Visiting Barreal and Pampa del Leoncito

It is usually considered a captivating excursion and compared to visiting another planet. Leaving the City of San Juan, visitors may get to Barreal and the famous Pampa del Leoncito, where adventure activities such as horseback rides, land yachting, rafting and hiking are carried out.

In the southwestern vertex of the Province of San Juan, there is a great valley crossed by small rivers and ditches whose waters flow from the snow-capped mountains. These views are part of the most beautiful sceneries in the Cuyo region.

The Calingasta Valley is located just 180 kilometers from the City of San Juan and it is under the constant surveillance of two stone guardians that seem to lie in wait for visitors during each journey: 6,770-meter-high Mount Mercedario and the massive Aconcagua, which reaches 6,960 meters MSL.

A small tourist resort known as Barreal (which stands for “the bog” in Spanish) lies within this valley. It is a small village with dirt roads and refreshing ditches carrying meltdown water. This tourist village at the foot of the Ansilta mountain range features several cabin resorts, inns and camping sites.

Visitors can find the most diverse adventure travel options at El Barreal, among which horseback rides, land yachting, rafting and hiking around the area stand out.

  • The native fauna

    The native fauna

  • The Cerro Alcázar

    The Cerro Alcázar

  • Barreal streets

    Barreal streets

  • Tourist village

    Tourist village

  • Astronomical Complex El Leoncito

    Astronomical Complex El Leoncito

One of the most popular outings is a visit to Pampa del Leoncito natural area (whose name stands for “the little lion’s pampa” in Spanish”). This is a unique site in the world and it lies just 40 kilometers from Barreal. It consists in a strange plain measuring fourteen kilometers of length and five of width where a lake dried out some several million years ago. Today, a radiantly white surface makes visitors feel as if they were walking on the moon.

There is not a single bush: just an even soil with some cracks in the shape of pentagons is perfectly reproduced.

For experts on the subject, in addition to being a beautiful landscape, Barreal may be the best land yachting track in the world. This is a fascinating sport powered by the wind speed through a sail manipulated in order to propel the land yacht. The technique will be easily understood once the picture is observed.

Though most adventurers who come along to this place carry their own land yacht, tourist operators working with this sport activity have a tandem vehicle for two people: trainer and trainee. The companion does not need to do anything but enjoy this experience across the desert at full speed and in total silence. Simply spectacular.

Vestiges of the first nations that dwelled in the area 8,000 years ago are found a few kilometers from Barreal. Several 4WD tours lead to this area, more precisely to the spot known as Los Morillos.

Los Morillos is a shelter in the heights that depends on Fundación Vida Silvestre (Wildlife Foundation) and that provides visitors the possibility of approaching the native fauna and the various cultures that left their imprint and dwelled in the Calingasta Valley.

Cave paintings, petroglyphs, the remains of fire pits and seventeen mummies and infants buried in the area were discovered at this location. The cultures that inhabited this area were Fortuna (6,500 to 6,000 years BC), Morrillos (5,900 to 2,000 BC) and Ansilta (1,800 to 500 BC).

Autor Pablo Etchevers Fotografo Pablo Etchevers

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