Full of breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, each more impressive than the last, Cuyo in west Argentina is lovely to travel around, with lots of different sides to it. While many people visit the region to hike or climb Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, just as many visit for the fabulous wineries and vineyards found in Mendoza and San Rafael.
With extraordinary rock formations for you to ogle at in the Valley of the Moon and Talampaya National Park and lots of great outdoor activities to be enjoyed wherever you go, each part of the region has something new and different to offer. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Cuyo.
Map of Cuyo, Argentina
With the impressive Maipo stratovolcano beautifully reflected in its shimmering waters, Laguna del Diamante is arresting to behold and definitely warrants a visit when in Cuyo. Named after the reflection of the volcano that creates a diamond-shape in the lake’s waters, Laguna del Diamante is tucked away amongst one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world at an altitude of 3,300 meters above sea level.
Despite the unforgiving environment that sees visitors only allowed to visit between December and March, a hardy flock of flamingos has been found flourishing in the lagoon’s hyper alkaline waters; they make for some fantastic photos with the majestic Maipo off in the distance.
A top-rated tourist destination, Canon del Atuel is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. The narrow canyon lends itself perfectly to everything from hiking and mountain biking to horse riding and rock climbing. As the Atuel River runs through the bottom of the canyon, visitors can also go river rafting and canoeing down its many rapids.
Paddling along its gushing waters with the canyon walls looming above you really is an awe-inspiring experience. The wild and rugged canyon is full of fantastic rock formations, and the arid, desert-like conditions contrast stunningly with the vivid blue of the river and the expansive Valle Grande reservoir that lies nearby.
With clear blue skies above and the majestic Sierra del Tontal mountain range towering dramatically ahead, visiting El Leoncito National Park will leave you feeling unencumbered and one with nature.
As it has no infrastructure of any kind, the national park is ideal for people looking for a quiet getaway; camping in the mountains under a starry sky makes for an incredible experience. El Leoncito National Park is a brilliant place to go star gazing as its year-round dry weather almost guarantees clear skies.
Wherever you go, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous, with many trails and paths weaving their way past hidden waterfalls and streams, tucked away in the mountains.
In addition to this, there are also some interesting historical and paleontological sites for you to check out, as the Inca road system once ran through the area.
Symbolizing eternal peace, Christ the Redeemer of the Andes (as it is known in English) is a monument that is located high up in the Andes at an altitude of 3,800 meters in the Principal Cordillera section of the mountain range.
Erected in 1904 at the border between Chile and Argentina, the statue celebrates the peaceful resolution of what had long been a border dispute between the two countries.
While the statue of Christ is pleasant to gaze upon for a couple of minutes, it is the incredible panoramas, the zigzagging road up the steep mountainside, and the beautiful mountain setting that really make the Cristo Redentor de los Andes worth a visit.
While the Inca did construct thousands upon thousands of kilometers of roads to help them get around their mountainous empire, the Puente del Inca was not (as legend has it) built by them, but was instead formed naturally by glacial melt.
The colorful rock bridge that crosses over the Rio de las Cuevas certainly is distinctive to behold, and the remains of an old spa house tucked away beneath it only make it even more photogenic.
While Puente del Inca is a unique, natural creation, the drive to the site is equally extraordinary. You will pass through gorgeous glacial valleys, up steep mountainsides, and past little villages, with the ruins of Inca messenger huts dotted here and there.
The eighth-highest peak in the Andes, the snow-capped Mercedario towers to a height of 6,720 meters above sea level; needless to say, the views from its summit are absolutely phenomenal as the world stretches away below you.
For hikers and mountaineers looking to immerse themselves in nature without another soul in sight, Mercedario is the place to head to, as relatively few people attempt to climb it. With paths of varying difficulties on offer, you can stroll peacefully along one of its mountainside trails or climb up rock faces if you choose, with beautiful scenery on show wherever you go.
Reserva Provincial La Payunia is home to a plethora of small volcanoes, with the largest of them being Payun Matru, Payun Liso, and Santa Maria. With over 800 volcanoes, it’s one of the most volcanic places on Earth.
Due to all the ash and lava that often gush forth, the landscape is very dark, as the ground has almost been stained black. Traveling around the desolate scenery almost makes you feel as if you are on another planet, with only the occasional plant or animal punctuating the landscape.
There’s not all that much to do in town, but that’s part of its charm. San Rafael is a delightful place to spend time; the Diamante River courses through the city and tree-lined streets provide visitors and locals alike with some much-needed shade.
Away from its bustling plazas, cafes, and restaurants thrumming with life, the city has some great wineries for you to check out in the surrounding countryside. Other than that, many people use San Rafael as a gateway to explore the impressive Canon del Atuel and the wonderful Valle Grande.
Lying around 230 kilometers from San Juan, Barreal is a delightful place to visit. The Andes Mountains rise dramatically above the charming valley in which the town is located. You’ll find lovely poplar trees to provide you with some respite from the searing sun, and the gentle murmuring of water slowly meandering its way through the town’s many irrigation ditches.
Lying on the banks of the Rio de los Patos, the laidback Barreal is perfect for people looking for a quiet getaway; the slow pace of life around town and the stunning scenery make for an ideal holiday.
Nestled away in the mountains, this fabulous ski resort boasts the largest skiable area in South America; as such, there is a good range of pistes catering to everyone from absolute beginners to experts.
With restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and coffee shops all on offer, Las Lenas has everything you need to have a good time. The scenery is stunning, with snowy mountains stretching away as far as the eye can see.
While skiing and snowboarding are available during the winter months, in summer, visitors can go hiking, horse riding, or rock climbing in the magnificent nature surrounding the resort.
An astounding, out of this world place to visit, Ischigualasto Provincial Park is best known by its other name – Valle de la Luna – or ‘Valley of the Moon’ in English. A unique place, the park’s landscapes are otherworldly in appearance, as strange rock formations rise from the desert floor, and the crumbling white, dusty ground makes you feel as if you are walking on the moon.
With such spectacular sights as the Painted Valley, the black rock spheres in Cancha de Bochas, and distinctive rock formations such as The Sphynx, The Submarine, and The Mushroom for you to check out, visiting Ischigualasto Provincial Park promises to be a special experience. In addition to this, lots of dinosaur fossils have been found in the park. You can get a closer look at some of the discoveries in the site’s small museum.
Established in 1975 to protect and preserve a vast swathe of land in the Argentine Monte ecoregion – an arid, desert-like part of the country – Talampaya National Park is a treat to explore.
Amazing canyons and sandstone sculptures can be found alongside archaeological and paleontological sites.
While the scenery is impressive, equally alluring are the petroglyphs at Puerta del Canon, which date back millennia. Taking a tour into the inner depths of Talampaya gorge is a great way to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the amazing landscapes that were shaped many millions of years ago.
The highest mountain in the world outside of Asia, Aconcagua towers to an impressive 6,960 meters. It is very popular with hikers and mountaineers, who come to revel in the beautiful landscapes and hopefully summit its peak.
Lying entirely within Argentina, just next to the border with Chile, the mountain has a number of glistening glaciers for visitors to check out, with lots of campsites available should you want to stay the night.
With many different paths and trails weaving up the mountainside, and fantastic views the higher you go, Aconcagua is not to be missed out on when visiting Cuyo, Argentina.
See also: Where to Stay in Mendoza
Despite lying in a very arid region, Mendoza is renowned for its fantastic wines and vineyards. Many people head to the city to try its delicious local produce. With some lovely parks, gardens, and plazas in the center, it is an enjoyable place to spend some time; leafy streets and irrigation channels crisscross the town.
As Aconcagua is not too far away, Mendoza is also often used as a gateway to the mountains and the myriad of hiking, horseback riding and climbing opportunities that they offer. In addition to this, you can also go river rafting, paragliding, and skiing in the beautiful countryside surrounding the city.