© Istock/nicoodes
© Istock/nicoodes

A trip through the Argentinian Moon Valley - Ischigualasto

5 minutes to read

Located northeast of the San Juan Province, Ischigualasto is the perfect place for adventure seekers and trekking and geography enthusiasts. As its name suggests, a trip through the Argentinian Moon Valley looks and feels like being on the moon. The Ischigualasto National Park has been a UNESCO humanity heritage site since 2000 and is no wonder the place of geological and paleontological importance! 

An overview of the National Park

As you have probably guessed, the geography of the national park is stunning. It seems otherworldly, yet a visit to this marverlous place is feasible, but you just have to get to Argentina first. It is the absolute must-see, a sight to keep in your memories forever! As usual, the National Park has a main goal to preserve the patrimony of the place, which is geological, natural and historical (there are dinosaurs fossils involved). The park offers different trekking and biking circuits, so you can visit the park and its many attractions safely. Keep in mind that each circuit needs to be reserved in advance. Locals recommend keeping an eye on the most famous geological forms of the place - "the Mushroom", "the Submarine", "Cancha de Bochas", and "Painted Valley".

© Istock/Sergio Daniel Guzman
© Istock/Sergio Daniel Guzman
Ischigualasto National Park, San Juan
Ischigualasto National Park, San Juan
Ischigualasto, Santa Lucía, San Juan, Argentina

Activities in Ischigualasto

The National Park offers different circuits for you to live the best of Ischigualasto. It all depends on what you like and want to see. Every circuit has its own appeal.

© Istock/Mandy2110
© Istock/Mandy2110

The first circuit I will tell you about is the traditional circuit in daylight. It is a circuit of over 40 kilometers, with five different stations created to appreciate raw nature. One of the stations is the William Sill Museum, but I will tell you more about it a bit later. The approximate duration of the circuit is 3 hours, but it depends on the beholder. Each station is different and breathtaking, so it is up to you how long it will take!

The second circuit is the Full Moon Circuit. It sounds amazingly romantic but is much more than that. This is a circuit offered only four nights a month, and it depends on the moon fase. As you might have already guessed, the special thing about this circuit is that it takes place at night, and it actually feels as if you are walking over the moon and not planet earth, just you and the moon for a couple of hours! So, plan it ahead, locals say it is a must! 

Trekk to the Cerro Morado (purple hill) is another circuit you can enjoy. It involves trekking to the highest point of the National Park, which is Cerro Morado, it is obviously not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced trekker. The difficulty of this circuit is high and gets even harder if you take into account the altitude you will face (around 1.800 MASL). The circuit should take three hours to complete, including the time spent at the top of the hill. I almost forgot to tell you the main reason you should do this circuit (if you have the physical condition to do so) - the amount of flora and fauna you will see as you get to the peak is immeasurable!

Fancy a bike ride circuit? No problem, there is also a circuit for you. This circuit is not a popular one because not many people know about it, but according to locals, it is one of the most beautiful ones! A guide will take you through the hidden gems of the national park so you can amuse yourself with nature for an hour and a half approximately. Take into consideration the place is equiped with special bikes to endure the circuit

The Rio Salado circuit is a long trekking adventure you should not miss if you love walking. As you have learned, the place is great to connect yourself to raw nature and see things beyond your imagination - geography, flora and fauna. The starting point of this circuit is the dry beginning of the Rio Salado, which grows and becomes a big emerald mirror in the middle of the desert

Quebrada de la Peña circuit will take you to "de la Peña Canon". The trekking circuit's difficulty itself is not hard, but it is not meant for beginners. It requires good physical condition and good heat endurance. It takes place in different kinds of ground with a lot of slopes, but it is all worth it once you start it. This circuit shows you the diversity of the geography of the place - most watercourses converge, and you get to see the most iconic canon of the whole Argentinian Moon Valley.

The William Sill Museum 

The William Sill Museum is different from what usually pops up in your head when you think of one! It is a "museo de sitio" or "site museum", an archeological site of historical or patrimonial importance which you can visit. This means that whatever has been discovered or is currently being investigated is not taken out of the place where it was found. This is the case of the William Sill Museum, which has a dome under which scientists are investigating and learning about dinosaur remains (to be more precise, two rincosaurus and a dicynodont). So, basically, the things to see are fossils and scientists working, all very interesting and unique!

© Istock/Mandy2110
© Istock/Mandy2110
William Sill Museum, San Juan Province
William Sill Museum, San Juan Province
San Juan Province, Argentina

Weather and recomendations 

When it comes to the best season to visit the park, I recommend either spring or autumn because they are both "intermediate" seasons. The place is extremely hot in summer, which could make it an unpleasant experience if you are not used to extreme heat. In winter, it is the absolute opposite, the temperature drops, and if you are not good at dealing with cold, it will not be easy for you to endure. 

Another point I have for you, keep yourself hydrated. Remember: this place is quite dry and very high (something between 1000 and 2000 MASL). So, be sure to bring enough water for your excursion. 

When it comes to getting to the National Park, the easiest and most comfortable way is by car. However, if you are not familiar with the place, I do not recommend driving. There are plenty of tour options for you to choose from! 

© Istock/Mandy2110
© Istock/Mandy2110

As you can see, there is so much to do in the Argentinian Moon Valley! A day is not enough to enjoy everything the place offers, yet I would highly recommend visiting it, even if it is for a one day trip. Visit the Ischigualasto and make yourself one with unspoilt nature!



The author

Francisca Pizarro

Francisca Pizarro

Hi, I am Francisca. From the north of Chile and south of the world, obsessed with natural landscapes and museums, I will take you through Chile as if you were a local, hoping you fall in love with this country as much as I am.

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