Valle de la Luna
Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 9:34 am. Add a comment
Deserts are some of the most beautiful landscapes there are, but often don’t get the credit they deserve. They are wondrous places, where only the strongest plants and animals survive. Sometimes it is their sheer vastness that is so impressive, other times it is the insane rock formations, or the vibrant colors of the land. Many times deserts are seated in valleys, with majestic mountains in the background, giving a stark contrast to the arid desert. Argentina is blessed with all sorts of landscapes, not the least of which are its deserts.
The Parque Provincial Ischigualasto, better known as Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), is one of the more surprisingly beautiful landscapes in northern Argentina. In the western province of San Juan, this 60,000-hectare area is one of the high points on the San Juan tourist circuit, with its out-of-this-world topography.
Once a giant lake, in the Triassic period of the Mesozoic Era, it used to be home to a wide range of species, both flora and fauna. Its shores were lush with vegetation; its waters home to much life. Today, nothing remains more than a desert. An enormous, magnificent desert. About 60 million years ago, the massive cordilleras of the Andes pressed to the Ischigualasto zone, against the Pampean Sierras (Valle Fértil), placing them in the open and exposing them to erosive agents. In this way, nature itself has carved out some of the most unique and amazing shapes, many of which the human mind can today associate with everyday objects.
“The Worm”, “The Sphinx”, “The Submarine”, “The Mushroom”; these are some of the most attractive configurations in the Valle de la Luna, as well as the Bocce Court, so called because the flawlessly flat ground is accented with perfectly polished spheres, formed by the same material as the earth, reminiscent of bocce balls.
El Valle Pintado, or The Painted Valley, is another part of the area: an environment of soft rolling hills with layers of ochre, violet and ash grey, where many important fossils have been found. Finally, there is the landscape which gives the entire valley its name: the Paisaje Lunar, or Moonscape, which enchants all those who come to gaze upon this nearly mythical site; added charm to the already fascinating Valle de la Luna.
The park where the Valle de la Luna is located has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, one of eight in Argentina. It is also home to a Natural Science Museum, which explains many of the paleontological aspects of the site to its visitors. Here, there are fossil skeletons, smaller fossils, and other artifacts that give an idea of what the site used to be. You can even see large dinosaur remains, among other things. The Valle de la Luna is 330 kilometers from the capital city of San Juan, to the northeast. It is just on the border of the province of La Rioja, and you can go by car or bus, leaving from San Juan and from San Agustín del Valle Fértil.
For more information about other areas in San Juan, visit this Argentina Travel Guide.