Things To Do In San Juan
San Juan City is located in the western part of Argentina and it is famous for their wines and winemaking livelihood. As you approach the capital city of Cuyo, you will notice an increasing selection of crop fields full of grapes, olives, and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Along the highway you will be captivated by its beautiful scenery, especially the mountains. Every kilometer is a spectacle of rocks in their natural formation, tall trees, and well paved roads. The sight of Rio San Juan shows a diverse landscape, an amazing panoramic view of a desolate desert with a surprising river that flows up to Caucete district which is filled with wineries, hills, valleys, and plantations. The river passes in its entirety and goes through San Juan’s amazing scenery.
When to Go:
San Juan can be visited or ideal for travel all throughout the year, but if you are a true blue wine lover, the most appropriate time to enjoy the wine tasting (when the grapes are fully ripe, sweet, and reached their full potential )is from the months of February and March. If you can tolerate the extreme humidity of its summer season, San Juan’s hottest months are December and January when temperatures ascend up to° C.
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If going around in the cold weather is your preference, the ideal months to engage a tour or spend a holiday is during the winter season or in the middle of the year (July to August). Ready your thick sweaters and extra blanket for those really cold evenings in San Juan.
Be enchanted by the tango dancing, wine tasting, and nature tripping as you explore these top things to do and attractions to see in the city of San Juan…
Museo de la Memoria Urbana o del Terremoto
The Museo de la Memoria Urbana o del Terremoto is a free museum in San Juan that tells the terrible disaster caused by the earthquake on January 15th 1944. It is very impressive to hear the story of what happened based on pictures and short films, if you walk further there is a room where they reproduced the movement caused by the earthquake with the same intensity. There are lots of photos and a volunteer at the entrance tells you a bit of things and the actual events that took place on that fateful day. In the museum you can see how the city has managed to restructure after the great earthquake and still have the earthquake simulator which is very funny and entertaining. It is right in the city center and easy to go. Even if you're passing through, this museum is impressive and gives a real glimpse of the city's history.
This museum is housed in sheds which was the San Martín railroad and is administered by the Municipality of San Juan with the intention of keeping the memory of the inhabitants and the disaster caused by the earthquake of 1944. The newspapers of the time and the pictures show the impact and consequences of the earthquake that lasted just 45 seconds. It is an excellent museum; the staff is very attentive, and very small but extremely emotional.
Catedral de San Juan
The Catedral de San Juanis recently renovated, established in the 20th century and built after the earthquake in 1944. It is spacious, beautiful, simple, and a special spirituality radiates from it. It is tall, big, and facing the main square of the city of San Juan. Do not miss the climb to the tower (accessible via an elevator ride) to see the panoramic view of San Juan from above.
It is charmingly located in a quiet part of the city that is lined with trees. Inside, there are a large number of images to enjoy and complete the religious experience. It is a large church with towering columns and stripped marble steps to get to the altar. It represents the strength and the rebirth of the people in San Juan after a terrible tragedy.
Parque Provincial Ischigualasto
The tour of Parque Provincial Ischigualasto begins in the city of San Juan at 7:30 in the morning on board a car. The journey starts early because the way to reach the valley of Ischigualasto is very long, about 600 Km. You will arrive at the destination around noon and the tour of the park starts with the help of a guide. The tour is about 40 Kms and it includes five stops in particular places and lasts three hours. From the first moment you have the chance to walk through the valley of the moon. At each stop, the expert and prepared guide explain the prerogatives of the site that is absolutely different from each other. A small museum collects fossils extracted from the excavations of research scientists. These were fossils of small dinosaurs that inhabited the world of the Triassic dating back to 200-250 million years ago. The rock formations and the landscape that is encountered during the visit is definitely worth the detour and long walks you made to get there.
Ischigualasto (which means lifeless grounds), is an area where fossils have been found dating back to the Triassic and where many remains of various species of dinosaurs were found during an archaeological expedition. The good news is that the rains are rare in this region. You follow the guide and stop at beautiful places like the Valley of the Moon, the Rainbow Valley, Bocce Court, etc. You can go by rental car and visit the Ischigualasto and Talampaya parks in a single day.
The Valley of the Moon
TheValle la Lunaor The Valley of the Moon is within the Ischigualasto Providential Park and is the second tour stop conducted by guides within the 40 km perimeter of this attraction. The colors of the day will enchant you, but the magic of the excursion night (possible in the week of the full moon of each month) is what most will enjoy. The tour is best done with a guide who explains in detail all the wonders of the place.
Since its geological formation in each time period, the fossils that are there are the animals that inhabit the site. You can spend the whole day exploring the rest of this attraction lunch. You can have lunch in a small restaurant near the park and return to San Juan in the late afternoon. The Valley of the Moon is very easy to get because the path converges there. The park does not have too many services so it is important to bring your own provisions like bottled drinking water or a few snacks you can munch in between stops along the valley.
Parque Nacional El Leoncito
The Parque Nacional El Leoncito is accessible to travel by car or on foot with moderate difficulty. There are a couple of scenic self-guided trails, a place prepared for picnics with tables and grills where you can eat with stunning views of the Ansilta Cord. You can also visit two astronomical observatories that are within the park, and the famous Pampa del Leoncito (where a sport called carrovelismo is widely practiced) or Barreal Blanco, a natural plateau of 12 km which was believed to be as the former lake bottom in the pre-formation of the Cordillera region in San Juan. For those who like everything about the universe, you cannot miss this national park that houses the CASLEO (Astronomical Complex of The Leoncio) where the largest telescope in Argentina is located.
It is a unique national park and it is nice to spend the day and at night you can visit the observatory and watch the stars. Wear warm clothes even in summer because it still gets cold, especially at night. The park is very well maintained, and there are two hiking trails: one of about 20 min (with waterfall and information panels) and another which is approximately 4 hours with an ascent to the Cerro El Leoncito included (you have to be well prepared because it is physically demanding).
Plaza 25 de Mayo
The Plaza 25 de Mayo is a nice place to stroll, watch some statues, and feed the pigeons in San Juan. You can also visit the cathedral church or have coffee in the various cafeterias that are around it. The Plaza is the main meeting point of the city, marked with the locations of various historical points of the province.
The square is beautifully kept, very bright, and has an old grove. It is a nice place to stop and unwind while making a tour of the city. The central fountain and monument to Domingo Faustino Sarmiento are just one of the most outstanding pieces you can find on this landmark square.
Casa Natal de Sarmiento
The Casa Natal de Sarmiento is the official birthplace of the former president of Argentina and it is a very interesting place. You can see lots of vintage items, books, coins, manuscripts, textiles, and weaving materials of Dona Paula. It is a must for tourists and is located three blocks away from the main square of San Juan.From the original house, there are only two rooms that were restored.
The materials presented in different rooms are very interesting and the explanatory panels are complete and show his public life as the governor of San Juan, as President of Argentina, as Ambassador and pictures from his exile in Chile. This place is worth spending a couple of hours to understand the political history of Argentina.
Convento de Santo Domingo
The Convento de Santo Domingo serves as the final resting place of St. Martin in the crossing of the Andes. It is a magical place that is very well preserved. You can explore the full establishment and at the end of the tour watch the short film about crossing the Andes of San Martin. It is a must see attraction in San Juan and excellent to make with children.It is a picturesque and historic place where you can learn more about San Martín and his liberation campaign.
It is a wonderful testimony that has remained standing despite the earthquake and filled with the marvelous works of religious art, although its bell was lost in the earthquake. You can learn more about the history of San Juan and General San Martin and his time in this province. Interestingly, this attraction is also called the Cell Historica San Martin.
Rio San Juan
The Rio San Juan is a river formed by the Andean snowmelt. The water starts in the Calingasta and empties into the River drainage and it is touted as very good for fishing. It is chosen by tourists and locals to spend the day, pitch camping tents, or go swimming especially on weekends as it is near the capital.
The San Juan River begins high up in the Andes and winds for hundreds of kilometers through a million years old valley that he has to cut through on its course. From this water come the wine of the entire Argentine province of San Juan, magnificent mountain scenery, and the bold colors of the Bald Mountain. Unfortunately, there is not always plenty of water in the Rio San Juan, since it depends on the melting of the snow in the mountains and foothills.
El Dique de Ullum
Stones, clay and sand, this is the part of the terrain of the foothills where lies San Juan, a city and its province, where it almost never rains. The inhabitants, who have always dedicated ale cultivation of vines and vegetables, have solved the water problem with the construction of several dams, using the snowfields of the Andes to the west. The dam closest to the city is the El Dique Ullum. It is here where they have combined business with pleasure. If you stroll along the reservoir, you can see tourist facilities on the banks and where most guests come to spend the weekend. The landscape is all green and the water in this basin has the function of creating energy, but above all to bring water to the city and to the crops. Too bad that the snowfall in recent years has been scarce and water level fell by more than 5 meters.
The architectural work of the Ullum Dam is located 20 Km. from the capital of San Juan and not far from other dams in the Province of Córdoba, Mendoza and Salta. In April 2015, after three years of drought in the province, the dam has a very low water volume. In that same month there was an early snowfall at several points which suggests that this situation next summer on the other hand will undergo a cyclical reversal. However, despite periods of drought, this site has remained very clean and care all around is highlighted.
Bodega La Guarda San Juan
The Bodega La Guarda San Juan is basically typical wineries which like the rest of the Cuyo provinces are characterized by high price of wines, sometimes even more expensive than the same wine that is achieved in a supermarket.
But it is quite interesting to see the process of production of these quality wines so it is advisable to make a tour of this winery while you’re in San Juan. This winery has excellent and exclusive wines. Worth a visit and try out the various tastings offered. It is a good place to taste, buy wine and olive oil.
Champagnera Cavas de Zonda
The Champagnera Cavas de Zonda is a very interesting place, since there are few pits or winery in the world that are literally located inside a mountain. The walls are made of natural stone and along with indirect lighting and Gregorian chant playing in the background, helps create a magical atmosphere.
The ride is short and the official guides explain a bit about how it was built and the process of manufacturing of wines and offer a glass of bubbly at the end. It is a very good place to visit and enjoy with guided tour ends with a tasting of champagne straight from the storage tank and within the heart of the mountain. The place is very cute and good champagnes can be purchased at a reasonable price.
Bodega Las Marianas
The Bodega Las Marianas is a small local winery where all the work involved in wine production is done in manual labor. This winery is a clear example of that with effort and hard work, great things are achieved. The wines from this winery are very good and those with aging in oak are neatly preserved and aged to perfection. The winery shows the old part, its elements, development, and aging, vineyards, mountain views and a tasting of their wine selections. You can buy it on the spot. The wine chamber of San Juan has given awards to this winery several times. You can find Malbec, Tempanillo, Syracuse New York, Merlot, Cabernet, among others. The tour of this bodega and wine tasting experience is one of the best things to do while on a wine route in San Juan. It has standard quality wines, with some varieties that can be ranked as very good.
A tour of San Juan is an eye opening and breathtaking experience. You can see a natural landscape as you drive or pass by the national highway and be in awe of its rock formations that were carved by time and weather. It seems like a magical place where the vastness of the place fills you with peace. Make sure your camera is ready when you engage in a tour of San Juan City for there are lots of places where you can take amazing photographs and at the same time taste the best wines of Argentina.
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