Ischigualasto National Park, Argentina
They say that it’s like standing on the moon, being in Ischigualasto National Park. The grey sand at your feet can seem white in the right light, the rock formations seem unworldly against the sky, and everything is quiet. Oh, so quiet.
There’s a reason the locals have named part of the park ‘Valley of the Moon’.
Not far from the valley, against the ridge of mountains that stretch for more than twenty kilometres, the space theme continues. It feels like being on Mars, with the red rock formations creating an impenetrable boundary that traps you in the heat of the sun.
Argentina’s national park
Ischigualasto National Park is one of the secrets of Argentina. Barely mentioned and hard to access, it’s rarely on the itinerary of the average traveller.
It is worth the effort, though.
The moonscapes turn into stunning valleys. Rocky outcrops named for the shapes they resemble (the sphinx, the submarine…) appear seemingly from nowhere.
In the rocks, hidden from view for millions of years, are the remains of dinosaurs. Many have been discovered and moved for scientific research. Undoubtedly many more remain beneath our feet.
The rocks are up to 240 million years old – and this is the world’s most complete fossil record of the Triassic Era. Nowhere else on the planet reveals so much about the evolution of vertebrate life.
Because it is such an important area, access to the park is only under the supervision of a ranger and in a vehicle. Cars line up at the gate and each hour a ranger will guide everyone through Ischigualasto, stopping at the most significant landmarks to allow everyone to get out and walk around.
I had hired a car and a driver with two other travellers who were also keen to walk the moonscapes, in the shadows of the Martian red rocks and above the skeletons of dinosaurs.
Our group of cars was small. The park was enormous. It was a long way off the tourist trail to make the expedition here and the feeling of isolation made it seem even more remote.
It’s not quite the moon, but for a moment it felt a bit like it.
26 thoughts on “Man on the moon”
We totally missed this place – looks awesome! Is it near Neuquen where the other dinosaur sites are? We had the opportunity to visit a real excavation – it was exhilarating!
A real excavation would be awesome! I was disappointed they weren’t doing anything like that when I was there.
This park is near a little town called Valle Fertil and a few hours drive from the nearest city, San Juan.
Beautiful landscape and great shot, would love to go there!
You should give it a go sometime. It’s definitely worth it!
Wow, I have never even heard of this place. Pretty impressive, really surreal. Thanks for the photos. I really like the sphere rocks.
The sphere rocks were the coolest! Let me know if you’re ever back in Argentina and want to check it out. I’ve got all the tips now!
Sounds “out of this world” 😉 The photo of the rounded stones really does look like a lunar landscape.
I was a bit dubious about the name ‘Valley of the Moon’ but it lived up to the title.
Holy crap! I need to go there 😮
Do it!! 🙂
Great photos, Michael. Looks like a very unique place. Argentina is gradually moving up our list of places we want to visit…
You should move it right up to the top! Although it’s such a huge country with so much to see, you’ll want to stay forever! 🙂
What?!! You found a cool place in Argentina I know nothing about?!! Guess I’ll have to keep coming back 🙂
It kind of seems like you keep looking for excuses to come back. I’m getting the feeling you wish you’d never left…
wow, great capture on this amazing place.. i love the first pic, really cool.. 🙂
Thanks. That first picture is one of my favourites too!
Nice photos. I can say this makes me even more excited to see Argentina come the beginning of next year when we head there.
Thank you for the heads up.
Oh, you’ll love Argentina! And try to get to this park… not many people make it there so you’ll really appreciate it.
Wow this looks amazing! Stunning photos!
Yeah, it was stunning. Made for photography!
I missed this place too and I knew about it but didn’t have time!
It was pretty out of the way. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone on a tight schedule. But that’s what helps make it so special…
Gorgeous. We want to start putting more of South America into our travel plans. Looks like Argentina is shooting to the top of our SA itinerary. Great shots! my kine of place
Oh, you’ve got to spend some time down here. The only problem is that there’s never enough time to do everything. I’m already starting to plan my return trip here, with all the things I’ve missed the first time!!
What a wonderful God’s creation. This is really beautiful and I want to see this place. Thanks for sharing the photos and your experience as well.
Thanks, Zia. Hopefully you get a chance to go sometime!