Passing through Rio Gallegos, Lojaor & Valdivia? You’ll love this timely and useful info for...
Provincia de San Juan, Argentina
Parque Nacional El Leoncito
Text by Mariana Lafont
Natural Splendor: Parque Nacional El Leoncito in Barreal, Calingasta, is set in an ecosystem typical of the Andean foothills. The park boasts the clear atmospheric conditions needed to see the stars and is home to a magnificent observatory. Visitors can stay overnight at the site and enjoy open-air stargazing.
Outdoor Adventures: Try your hand at windsurfing or whitewater rafting at Dique Cuesta del Viento in Valle de Iglesia. The large dam over the Río Jáchal created a landscape that combines the beauty of the desert with the intense turquoise of a man-made lake. Agencies in the town of Rodeo offer tours that include horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting.www.travelsanjuan.com.ar
Paleontological Heritage: Explore walking trails and visit the interpretation center to learn what happened when dinosaurs ruled the earth 230 million years ago, at Parque Provincial Ishigualasto (also known as Valle de la Luna), a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site.www.ischigualasto.org
Museum Going: If you’re interested in learning about the father of Argentinean education, visit Museo Sarmiento, located in the childhood home of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. If the origins of wine in San Juan capture your attention, try the thorough and educational Museo de la Bodega Santiago Graffigna, owned by a winery that was founded in 1870, marking the birth of San Juan’s winemaking industry.Museo Sarmiento, Sarmiento 21 Sur, San Juan
Museo Graffigna, Colón 1342 Norte, Desamparados
Souvenir Shopping: Don’t forget to take home a good Shiraz – the top varietal in the area, which you can find at the Vitis wine shop – and pick up some tasty green or black olives at La Sulamita or any local supermarket.Vitis, Av. I. de la Roza 981 Oeste
La Sulamita, San Luis 210 Oeste
Tips from a Local: Enrique Meglioli lives in Rodeo, but he visits Las Leñas every time he goes to the province’s capital, San Juan. The restaurant serves grilled meats, as well as international and traditional local fare.Av. Libertador San Martín 1670 Oeste, San Juan
Tel. 54-264- 423-5040
Región de la Araucanía (Villarrica), Chile
Chocolate volcano, Cassis
Text by Soledad Castro
Natural Splendor: Parque Huerquehue is located 21 miles from Pucón on the shores of Lago Villarrica. To get there, take the road to Lago Caburgua. Visitors can choose from a variety of paths in the park. The Los Lagos route leads to several of the park’s 20 lagoons, which have been guarded by araucaria trees for thousands of years. You can go for the day or stay overnight at a campsite or lodge.
Outdoor Adventures: To climb the 9,340 feet to the active crater of the Villarrica volcano, you must be in good physical condition and have enough courage to stare into the entrails of the earth. The caldera contains a large lake of lava and eternal smoke plumes. If you’re interested in skiing, U.S. expert Donny Roth offers guided descents during the winter.www.chile-powder-adventures.com
Historical Heritage: In the old city of Villarrica, on the lake of the same name and 16 miles from Pucón, are the remains of what may have been Fuerte Villa Rica, a fort built by the first Spanish to reach the area in the 16th century.Calle General Urrutia & Andrés Bello
Museum Going: Immerse yourself in Mapuche life at Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm in the town of Curarrehue, 24 miles east of Pucón. The site has a museum, a folk-art market and a restaurant where you can sample ancient recipes in a ruka, a traditional Mapuche dwelling.
Souvenir Shopping: At the entrance to Pucón, en route from Villarrica, are kiosks selling the wooden flowers that are the area’s most traditional folk art. Another option is a chocolate volcano from the pastry shop Cassis. If you stop there, be sure to try the murta ice cream.Cassis, Fresia 223
Tips from a Local: Kundalini yoga instructor Paula Abrigo recommends beginning the day gloriously with breakfast at the organic hotel-restaurant École. And don’t even think about leaving the area without visiting one of the exceptional hot springs, like the gorgeous Termas Geométricas.www.ecole.cl
Provincia de Loja, Ecuador
Bosque Petrificado de Puyango
Text by Eduardo Andrade
Natural Splendor: More than 200 species of birds have been seen in Parque Nacional Podocarpus. One of the most popular spots for visitors is Las Lagunas del Compadre (10,500 feet above sea level). Those interested in spending the night can stay in the park at the lodge or in cabins.
Outdoor Adventures: Famous for its inhabitants’ longevity, Valle de Vilcabamba is the point of departure for horseback riding in the area. You’ll find several tour agencies in Vilcabamba’s central park. Hiking is another great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Paleontological Heritage: Located 173 miles from the city of Loja, in the Alamor Parish of the Puyango region, the Bosque Petrificado de Puyango is a world-renowned petrified forest and site of marine fossils. This protected area is also home to a small museum.www.bosquepuyango.ec/es
Museum Going: La Puerta de la Ciudad or El Castillo is one of the icons of the city of Loja. The building houses traveling exhibits by national and foreign artists as well as folk-art shops.www.vivaloja.com
Souvenir Shopping: Saraguro is one of the most culturally rich towns in the province of Loja. If you visit this charming spot 39 miles from the city of Loja, be sure to check out the locally made wool and cotton ponchos, coats and gloves.
Tips from a Local: La Basílica Menor de Nuestra Señora El Cisne is one of the places that independent businessman Luis Albuja recommends to visitors. The faithful believe that La Virgen de El Cisne has performed thousands of miracles since 1594. The El Cisne parish is located 45 miles north of the city of Loja.