As the clear sky blue is perpetuated in a light that seems unattainable and the nights multiply their stars, El Leoncito National Park works in silence to ensure the protection of a unique natural environment.
The extraordinary geography of Cuyo and one of the best skies in Argentina go hand in hand to surprise visitors in an amazing tourist circuit. Protecting the Soil to Take Care of the Sky
Just 35 kilometers away from the picturesque village called Barreal
, the shade of ancient poplar tree groves and the murmur of the water in the irrigation ditches welcome visitors who come along in search of a promised sky. Immersed amidst the mountains, two worldwide known astronomic observatories -Cesco and Casleo- open up to visitors and reveal the secrets of the universe.
They depend on the sky to justify their existence and the sky depends on the protection of El Leoncito National Park to ensure its clear pride, free of pollution, dust and improper lighting.
At a privileged nook, they know that the guardian of the sky protects the soils from erosion caused by excessive grazing and negative human activities. They provide behavior guidance to visitors and services that guarantee not only the protection of the environment but also safety and entertainment for all those who visit the area.
El Leoncito National Park is a sum of stories that nourish its own history. The almost 90,000 hectares it occupies today used to be owned by the estancia
bearing the same name; a high agricultural and livestock venue that witnessed the history of the region.
The ancient adobe constructions inside which the popular imagery places General San Martín while planning the crossing of the Andes may still be seen surrounded by one-hundred-year-old poplars and willows. Historic documentation supports the work of Sarmiento in this area.
Rock carvings made farther back in time sleep its centennial silence amidst the telegraph posts that used to communicate Calingasta with the capital of the province
in the late nineteenth century.
Extreme aridity, great temperature extremes, scarce rainfall and high exposition to the sunbeams generate hard conditions for living beings to survive. However, the remarkable life diversity hidden in the park provides a high preservation value.
Within this environment, the landscape attractions in El Leoncito National Park contribute their earthly vision to the astral cosmogony of the observatories. Both institutions contain an environment teeming with sensations that challenge the visitors' sense of wonder. One of the best tourist destinations in the province.
Why Do We Look at the Sky?
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Today, we observe the sky for various reasons: scientific, religious, even superstitious. Knowing where we come from, whether we are alone or where we are going with the expansion of the universe is a human need. Men have an urge to recognize themselves in our own fragility and understand the need to take care of the sky above us.
To Visit the Observatories
Open hours: from 10am to 12pm and from 3pm to 5.30pm.
Night tourism only with prior booking. Contact Casleo offices in San Juan, te: 0264-4213653/83.
Open hours: from 10am to 12pm and from 4pm to 6pm.
Night tourism on a first come, first served basis, as from 8pm.
Open hours as well as day and night visits at both observatories may be subject to change due to season or logistic conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to ask in advance.
How to get here: At the City of San Juan, take National Route 40 up to Talacasto, Provincial Route 436 and Provincial Route 12 up to Calingasta/Barreal, and Provincial Route 412 up to the access to the park.
At Mendoza, take National Route 7 up to Uspallata, and then Provincial Route 39 up to the access to the park.
Public transport is only available from the capital of San Juan to Barreal. Once at Barreal, there is no public transport to the park. Options include renting a car, hiring a chauffeur-driven car or resorting to a travel agency.
Bear in mind: El Leoncito National Park does not offer any accommodation or gastronomic options. It is open year round and it includes a campsite area with tables, fire pits, barbecue area and restrooms with hot water. Hiking circuits include short trails that lead to a particular cascade in the middle of the desert and paths that may take up to three hours to cover. The offer of tourist services is completed by viewpoints with informative signs and rest areas.