Cerro Alcázar. During this mountain road, we see the cerro Villicúm, the Quebrada de las Burras, Talacasto town, entering Calingasta up to the Barreal. From there we go to Pampa del Leoncito where wind-car is practised thanks to the sustained winds that blow more than 80km per hour. The wind-car is a small vehicle with 2 car wheels at the back and a motorbike wheel at the front, it has a fuselage and a mast made of aluminium to be light and be able to move with great impulse. The Pampa del Leoncito also called Barreal Blanco is a geological structure next to the Barreal town, where a natural reserve has been created. It is a plain with arid and cracked soil 15km long per 5km wide, which before was the bottom basin of a lake, without vegetation of any kind, similar to a spider web.

The vision is atypical and the white colour is very deep. We can observe the impressive Mercedario Mount 6,772m high and then have lunch at the Barreal. It is the most important tourist centre of the valley, a town with dirt streets and beautiful poplars, where we will also visit the astronomical complex El Leoncito. It is an observatory located at the foot of the mountain range, 2,500m over sea level, in the San Juan Astronomical Reserve, occupying almost 70,000 hectares, being an excellent place to observe the space. Once again in San Juan, we will enjoy a spectacular view of the Cerro Alkázar.

North of San Juan: Jáchal, Dique Cuesta del Viento & Rodeo

Breakfast at the hotel. We take the Ruta 40 towards the north of San Juan province, leaving the San Juan river behind, going through towns like Albardón, Matagusanos, Talacasto and next to Villicúm Mount we arrive at San José de Jáchal city, where we learn about its indigenous cultures. We change direction to the west to the central Andean foothill along a mountain road discovering unique sights.

We visit Cuesta del Viento, ideal place to practise nautical sports such as windsurf, then we go to Rodeo, small mountain town next to the Dique Cuesta del Viento, hydroelectical dam with a mirror of crystalline water of a turquoise colour. We continue with the itinerary to Pismanta, where the famous thermal water complex is, mixing the arid desert with the green oasis, being one of the nicest places in San Juan. Its thermal water has healing, therapeutics and rejuvenating effects, ideal for rheumatism and skin diseases. We return to San Juan capital by Las Flores and Bella Vista, foothills road climbing up the slope to arrive at the highest zone at El Colorado. Then, in Talacasto we go back to the Ruta 40 to enter San Juan.

Ischigualasto National Park: Fertile Valley and Valley of the Moon

Breakfast at the hotel. We leave towards Valle Fértil, going through the Difunta Correa Sanctuary in the town of Vallecito, San Juan. There is a great popular devotion from Catholic people although she was not recognized by the Catholic Church. Her followers believe in her miracles and consider her a popular Saint, worshipped as a Goddess. We arrive at the Ischigualasto Provincial Park to discover the Valle de la Luna and its five stations.

This park has an extension of 62.000 hectares and is 330km away from San Juan capital city. It boasts a considerable paleontological and geological patrimony, UNESCO declared it as Natural Heritage of Humanity in the year 2000. Ischigualasto belongs to the Triassic period, 300 million years ago, and it is an accurate representation of those times when the first mammals and dinosaurs spread. It was in these lands where one of the oldest dinosaurs, the Eoraptor Lunensis was found. Its principal landforms are: El Gusano, Valle Pintado, Cancha de Bochas, El Submarino, El Hongo and Los Colorados. We go back to Valle Fértil in the afternoon, where we will spend the night.

The Wine Route of San Juan: Vineyards and wineries

Traslado desde el hotel a la terminal de buses de Mendoza. Recepción en la terminal de buses de San Juan y traslado al hotel. Por la tarde vamos a visitar las bodegas más importantes de la provincia de San Juan, degustaremos algunos de los vinos premiados a nivel mundial, conociendo el proceso de elaboración desde su inicio en la misma tierra hasta su llegada a la mesa de los hogares. Hay dos rutas del vino en San Juan, la ruta sur donde se destacan vinos, champaña y licores, ellas son Viñas de Segisa, Fabril Alto Verde, Miguel Más y Las Marianas. La otra ruta es la oeste, aquí conocemos la historia del vino sanjuanino, sobresalen Bodegas y Museo Santiago Graffigna, Merced del Estero que es una bodega boutique, además de establecimientos para la producción de frutos secos, oliva y aceto.

Laguna Brava: The natural perfection (Brava Lagoon)

Free day in Fertile Valley. We recommend as optional activity go to visit Laguna Brava.

We spend all day travelling to a unique and unforgettable place: Laguna Brava (Brava Lake), more than 4,400m over sea level, part of some Andean lakes system of saline shallow water. It is surrounded by the highest volcanoes in the world. There is an important biodiversity due to the presence of wetlands, observing endemic marine birds populations such as flamingos and Andean parinas (Phoenicoparrus andinus). It is also a wildlife shelter to camelids such as guanacos and vicuñas, condors can be watched as well as mules and foxes. The appearance of the place changes as we climb upwards and its beauty is due to the fact that it is a bright clear blue lake amidst the mountain range surrounded by pink flamingos, creating a landscape quite similar to the high plateau lakes of Atacama. The surrounding area has wind-shaped mountains, as if they were painted with a mixture of magic colours and in the background a bright deep blue sky that with the eternal snows, give a special touch even though there is no green which would finish off the picture as there is no vegetation.