Visit Ischigualasto, the Valley of the Moon in San Juan

To visit Ischigualasto is to enter landscapes that do not seem to belong to this planet (there is a reason why it is also called the Valley of the Moon) and to discover the footprints left by the dinosaurs.

Located in the northeast of the province of San Juan, Ischigualasto Provincial Park is like an open-air museum. So if you go to travel to San Juan, you should also consider a visit to this park.

For its amazing landscapes it is known as the Valley of the Moon and for its paleontological value, since it houses the most complete continental group of Triassic fossils in the world, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO together with Talampaya National Park.

🔘 Check out the rest of the World Heritage Sites we have visited.

In addition to the dinosaur fossil remains found in the area, its importance lies in the geological formations that are between 200 and 250 million years old.

If you want to travel around the area, check these complete routes for 1 and 2 weeks in Mendoza and San Juan.

1) Visiting Ischigualasto: how to get to the Valley of the Moon

You can only visit Ischigualasto in your own or rented vehicle from San Juan capital, Valle Fértil, La Rioja capital or coming from Talampaya National Park in La Rioja. You can also hire excursions in nearby cities or chauffeur-driven cars.

Keep in mind that there is no airport in the area, if you travel by plane you have to get to the cities of La Rioja capital or San Juan capital and from there take an excursion, rent a car or travel by bus. But the latter option is rather tedious as there is no direct connection to the valley of the Moon.

✈️ Search here for cheap flights to San Juan.

We made the trip in our own car coming from Talampaya National Park and spending the night in the town of Baldecitos (you can spend the night in San Agustín del Valle Fértil where there are more lodging options but you have to drive more kilometers).

Then we left for San Juan capital through route 150, a scenic circuit in perfect condition that runs through ravines and dreamlike mountain scenery.

📸 Check here the five day excursion to Valle de la Luna, Talampaya and Leoncito from San Juan capital and make a reservation. Includes: transfers and guide.

2) What is the Valley of the Moon

Ischigualasto Provincial Park has landscapes of sparse vegetation and small elevations and depressions with a wide range of colors. It is located at an altitude of 1200 to 1800 meters above sea level.

Its importance lies in having concentrated in one place the different sediments of the Triassic period, of which the fossil remains of dinosaurs that inhabited these lands stand out.

Valley of the Moon

The characteristics of the terrain with sandy soil make the place a particular geography as if you were on the moon, hence the name it acquires.

3) How to visit Ischigualasto (prices and modality)

Once you arrive at the entrance to Ischigualasto Provincial Park on Route 150, you must go to the ticket office to pay the entrance fee to the park.

The entrance fee for the classic circuit, which lasts three hours, is 2,500 pesos ( August 2022). You can check updated prices and book in advance from the official website.

Afterwards, it is necessary to wait a few minutes for several cars to gather in order to start the caravan circuit. The tour through the Valley of the Moon is done in your own vehicle or with the vehicle you are taking the excursion with. A line of cars forms one behind the other at the entrance to the park, which is then maintained all the way through the park.

The first car in line is the official park guide. At the stipulated stops, park the car and get off. The guide is the one who explains what is being seen.

Visiting Ischigualasto in your own car

After making the whole circuit through the park, there is a very educational interpretation center for adults and children that explains the life of dinosaurs, the fossil remains found in the place and the different species that inhabited the area.

Valle Pintado in Ischigualasto

4) What tours can you do if you visit Ischigualasto?

– Traditional Day Tour through the Valley of the Moon

It is the most chosen. It is about 40 kms in total with five stops: four rock formations and the Dr. William Sill Museum. It departs approximately every hour.

The stops are as follows:

  • Valle Pintado: a large valley where the colors of the rock formations are the protagonists, highlighting the range of reds, grays, greens and whites.
  • Bochas court: small rocks that with the erosion produced by the wind have acquired a rounded shape as if they were bocce courts. All sizes are available.
Bochas court in the Moon Valley
  • The Submarine: this large rock formation had the shape of a submarine, but due to the tremors the “periscope” part has fallen off. Here is a photo of Flor when she traveled to Valle de la Luna in 2003 and there were the two rocks (in the cover photo is how it is now).
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  • William Sill Museum: named after the paleontologist and researcher who made the park internationally known. A large fossil remains of a dinosaur is exhibited. There is a small restaurant on site where you can buy a drink and a sandwich.
William Sill Museum
William Sill Museum
  • El Hongo: the most photographed formation in the park and frequently featured on the internet.
El Hongo, visit Ischigualasto
  • Barrancas Coloradas: it is a large reddish rocky wall that borders one of the sectors of the park during the last part of the tour. In the ravines there is no stopping, but it is allowed to stop the car and take pictures without getting out of the car.
Cordón del Colorado San Juan

– Short Day Circuit

The difference with the previous one is that it only makes two stops in Valle Pintado and El Hongo. The route is smaller, about 30 kilometers.

It is for people who do not have much time. We recommend if you are going to visit Ischigualasto, take the classic tour because otherwise you will miss a lot of things.

– Full Moon Circuit

Visiting Ischigualasto at night is only allowed during full moon days, about four days a month. The circuit is a mixture of driving and hiking and lasts about two and a half hours. You can see the lunar calendar here.

To make the full moon circuit you must book at least two days in advance, calling or sending a Whatsapp to 264 457 0879, 264 418 6119, 264 443 3397 or by mail to [email protected].

– Cerro Morado Hiking Circuit

It is an exclusive trekking circuit to climb the Cerro Morado, which is 1800 meters high and allows you to see the entire Moon Valley from above.

It is almost 6 kilometers of hiking with a duration of three hours. This circuit is performed only once a day.

To make the circuit requires prior reservation that must be requested by calling or sending a Whatsapp to 264 457 0879, 264 418 6119 or by mail to the account [email protected].

– Mountain Bike Circuit

For bicycle lovers, there is a 12-kilometer tour with a local guide. The park provides bicycles for the circuit.

To make the circuit requires prior reservation that must be requested by calling or sending a Whatsapp to 264 457 0879, 264 418 6119 or by mail to the account [email protected].

Painted Valley

5) You can sleep in the Valley of the Moon.

There is a camping area with a price of 300 pesos per person. In the park there is a shower area and a grocery store to buy food.

If you want to sleep in a hotel or cabin, the closest place to the park and with the best infrastructure is Valle Fértil, 70 kilometers from the park entrance.

Two good options in the Fertile Valley are:

🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels in Valle Fértil.

We slept in the village of Baldecitos, near the entrance to Ischigualasto, as we were coming from Talampaya and did not want to travel too many extra kilometers.

The lodging options in Baldecitos are very scarce and basic, but for one night it is more than enough. We stayed at Hospedaje Leandra, a simple lodging in a rural setting.

Lodging Leandra near Ischigualasto

Lodging Leandra near Ischigualasto

6) Visit ISCHIGUALASTO and TALAMPAYA on the same day (MAP)

Both parks are close to each other and can be done perfectly in the same day, one in the morning (Talampaya) and the other in the afternoon (Ischigualasto), since the evening sun is reflected in the Cordón de los Colorados). We did it on two different days (and both around noon) so it wasn’t so tiring, especially traveling with Benji.

Logistically, it is a complicated issue because you have to travel in your own car, the distances are long and the route is not one of the busiest (in addition, you have to take into account the animals that cross the route). There is also the possibility of renting a car or hiring a car with driver in a city or town.

Check out these recommendations to visit Talampaya and complete your experience in the area.

Car in which we made the visit to the Moon Valley

Pint it!

Visit Ischigualasto Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)

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