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Ischigualasto, Famatina Mountains, Talampaya and Valle Fértil

Through San Juan City, Rodeo, Chilecito, Villa Unión and Villa San Agustín. Km: 1147

This circuit starts in San Juan City and leads you towards the Andes Mountain Range through little colonial villages. When it goes down the slope known as Cuesta de Huaco, another journey that will take you millions of years into the past begins: you will be able to spy on the evolution of the Earth in Ischigualasto, and on the side of La Rioja, after passing by Chilecito and Famatina Mountains, a canyon with 150-metre-high walls dating back to the Mesozoic era awaits you. Back in San Juan, the tour ends in the natural oasis of Valle Fértil.


Route Sheet

  • Distance: 1,147 kilometres
  • Road type: asphalt-paved
  • Recommended months: all year round
  • Suggested duration: 12 to 15 days


KM 0

San Juan City

San Juan is the province’s capital city and offers accommodation, varied cuisine and complete services. Ullum and Punta Negra dams, located 20 and 36 km away from the city centre, invite visitors to practice kayaking, windsurfing, water skiing and sport fishing. Besides, there are several trekking circuits with varied degrees of difficulty.

KM 64

KM 170

Iglesia Valley

Further along National Route 149 sits the town of Iglesia. This is the beginning of the valley that bears the same name and of a succession of small old towns and villages surrounded by mountains and multicolored landscapes that invite you to visit archaeological sites from settlements of native peoples and the ancient Inca civilization. A section of the old Inca Trail, also known as Qhapaq Ñan, traverses this valley. There are walking trails and 4x4 rides. For those who want to take a break, Pismanta hot springs are 19 km to the north, on the way to Rodeo.

KM 181

KM 200


A village lying on National Route 150 that is surrounded by farms and mountains. From here, you can access San Guillermo National Park, one of San Juan’s most pristine and inhospitable natural environments. Reaching it is an adventure in itself: the trip is between 5 and 7 hours long via winding and rugged roads. This is why it is mandatory to enter with a qualified guide and in 4x4 vehicles. It has an Operational Centre where visitors can stay the night, which must be booked in advance because it is subject to availability. To arrange a visit, you must contact the Park Administration beforehand.

KM 210

Cuesta del Viento Dam

This dam forms one of the windiest lakes in the world, which makes it a great place to practice windsurfing, kitesurfing, wakeboarding and water skiing. It can be visited all year round, know its beaches and practice sport fishing.

KM 222

Jáchal River Gorge

From the road, you can walk along a 200-metre path and reach this spectacular canyon with 30-metre-high walls. With countless waterfalls and rapids, the Jáchal River is a great place for rafting (the excursion must be booked in advance in Jáchal).

KM 249

San José de Jáchal

With colonial-style buildings, Jáchal offers different accommodation options, rural tourism proposals and complete services. It is still home to ancient flour mills that have been declared National Historic Monuments and that are still driven by water, some of them dating back more than 200 years. Guided tours are arranged so that visitors can learn how flour continues to be produced in exactly the same manner as in the 19th century.

KM 273

La Ciénaga Nature Area

Amidst the Huaco River ravine, in a landscape of colorful and winding mountains lies La Ciénaga, declared a "Bird Sanctuary" because of the large number of species it is home to. La Ciénaga Nature Area has significant geological, archaeological and cultural value. Its natural environment and biodiversity have been a source of inspiration for poets and artists alike. It is a great area for trekking, biking and doing photographic safaris.

KM 277

Huaco Slope

Continuing along Provincial Route 49 you travel through Huaco Slope. At its highest point there is a viewpoint from where you gain a panoramic view of the entire valley, its formations and countless colours. Ten kilometres further on lies Huaco, a little town with some lodgings, services and small dirt streets surrounded by sun-dried-brick houses. It is a great place to walk around, take photographs, listen to the sounds of monk parakeets and enjoy the silence of the mountains.

KM 376

Ischigualasto Provincial Park

Moon-like soil, rocks sculpted by the elements and a mountain with massive walls honour another of the names this park is known by: the Valley of the Moon. Its geological formations and paleontological richness led UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site. Walking around this park means following the footsteps of the dinosaurs that lived here 180 million years ago and spying on the evolution of the Earth. A great place for biking, bird watching and daytime and full moon hiking.

KM 405

El Chiflón Provincial Park

​​Continuing along National Route 150, now in the province of La Rioja, a series of sedimentary blocks show the way to El Chiflón. In this park, archaeological remains and a petrified forest sitting atop its outcrops were found. There are 3 circuits, which can be toured by car up to a point and then on foot, leading to archaeological sites, viewpoints and geoforms.

KM 511

Los Colorados Provincial Reserve

Known for its reddish rock formations, this reserve belongs to the same formation as the Talampaya National Park. Important archaeological and paleontological findings were made in the area, which is home to a cave known as “Cueva del Cacho”, where caudillo Ángel Vicente Peñaloza took refuge when he stayed in the region. At the entrance there is a service centre, where you must hire a guide to accompany you during the tour. There is a main circuit that can be toured by car and lasts 1 hour, as well as several trekking and horseback riding routes.

KM 608


A city on National Route 40 with accommodation options, varied cuisine and complete services. As it is part of the Torrontés Route, visiting its wineries and vineyards is a great plan. At the Municipal Park, a stairway leads you to Cristo del Portezuelo, a beautiful spot from which you can gain a panoramic view of the city. Near the city centre, you will find Chirau Mita Botanical Garden, which boasts the largest collection of cacti and succulents in Latin America, with some 1,500 species. Chilecito is a place where it is worth staying several days to visit the old cable-car stations, reach La Mejicana mine at 4,200 metres above sea level (by 4x4), travel part of the Inca Trail, do astrotourism and treks through the Sierras del Famatina.

KM 645

Miranda Slope

A 39 km scenic section of National Route 40 and one of Argentina’s most beautiful slopes. It reaches 2,000 metres high along a lovely ledge road with some 400 curves. The Miranda River accompanies the route bordering it through a valley in which the green vegetation on the mountains and the giant cacti contrast with the red soil.

KM 718

Villa Unión

Continuing along National Route 40 you reach Villa Unión, a city with accommodation facilities, varied cuisine and complete services. Just 5 km away from Villa Unión, you can visit Anchumbil Canyon with its giant and imposing red formations and labyrinths of enormous rocks belonging to the Triassic period. At a distance of 184 km from Villa Unión, via National Route 76, you can reach Laguna Brava Provincial Park and connect with the High Andes natural region.

KM 776

Talampaya National Park

Declared a World Heritage Site, its 150-metre-high rock-walls, eroded by water and wind, show layers with vestiges dating back up to 250 million years. The fossil remains found here bear global significance because they belong to the Triassic period and the cave paintings that can be observed throughout the park are the largest and most important in Argentina. Visiting the Talampaya Canyon is an indelible experience. It can be toured by bike or in park-owned vehicles accompanied by a guide. Fourteen kilometres southwards, continuing along National Route 76, you can get to know other attractions that are part of Talampaya National Park. Among them, the Arco Iris Canyon, boasting whimsical geoforms of different colours, can be reached via a low-difficulty hiking route that takes three and a half hours. Another suggested trek is to Ciudad Perdida, a city that emerges from the ground with geoforms that stand out amidst a vast depression. This is also a low-difficulty hiking route that takes four and a half hours. The two trails require the company of a guide and prior booking.

KM 895

Villa San Agustín de Valle Fértil

Back in San Juan, via Provincial Route 510 you reach Villa San Agustín, a city with accommodation facilities and complete services. There are walking, cycling and horseback riding trails. San Agustín dam boasts a trail that is great for bird watching and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views. This city is the gateway to Valle Fértil Nature Reserve: during the following 120 km you can stop at the different towns to know their ravines, waterfalls and streams.

KM 1147

San Juan City

End of the tour.

Useful information

- San Juan City has an airport. Another option is the nearby airport of La Rioja Capital City, 78 km away from Patquía, from where you can take the circuit. 


- There are different kinds of accommodation and campsites in all the cities and towns that are part of this itinerary. You will find the biggest offering in Rodeo, Jáchal, Chilecito, Villa Unión and Villa San Agustín. Ischigualasto Provincial Park and Talampaya National Park have campsites with services.


- Even though you can travel this route all year round, bear in mind that summers are very hot. The best time is autumn and spring.


- Throughout the area there can be strong winds, so if you are going to camp it is important that you carry a good tent and a high mountain sleeping bag.


- Remember to camp only in areas where camping is allowed. Put your trash in bags and take them with you. Only start campfires in areas where this is allowed, and put them out with plenty of water.