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Ischigualasto and Talampaya

December 4, 2012

From Cafayate we continued South on Ruta 4 heading for our next major destination – Mendoza.  On the way to Mendoza we visited two National Parks which are situated next to each other but are very different in their character.

Rock Wall

The first park that you come to is Talampaya (which translates as “Dry River of the Trees”). The visitor centre is only a few hundred metres off the main highway. This park is slightly frustrating in that the only way to visit it is on a guided tour in tour bus. There is however a small campground next to the parking lot and good hot showers (only after 6pm).

Into the canyon

We decided to book a trip (really expensive at AR$ 175 each) on a 4×4 bus into the Canon de Talampaya for the following day and sleep the night at the campground – well in the car park anyway.

Tour truck

We had a good night’s sleep here – despite the strong wind all night. There were a number of foxes walking round the car park all night – obviously scavenging for food.

Desert fox

In the morning we loaded up into the truck bus and headed off into the park. We’d only just got going and the driver stopped to point out an armadillo snuffling under a bush. This was our first ever armadillo and we were pretty excited – unfortunately its head was away from us and we couldn’t take a decent photo.

more cliffs

After this the truck turned off the gravel road onto a sand track which led us into a large canyon, very reminiscent of Zion NP in the USA. There were a number of stops where we got out and had a short walk around.

Rabbit thing

Perhaps the best was where there are semi-circular channels running down the cliff face caused by running water. A shout into one of these channels causes a delayed echo from the other side of the canyon. This is known as the Chimenea del Eco.


The trip was over priced and the 4×4 truck was a waste of time as we didn’t go anywhere that the minibus tours couldn’t – I would have much preferred to drive the Beast into the canyon myself.

vicuna in the canyon

When we finished the tour we drove for about 45 minutes to get to Ischigualasto (also known as Valle de Luna) Provincial Park which is in the same area but a different watershed. Here you are also forced to take a tour but this time you drive yourself and follow the lead car which has a park ranger in.

Lunar Landscape

This was good in that the ranger explains a bit about the park at each of the stops but was bad because the lead car driver thought he was Colin McRae and drove as fast as his nice 4×4 could. This meant that we had to push it to keep up at a speed on the relatively rough dirt road that I was not comfortable with.

Valle de luna hill


Anyway the scenery in this area was nice and definitely worth visiting, particularly for the last tour of the day (4.30pm) which means that you get some nice evening light.

The Hammer


There was a field of bowling ball sized balls which have been formed by the wind blowing a rock core through the sand like a rolled snowball.

wind balls


The tour was 3 hours (involving about 40km of driving) and we didn’t get back to the visitor centre until 7.30pm. Far too late to set off so we camped there – for a fee – unfortunately we couldn’t get to the camping area so were just parked in the car park. This actually was a blessing as there was a strong gusty wind all night and we were able to park in the wind break of an earth ridge rather than in the exposed campsite. There was even wifi in the car park – albeit heavily controlled as not even facebook was allowed.

The Submarine

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