San Guillermo National Park
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Argentina is a large and expansive country, and has been blessed with magnificent landscapes. In order to protect these natural beauties, the country has a network of 29 national parks, each striving to protect a different characteristic of the country.
One of the most recently declared of these areas is San Guillermo National Park, in the province of San Juan, established in 1998. As each national park aims to protect one specific species, as does San Guillermo, which offers protection to the largest concentration of camelídos, or camelids, in all of Argentina.
Camelids are a family of animals that includes camels, and Argentinean camelids include the guanaco and the vicuña. The guanaco is protected in a number of other national parks, as well, and this park allows it and the vicuña to reach a very healthy level of population growth. Other animals in the park include cougars, condors, red foxes and two types of small lizards.
The area is actually divided into two distinct sections, the Provincial Reserve and the National Park. The Provincial Reserve was established in 1972, and the two areas work together, as they basically strive to reach the same goals. Between the two, the area covers over a million hectares of pure, mineral-rich, beautiful land.
The park is not particularly green nor lush, as the vegetation must be able to withstand the very low winter temperatures and the high altitude. There is low annual rainfall, but the winters often bring heavy snowfall, and wind gusts can reach up to 100 kilometers per hour.
Accessing the area is no walk in the park, so to speak. Access is only available by 4 X 4, and while the park is open year round, it is really only advisable to visit from September to March, as the rest of the year can bring uncomfortably low temperatures. There are two roads in — one from Rodeo, which is more difficult to travel, and the more popular road by way of La Rioja.
So why take all the trouble to make your way here? Because in no other place on earth will you see such a density of the protected vicuña, nor will you be able to see them with such close proximity. These dainty camels’ and llamas’ relatives are beautifully agile, with charming large eyes and soft, fine wool.
Beyond the animal life, you will be amazed at the intense colors of the earth, sprawling around you for untouched kilometers and kilometers. Now imagine that land, set underneath a never-ending sky. Now you can understand why it’s worth the trip.
Each of Argentina’s national parks are worth exploring, and you can read more about them in this Argentina Travel Guide. You will rarely regret going off the beaten path, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.