Travel guide & tours in Ischigualasto Park, Moon valley, Cuyo

Touristic information about Ischigualasto Park, by our local travel agency.

Geography in Ischigualasto Park

Incredible natural vestiges of life’s evolution on earth, the Ischigualasto Park is an exceptional geologic place in the middle of the desert. The Ischigualasto Park is located in the province of San Juan, 210 miles away from the capital of the province, but adjacent to Talampaya. The closest village, Villa San Agustín de Valle Fertil, is 43 miles away.

Ischigualasto means “the place where the moon landed” in Quechua, and is also called the Moon Valley. Indeed, this park of 63.000 hectares has a lot of geological formations which create a really special landscape. The region is so desertic that it is mostly grey with just a few plants.

The Moon Valley is the only place in the world that shows all moments of Trisassic period (from 245 to 208 millions of years). It is proved by the presence of many bones and fossils of dinosaurs.

The park is declared World Heritage Sites in 2000 by the UNESCO considering that “No other place in the world has a fossil record comparable to that of Ischigualasto-Talampaya which reveals the evolution of vertebrate life and the nature of palaeoenvironments in the Triassic Period”.

Weather : when to get to Ischigualasto Park ?

The park is located in a very arid area, almost a desert region. The temperatures are extreme, ranging from 15°F in winter to 122°F in summer. The sun radiation is very intense, the wind blows all year-long, and the rain is infrequent but torrential in the summer.

Therefore, we highly recommend protecting yourself from the sun, bringing plenty of water when visiting the parks and if possible, avoiding the hottest period, between December and February. It is also advisable to visit the parks in the morning. 

History of Ischigualasto Park

One can also comprehend the Moon Valley as a Triassic botanical garden, of course fossilized, but dating back 250 billion years! This park used to be the home for a numerous animal and vegetal life 2 millions of years ago.  The first fossil was discovered in 1927 by a geologist who inspected the field for coal mines. The first scientific expedition was sent in 1958 and has never stopped. A paleontogists’ heaven, Ischigualasto has one of the largest fossil records in the world.

Fauna in Ischigualasto Park

Because of its extreme aridity, the landscape is limited to a couple of shrubs, cacti, and minerals. Foxes and birds of prey hide in the cliffs.

What to see in Ischigualasto Park ?

Also known as the Moon Valley, Ischigualasto Provincial Park offers a beautiful mineral and barren landscape. The valley is surrounded by two mountain ranges, Cerro Colorado and Cerro Los Rastros. Estimate 3 hours to visit the strange millenary rock formations of El hongo (the mushroom), El submarine (the submarine), El gusano (the worm), El Valle Pintado (Painted Valley).

Ischigualasto is the only place in the world where one can distinguish the entire Triassic Period (from 245 to 208 millions years) and such a diversity of fossil animals. 25 species have been listed including dinosaurs, reptiles, rhinoceros and others.

The fossils are displayed in the Natural Science Museum where one can have a better understanding of the paleontologists’ work. The highlights of the museum are Eoraptor Lunensis and Herrerasaurus Ischigualatensis, the oldest dinosaurs ever discovered. They were not very big (the first one was 4 feet long, and the other was 10 feet) but they ran fast on their two legs to catch their preys.

Hotels : where to stay in Ischigualasto Park ?

In Villa Unión

Cañón de Talampaya Hotel : a comfortable building at the north of Villa Unión. Its plain design is adapted to the surronding landscape. Big windows and patios give a nice anoramic view to the colorful mountains.

In La Rioja

Naindo Park Hotel: this high-quality hotel has a restaurant, a casino, a swimming pool, a sauna and a spa and is located 124 miles away from both parks.

In San Juan

San Juan Gran Hotel Provincial : this hotel  is a clasical and comfortable option located in the city center. From the terrace, it is posible to enjoy its afternoon in the swimming-pool, with a nice view over Plaza 25 de Mayo.

A San Agustín del Valle Fértil

Finca La Media Luna : a simple and welcoming hotel in the middle of nature, located 57 miles away from Ischigualasto park and 7.5 miles away from San Agustín de Valle Fértil..

Transports : how to get to Ischigualasto Park ?

By air : San Juan and La Rioja. There is no regular public transportation to access the parks. Aerolíneas Argentinas has daily flights between La Rioja and Buenos Aires.

By bus : the provincial capital city of San Juan and La Rioja are very well connected to the rest of the country. To reach the two parks, we advise renting a car.

Unlike Talampaya, one can drive through the Moon Valley, as long as you are accompanied by a guide.

Around Ischigualasto Park

Talampaya National Park, 79 km north from Ischigualasto, is famous for his amazing landscape with red natural geological formacions. Walking in its 215.000 hectares, you can’t miss the 12 km long and 160 m high canyon.

Tours around Ischigualasto Park

Argentina Excepción offers a selection of beautiful tours around Talampaya and the Moon Valley :

From Mendoza to the Moon Valley : 10 days around the Argentinean vineyards and the surreal landscapes of the Talampaya and Ischigualasto parks.

Travel on the national Route 40, from Iguazu to Mendoza, from Salta to Ushuaïa: 38 days for the trip of a lifetime, to discover the most beautiful landscapes of Argentina and Patagonia. You will travel all the way down the mythical Argentine Route 40; 10,000 km from Northeast Argentina to the Puna, from the Wine Road to the Lakes and Glaciers of Patagonia, from Salta to Ushuaia.

All our tours in Patagonia and Argentina