Semana Santa: los dos destinos naturales fuera del radar que ya no tienen más alojamiento para ofrecer

Semana Santa: los dos destinos naturales fuera del radar que ya no tienen más alojamiento para ofrecer

The summer season closed with a very positive balance; it was even listed as the best of the last decade in many of the main tourist destinations in the country. Holy Week now comes with the same momentum, and according to the latest report from the Ministry of Tourism of the Nation, a dozen provinces have reservations that, on average, are between 75 and 90 percent occupancy. However, when breaking down the information by region, there are data that attract attention. There are some destinations outside the circuit of the most popular, well-known and demanded that no longer have any available rooms to offer: they are at 100 percent of their capacity.

Villa Unionhead city of the department General Felipe Varela, in La Rioja; he is one of the protagonists of these scenarios. And the same thing happens in Calingastaa valley surrounded by the foothills of the Andes, in San Juan. According to official forecasts, it is estimated that about 2.5 million Argentines are going to mobilize around the country during the next long weekend.

“We have great expectations, the numbers that are reaching us from the various destinations in the country indicate that we are going to experience a record Holy Week, in tune with the main weekends of the summer season, with occupancies above 90% confirmed Matías Lammens, Minister of Tourism and Sports. These figures are strongly supported by the Pre Trip, which allowed the season to be extended during March and April, with more than 750,000 people who used this plan to travel during this period”.

“We have about 1,300 places in total, and since we no longer had any more places, we also opened an extra-hotel register to provide support in the face of so much demand. They are family houses that are made available to tourists and that add around 100 more beds”, he enthusiastically tells THE NATION Nadia Barrera, Secretary of Tourism of the Felipe Varela General Department, of which Villa Unión, right at the intersection of Route 40 with National Route 76, is the main town. A strategic point to base yourself, tour the west of the province of La Rioja and get to know the main tourist attraction in the area: Talampaya National Parkwhich is 60 kilometers from there.

Villa Unión is the head town of the General Felipe Varela department, and the strategic point to visit Talampaya and other tourist attractions.FLUFF@

Talampaya has been a national park since 1997. In 2000 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which strongly promoted tourism in the area. It got another boost in 2018, when it won a position among the Seven Natural Wonders of Argentina. “More and more people visit us,” says Barrera. But best of all, there is much more to know and visit in the area, and the rest of the towns that make up the department of Felipe Varela are also in very high demand. In Pagancillo, which is just 30 kilometers from Talampaya, the reserves reached the top; and in Aicuña the same thing happens, which is a town with only 300 inhabitants, one of the oldest in the province, with adobe houses, and in which there is a group of producers from the town who make up the Vinos de Aicuña winery, where wines are made without preservatives or chemicals”.

From Villa Unión, in addition, you can easily reach other well-known tourist places. One day excursions to get to know the Laguna Brava, the Corona del Inca crater, at more than 5400 meters above sea level or the Cuesta de Miranda, a scenic route with incredible landscapes that connects Villa Unión with Chilecito.

Talampaya National Park
Talampaya National ParkAmiability

The tourism that will arrive in the next few days is national, almost entirely, but from the local Tourism Secretariat they assure that they receive more and more foreign visitors, especially French, German and tourists from the United States. “With Holy Week, the strongest season for us begins in the province. La Rioja is very hot in summer, with a desert climate and little rainfall that is concentrated in the hottest months. For this reason, from now until October is the best time to explore it and enjoy the mountains that surround us and their imposing reddish walls”.

The Calingasta Valley, in San Juansurrounded by the foothills and Andes mountain rangeit also sold out all its locations, with around 2,000 official tourist places and another similar alternative package, with residential houses that are put up for rent. Although the days offered by the extra-long Easter holiday are not enough to encourage you to complete the journey that it proposes the balcony of the six thousanda trek for which you must have at least a week and where you can see several of the most spectacular peaks in America —including Cerro Mercedario with its 6770 meters high— the proposals are multiple.

Calingasta, in San Juan, is the only municipality in the interior of the country that obtained the certification in Sustainable Tourism
Calingasta, in San Juan, is the only municipality in the interior of the country that obtained the certification in Sustainable Tourism

“There are three towns in the province that are at maximum capacity. One of them is Calingasta, along with Valle Fértil and Iglesia. But the average occupancy in the province is already over 90 percent,” says Roberto Juárez, head of the San Juan Tourism Secretariat.

The Calingasta Valley, specifically, has experienced sustained growth over the last three years, and part of the success of this town, where 12,000 inhabitants currently live, is based on the diversification of its offer and its natural attractions. “One of the strongest products is the mountain and all the trekking activities that take place in the area, with the Mercedario as the center of attraction, which will soon become a nature reserve,” reinforces Juárez.

It also mentions one of the most renowned sites in this last year: the Turquesa stream, in Barreal, south of the department of Calingasta. It is a drop of water that descends from the Mercedario, at an altitude of about 3,800 meters, and which, due to its surprising color, became a phenomenon of scientific study.

Tree-lined paths in San Juan
Tree-lined paths in San JuanTourism San Juan

“The gastronomy product is also very strong in the region and, of course, everything that has to do with the astronomical tourismwith an epicenter in the El Leoncito National Park and one of the most diaphanous skies in the world”, boasts Juárez.

Two international observatories are based there, such as the Félix Aguilar Observatory and the El Leoncito Astronomical Complex (Casleo), which have activities throughout the year.

The favorite sport of the valley is sand yachting. Driven by the wind in the Pampa del Leoncito, the sailboat picks up speed and is lost in the mountains. This 12 kilometer long and 5 kilometer wide plain is a white desert that brings together athletes and wind lovers. Those who are encouraged and wait for night to fall, in addition, usually enjoy one of the most starry skies of all.

Calingasta's sky
Calingasta’s skyTourism San Juan

In Barreal you can also ride a mule and horseback, among poplars and willows; Go out to explore the mountain trails on a mountain bike or dare to go on a rafting excursion on the Los Patos River.

Fertile ValleyAnother of the destinations full of reserves, it is almost 250 kilometers from the city of San Juan, and among other characteristics it stands out for its vegetation of cardons, jarillas, cacti and carob trees. About 75 kilometers away is the Ischigualasto Provincial Park, much better known —commercially— as the Valley of the moon. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, together with the Talampaya National Park, and both are witnesses to the Triassic period, where the oldest dinosaurs in the world once walked. A history that chains more than two hundred million years.

Kite surfing on one of the windiest lakes in the country
Kite surfing on one of the windiest lakes in the country

To the northwest of the city of San Juan, and almost at the limit of the capacity of its reserves, is the Valley of Church, a place with archaeological sites from the aborigines to the ancient Inca civilization. In addition to some historical attractions such as the Achango Chapel, built by the Jesuits in the 18th century, in Iglesia you can go windsurfing and kitesurfing in one of the windiest lakes in the world. With more than 300 days a year of wind at 20 knots, the Cuesta del Viento Dam is the scene of the kitefest, where once a year riders from all over the world come together to demonstrate their skills.