Where is it?


Valley of the moon

Thanks for this picture to Guslight

Both Ischigulasto and Talampaya National Parks are in fact part of the same vast arid desert of extraordinary beauty and anthropological and archeological wealth, spreading from the north-east of San Juan province to the western end of La Rioja province in the Andean north-west of Argentina, known as El Cuyo. Now divided by the Sierra Morada Mountains, the whole area was once a swampy tropical jungle overgrown with gigantic trees, lianas and ferns some 160 million years ago, long before the Andes Mountain Range heaved itself into existence “only” 60 million years back. It’s the only place in the world with a complete sequence of fossils spanning the entire Triassic era which lasted some 45 million years, the critical link between dinosaurs and the first mammals that trod the earth.

Today, paleontologists are still uncovering fossils of long-extinct sauropods, and there is also plentiful evidence of early man in the cave paintings of geometric figures and animals on some of the rock faces. The pre-historic forests have given way to a dry sandy moonscape, peopled with striking rock formations whittled by the relentlessly hot wind and inhabited only by hardy creatures such as condors, armadillos and pumas. A visit to either or both –if you have the stamina for it- is a really great opportunity to see something different and entirely unique, although you should try to avoid going in the summer as temperatures hover around the 45°C degree mark.

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