New discoveries of natural wonders: Welcome to Argentina !

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South America » Argentina
April 3rd 2014
Published: April 3rd 2014
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After visiting the capital Buenos Aires –where for information 50% of the population is living- and making a quick stop in Cordoba Ciudad –which I didn’t like so much-, I arrived in La Rioja Ciudad, where my trip at the discovery of Argentinian natural wonders will begin 😊

This will start in fact from the bus ride there: the scenery on the road was breathtaking ! There is no village just the nature with bushes, lagoons, ancient salt lakes, which are dry now with small hills of salt. All of this is along the road, so near! La Rioja Ciudad is a small but vibrant city, with his main square, where I liked staying. But, the reason, why I was staying there was the National Park of Talampaya, where there is a nice canyon.

This park was even better than what I thought and once again the road to the park was amazing with the dry mountains, the giant cactuses. I even saw there for the first time a baby guanaco, running along the road! At the canyon, I did an excursion half hiking in the canyon and half biking. I did it with other French people, it was a GREAT day made of sports and nature! At the canyon, we saw weird trees, which even had a green trunk, condors flying very near of us, dry soil, scissions in the rocks going from one side to the other, … It was amazing to be able to walk inside this canyon. You feel so small there, with high cliffs all around you and noticing the traces of history –scissions in the rocks and formation of this canyon, signs for water and wind in the rocks, petroglyphs dating from centuries-. As we had to do this excursion with a guide, I could learn a bit more about some natural properties of this place. I learnt for instance that the plants present there are absorbing water from the soil and animals will just have to eat them to get some water and thus won’t need to look for a waterhole in this dry environment.

My next stop to discover natural wonders of Argentina was around San Juan Cuidad. There, I was hosted by Cecilia, which like outdoor sports as I do. So, together with one of her friend we went for a mini trekking in the mountains nearby. I really like that day. Going uphill that mountain, we were having an amazing view of the surroundings. To go up there was really fun climbing the cliffs, walking along the cliff. It was however kind of a challenge to go down, as the rocks were not stable but I got helped by Cecilia’s friend 😊 After trekking there, we went up another mountain top –called Zonda- and drank some mate looking at the sunset over the amazing green surroundings.

The road between San Juan, Mendoza and San Rafael was breathtaking as well: it’s the famous Ruta 40 following the mountains Andes Cordillera. I loved it!

As I stopped in San Rafael Ciudad, I took the opportunity to go for another excursion nearby to the Green Valley and it’s Canyon del Atuel. The road to go there was amazing. It’s the journey there, which was more beautiful than the arrival in fact. At the arrival, there is a digue and a lake on the other side. But for me, the best place there is some kilometers before with the river and the mountains around. There, you can camp or participate in different activites –canyoning, viaferrata for instance-. I didn’t stay long, so I just walked along the river and then went back to San Rafael.

I spent the next weekend in Malargue, where I stayed at Pablo’s house. Just his place was already awesome: it was at the exit of the town, in the middle of the field, with horses around and the house was half built with wood. From my arrival there, I loved it. It was the perfect peaceful, quiet place among nature. Close to Malargue, I went to see waterfalls. The waterfalls were nothing spetacular as it wasn’t raining enough at that period but the path to go there was great: following a small river, with the surrounding mountains. It was also historically important, as this place is full of old sea animal fossils. Looking at the trace of life centuries ago is –like it was at the canyon of Talampaya- is amazing.

The road from Malargue to Neuquen province was also amazing, especially at the beginning while we were driving by the Payunia national park. This park is composed of some volcanoes. I didn’t go there but I could see the most important volcano from the road and for kms, we were seeing a landscape made of lava rocks. It’s amazing when you think that you are so far away from the volcano, but that they are still rocks there. I could stop on the road, where there were lagunas with birdlife and cows at pasture with the volcano in the background. What a great place!

The next place that I loved in Argentina is all the area from San Martin de Los Andes to El Bolson. This area is called the Lake District and it’s a good name for it, as there are a lot of lakes around there and all of them are stunningly beautiful with a very clear blue water. The area is made of mountains and lakes, so it’s a good place to hike and enjoy nature. At Villa La Angostura lake, which will stay for me the most beautiful lake in the area, it looked like the Alps in Switzerland. On one evening, I could even go kayaking on a lake with my host and see the sunset there. My time in this area was even better that it could have better because I discovered it with a group of 3 very nice Argentinian guys from Buenos Aires –los 3 Pedros, as they are calling each other-. I had an awesome time with them. I really felt like on holidays with friends. I even went out with them on my last night in Bariloche and could get to know cumbia and to dance quartetto. Together, we went to Cerro Campanario, Cerro Tronador and to El Bolson. At Cerro Campanario, after hiking uphill for 45 minutes, we could have a great view over the surroundings lakes and mountains. At Cerro Tronador, there is a glacier, but for me, what I preferred on our excursion there, was the journey to get there, with the viewpoint over a lake, crossing the clear river, drive through the forest and have a first viewpoint over the Cerro Tronador with its eternal snow. At El Bolson, we didn’t stay long as I had to go to Esquel for the night, but we could spend some time at the lake and a small forest, before saying each other goodbye.

Esquel was also a good base to enjoy the natural wonders around. The most important is the national park of the Alerces, but without a car it’s difficult to get there and my host advised me not to go there hiking, as it was full of rats. I, however, spent a nice time in the nature there, when I went to a Laguna. The hike to the laguna was nice through the forest, with a good viewpoint over the city and then after a short walk, you arrive at the laguna surrounding by mountains. I spent the day there enjoying the scenery, writing and taking pictures.

From Esquel, I did a long ride to El Calafate. The ride was in the Pampas, so there wasn’t much nice to see, except the sunset, which is fascinating me everywhere I am and tens of guanacos close to the road 😉 Unfortunately, this region- especially between Sarmiento and Comodoro Rivadavia -is the opposite of a nature wonder as it’s a petrol area, so all around me for kilometers, I would just see extraction machines work. That’s how the South of Argentina is getting a bit richer every day: with the petrol. In an area, where is the wind is so strong and there is nothing around for kilometers, I think it would be better to put windmills to get energy a better way. It’s a road that most of the tourists will never see as they will drive in Patagonia along the Ruta 40 or the Ruta 3, but I can tell you that on that day, I could see the other face of the coin of the world famous Patagonia…

After this dark note, I would like to get back to the natural wonders of Argentina: the famous Patagonia and the glacier Perito Moreno. I stayed in El Calafate, which is an hour drive from the glacier. Walking out of the city in the direction of the glacier, I liked discovering the landscapes of Patagonia along the lake Argentino, with the small houses close by and the horses at pasture. By the way, at sunset, the sky gets covered by amazing colors, reflecting in the lake. It was the most beautiful sunset, that I had ever seen!! The road to the glacier was also very nice with the lake, the estancias –ranches- with the big herd of beef cattle and sheep at pasture and the mountains around. The Perito Moreno is so famous that you know what you are expected to see but I can tell you than even you saw it on pictures, seeing it so close to you and seeing the ice blocks fall in front of you and hear the sound they are doing while falling in the lake, will be an extraordinary moment. I was just speechless in front of the giant natural wonder! There are different walks possible there to walk close to the glacier that I did. It was a wonderful afternoon that I spent there.

The next place, where I will go in Argentina was El Chalten and I can tell you that for nature lovers, this place is AMAZING! El Chalten is a very small village and all around it, you can find trekking paths. Around there, the hikers are king not the cars 😉 It’s so nice, for once, to be able to go everywhere walking and seeing everyone doing the same thing. Close to El Chalten is the famous mountain Fitz Roy. However, what I loved most while I went hiking around El Chalten was to see the colors of automn in the forest near the path. I was feeling part of the nature. I didn’t need to talk there, I could just walk and enjoy the moment in the middle of the nature.

El Chalten was the perfect way for me to finish my trip in Argentina. I loved this country, which because of its size, is offering people a wide variety of landscapes and each province has natural wonders to see. I loved visiting Namibia in February, because I was in a country, where in most places, nature will be more important than human. Well, it was the same in Argentina. That’s why, I loved that country that much!!! I was planning to stay 3 weeks there, but because I liked it I spent a whole month 😊

Summary to travel in Argentina:

Must see places: Buenos Aires, Parque de Talampaya, Parque Payunia, Lake District (7 Lakes Road, Villa La Angostura, Road to Cerro Tronador), Patagonia (Glacier Perito Moreno, El Chalten)

Average daily cost (on a budget=hostel + eating snacks): 20€ at the maximum

Cost of visit (entrance of Parque de Talampaya with obligatory guide) : 20€

Public transportation: 0,50€ per journey

Most long distance buses: 10€/100km

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