Destination

The Most Unearthly Place in Argentina is Valley of the Moon

Have you ever wished to travel to the moon? Well, for this extraterrestrial journey, you don’t need a spaceship. Simply grab your belongings and fly to Argentina, where the fascinating Valley of the Moon is waiting for you. This breathtaking location, which is officially known as Ischigualasto Provincial Park, is situated in the northeastern region of San Juan province. Its name, which comes from the native Quechua language, appropriately translates to “place where the moon alights,” summarizing its lunar landscape to a tee.

The geological wonderland known as Valle de la Luna appears to defy gravity. This fascinating location will captivate your senses and leave you feeling as though you’ve walked onto a Star Wars movie set because of its extraordinary fossil record, distinctive rock formations, and intriguing cultural significance. Join us as we explore Ischigualasto’s mysteries in greater detail, learning about its ancient history, amazing geology, and the best ways to travel through this alluring lunar landscape tucked away in the center of Argentina.

What makes the Valley of the Moon famous?

Argentina’s Valley of the Moon is well known for its moon-like appearance, abundant Triassic fossil beds, and designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strange and vibrant rock formations, including “The Worm,” “The Sphinx,” “The Mushroom,” and “The Submarine,” can be seen in the park’s distinctive landscape. These formations were all shaped by wind and water erosion over millions of years. Beyond its otherworldly beauty, the Valley of the Moon is rich in plant and animal fossils, including some of the earliest dinosaurs, and is therefore of immense paleontological significance. This outstanding location, which is a provincial protected area, offers visitors a fascinating and instructive journey into the history of our planet and the forces that have shaped its breathtaking landscapes.

How did Argentina’s Valley of the Moon come to be?

Moon Valley has a fascinating past, as we’ve found. To better comprehend how this incredible landscape came to be, let’s simplify it.

Moon Valley, which predates by more than 250 million years, was a portion of the Ischigualasto-Villa Union Triassic Basin. The dissolution of the supercontinent Pangaea had an impact on its formation. Sediments from many different sources, such as volcanic eruptions, river deposits, lake beds, and wind-blown sand, were used to fill this rift basin. Alluvial fans, braided rivers, meandering rivers, and transient lakes are just a few of the environments in which these sediments accumulated.

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The region’s development was greatly influenced by tectonic movements. The mountain ranges that surround the park today were eventually formed as a result of the rocks being lifted, folded, and faulted. Wind and water erosion exposed various sediment layers over millions of years, exposing a variety of hues and textures. The fascinating shapes of spheres, mushrooms, submarines, and sphinxes were created by this process in the rocks. Due to the park’s arid environment and sparse vegetation, the rocks appear to be floating in the moon’s surface.

This geological marvel offers an exceptional setting for fossil preservation. Fossils that were concealed within the rock layers were exposed as a result of erosion. Today, Moon Valley is regarded as one of the most significant paleontological sites in the world. The well-preserved fossils discovered here shed light on the evolution of early dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures and provide important insights into the history of life on Earth.

Rock formations in the Valley of the Moon are a wonder of nature.

You’ll become enthralled by the amazing rock formations that dot the landscape as you explore the park. These natural wonders have a variety of shapes and colors due to the weathering and erosion caused by wind and water over millions of years. Many of these formations have creative names that only serve to heighten the mystique of them because they resemble common objects or animals.

For instance, the park’s iconic “El Hongo” or “The Mushroom” stands out as its key representation. This unusual rock formation, which has a broad cap and a slender stem that resembles a giant mushroom, is just the first of many geological marvels you’ll see. You can also see “El Gusano” or “The Worm,” a long, curved rock that resembles a giant caterpillar; “La Esfinge” or “The Sphinx,” a majestic rock that resembles the well-known Egyptian structure; “El Submarino” or “The Submarine,” a dark, elongated rock that emerges from the ground like a naval vessel; and “Cancha de Bochas” or “The Bowling Field,”

These amazing formations not only provide a window into the Valley of the Moon’s geological past, but they also serve as fascinating landmarks that pique the curiosity and awe of all who visit this unforgettable lunar landscape.

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Fossils in the Valley of the Moon: Digging Up the Past

Because of its extensive and varied fossil collection, the Valley of the Moon is a gold mine for paleontologists. The Triassic period, which began more than 200 million years ago, was a time when life on Earth diversified and flourished after a mass extinction event. The Triassic period is when the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures that are preserved in the park lived.

This outstanding park preserves one of the Triassic period’s most extensive and continuous fossil records, enabling us to comprehend how life evolved and adapted to various environments. Some of the oldest dinosaur fossils ever found, including those of Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus, were discovered in the park. Rhyncosaurs and cynodonts were more prevalent and larger at the time than these early dinosaurs, which were not the most dominant or diverse creatures.

Exaeretodon, a mammal-like reptile that predated mammals, Rhynchosauria, a herbivorous reptile with a beak-like mouth, Aetosaurus, an armored reptile resembling a crocodile, and numerous other species are represented in the Ischigualasto Formation in addition to dinosaur fossils. The park’s plant and tree fossils shed light on how the vegetation evolved over time and add to our understanding of the prehistoric ecosystem.

So, as you stroll through the Valley of the Moon, you’ll be discovering the fascinating world of prehistoric life in addition to its stunning landscapes.

Getting there: Valley of the Moon

The Moon Valley is tucked away in Argentina’s San Juan province’s northeast and borders La Rioja province to the north. The park can be found at 30°09’46.96′′S and 67°50’34.05′′W. There are no gas stations or stores along the way, so when making your travel plans, keep in mind to stock up on supplies of food, water, and fuel.

National Route 150 and Provincial Route 510 are the two main routes that connect San Juan to the park. Each route takes about four hours to complete. A paved highway, National Route 150, also known as Scenic Route RN 150, was opened in October 2014. It crosses the southernmost region of the province of La Rioja and the northern-central region of the province of San Juan. Huaco, San Agustin del Valle Fértil, and Baldecitos are located along Provincial Route 510, which also features stunning mountain scenery and verdant vegetation.

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Take Route 38 north to the town of Patqua in the province of La Rioja if you’re traveling from Córdoba. On National Route 150, turn west from there to get to Ischigualasto Provincial Park quickly.

There are several guided tour options online for those who’d prefer not to drive. For a hassle-free journey to the park, many tours offer hotel pickup from San Juan, Valle Fértil, or La Rioja. Some even offer pickup straight from the airport in San Juan, enabling you to start your adventure right away. However, keep in mind that most tours are conducted in Spanish, so confirm the availability of an English-speaking guide before booking if necessary.

In the vicinity of the Valley of the Moon

Remember that there are no accommodations or services within the park itself when visiting the Valley of the Moon because of its remote location. It’s best to establish a base in one of the nearby towns if you want to explore the area.

The option that is the closest to the park is Villa San Augustin, also known as San Agustin del Valle Fértil. Despite its small size, this community welcomes visitors with a variety of lodging options and services. The 3-star Hotel Rustico Cerro Del Valle is our top pick. The hotel’s traditional Argentinean design features complimentary Wi-Fi, a daily breakfast buffet with tropical fruits, cakes, and bread rolls, and other amenities. The hotel offers free parking and is conveniently located one block from San Agustin Central Park.

As an alternative, think about staying in Villa Unión, in the province of La Rioja, which is only 50 km from Talampaya National Park and 140 km from the Valley of the Moon, two must-see geological sites that go great together. Hotel Valle Colorado and Tres Cruces are two fantastic choices in Villa Unión. Both hotels have lovely outdoor pools and are located close to one another in a lovely area near the mountains. Whatever option you select, you’ll find cozy lodging that enables you to get the most out of your trip to this remarkable area.

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