Introduction

Also known fittingly as Valle de la Luna, this park takes its name from the Diaguita word for ‘land without life’. Visits here are a spectacular descent into a world of surreal rock formations, dinosaur remains and glowing red sunsets. The 630-sq-km park is in a desert valley between two sedimentary mountain ranges, the Cerros Colorados in the east and Cerro Los Rastros in the west. Over millennia, the waters of the nearly dry Río Ischigualasto have carved distinctive shapes in the malleable red sandstone, monochrome clay and volcanic ash. Predictably, some of these forms have acquired popular names, including Cancha de Bochas (the Ball Court), El Submarino (The Submarine) and El Gusano (The Worm), among others. Time and water have also exposed a wealth of fossils, some up to 180 million years old, from the Triassic period.The desert flora of algarrobo trees, shrubs and cacti complement the eerie land forms.