If you are passionate about geology/paleontology and, of course, photography, the Talampaya National Park and the Ischigualasto Provincial Park, both declared UNESCO heritage, are your destination!
Talampaya National Park
Located in La Rioja province, Talampaya extends over more than 2000 km2 of surface and contains important archaeological sites, as well as landscapes of extraordinary beauty and a considerable fauna, including condors, maras, pumas, foxes, guanacos, etc.
Besides the numerous geo-shapes, which can be found with a bit of fantasy, in the park you will also see:
1. The almost dry Talampaya river, where millions of years ago dinosaurs used to live and numerous fossils were found;
2. The gorge of the canyon and its rock formations, with imposing walls up to 140 meters high;
3. A botanical garden, with lots of different flora species located in the narrow point of the gorge, which creates a strong contrast with the dry landscape around;
4. Ancient rock carvings at the entrance of the canyon.
At the moment, with guided tours, you can only visit a limited part of the area. You will be asked to park your vehicle and proceed by their means.
The Rolling Travel agency organizes three different tours with a visit to the rock carvings, the botanical garden, the Gothic cathedral, the monk, the canyons of Shimpa, with various vehicles available, including a beautiful Overland truck to enjoy the adventure!
The duration is about 2.5 / 3 hs. They also organize a 5-hour walk tour through the canyons of the park.
For further information visit their website: www.talampaya.com
Another interesting tour is organized by the Talampaya Cooperative. The entrance to the park is another, more southern than this first if you come from Villa Union (Km 133.5, Ruta Nacional 76).
The itinerary leads to the Canyon Arcoiris and to the Ciudad Perdida where you can see rock formations of many colors representing different geological eras and enjoy a relaxing hike of an hour immersed in nature.
For further information about this tour: [email protected]
Ischigualasto Provincial Park
Located in the province of San Juan, this park is also called Valley of the Moon and covers an area of 600 km2.
It belongs to the same geological formation of Talampaya, the Triassic era (about 230 million years ago). It represents a unique scenario in the whole world, as there are all the rocky deposits of the Triassic and fossils of the oldest known dinosaurs.
It is possible to enter the park with your vehicle (even bicycles) following a guide and staying within the boundaries of the itinerary according to the rules. The duration is about 3 hours, with an interesting stop at a museum, located in the center of the park where a young paleontologist will illustrate some of the most interesting discoveries which happened there.
Apart from the classical geo-shapes, the park is distinguished by the different colors of the rock formations and by the presence of more guanacos groups.
I would recommend participating in one of the last visits to enjoy the sunset in the final part of the itinerary, with rocks that, at that time, are tinged with a deep red color.
If you are interested in night photography, they also organize guided tours in the park during full moon nights.
In general, you can visit the two parks in a day.
As far as I am concerned, as a photographer, I believe that you need at least three days to get a complete view of the sightseeing points of the area, perhaps with a Laguna Brava tour at 4320 meters above sea level on the Andes mountains to appreciate magnificent uncontaminated landscapes and the rich fauna of the area, which includes vicuñas and flamingos.
1. The best place to stay to be closer to the parks is Villa Unión;
2. If you plan to rent a car in La Rioja, do it in time, cause there are few rentals;
3. While in the area it is worth visiting Chilecito, with its “Christ the Redeemer”, the Argentine twin of the one in Rio de Janeiro;
4. The restored mountain road “Cuesta de la Miranda” offers panoramic views and many cacti will accompany your travel;
5. Don’t forget to try the wines of San Juan and La Rioja, not famous as Mendoza, but the quality is high and the price a bit cheaper. The “Torrontes Riojano” is the most authentic and interesting product of the area;
6. The starry nights in these areas of the country are breath-taking, prepare yourself for astrophotography, you’re in the perfect place!