Barreal is the biggest town in Valle de Calingasta, and the most convenient for making excursions into the precordillera (Andean foothills) and to Parque Nacional El Leoncito. For these reasons, it has more lodging options. Also, all of the valleyâ€™s tour operators are based here.
The life of the village is along Avenida Presidente Roca. At the terraced Plaza San MartĂn are the tourism office, hospital and the Feria Artesanal (artisan fair). A half-kilometer (0.3 mi) east of the hospital is Museo Renzo Herrera, which has an eclectic collection of fossils, indigenous artifacts and other items (daily 8 a.m.-noon, 4-8 p.m. Las Heras s/n Este, Tel: 44-1073. Entry: by donation).
At a triangular rotunda (roundabout), Avenida Roca meets Avenida San MartĂn. Many hostels are on this road. Walking west on San MartĂn leads travelers to the RĂo de los Patos, where they may fish. East on San MartĂn heads to the foot of the precordillera. Six circuits can be done hiking or on horseback in these and other ranges, into untouched nature where flora and fauna may be observed. Some go to abandoned mines, petroglyphs and other reminders of the human past. None of the trails are marked, so a guide is necessary. The most challenging of the treks is the eight-day recreation of General JosĂ© de San MartĂnâ€™s crossing of the Andes, which passes at the foot of Cerro Mercedario. At 6,770 meters (22,211 ft) it is San Juan Provinceâ€™s highest peak and the second highest in the country.
Some 17 kilometers (10 mi) south of Barreal is Pampa El Leoncito. This 50-square-kilometer (19-sq mi) fossilized sand bed is swept by 50-100 kilometer per hour (31-62 mph) winds, making it the perfect place to practice carrovelismo (kite buggy) October-February (Don Toro Carrovelismo, Tel: 0264-156-717-196, E-mail: email@example.com).
Thirty-five kilometers (21 mi) south of Barreal is Parque Nacional El Leoncito. This 89,907-hectare (222,165-ac) park was founded in 1994 as a Strict Nature Reserve and later promoted to a national park in 2002. It preserves puna and high Andean ecosystems. The parkâ€™s symbol, Darwinâ€™s Rhea (suri cordillerano), is a frequent sight, as are guanaco. Other fauna are guinea pigs (cuy), largarto cola de piche and Red-backed Hawk (aguilucho comĂşn, Buteo polyosoma). The thorny scrub brush includes cacti, escarapela and brea. At the ranger station, three trails may be hiked: Paisajes de Agua, which teaches the importance of water in the desert (Difficulty: easy); Cascada El RincĂłn, leading to a small waterfall on Arroyo El Leoncito (Difficulty: easy-medium); and Sendero Cerro El Leoncito, a four-hour trek up a 2,519-meter (8,264-ft) high mountain (Difficulty: medium; requires authorization). Entry and camping in the park are free. Authorized agencies offer horseback riding (Explora Parques, Tel: 0264-503-2008, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, URL: www.exploraparques.com) and 4x4 excursions (Explora Parques; also Fortuna Viajes, Posada Don RamĂłn, Av Roca s/n Norte, Barreal, Tel: 0264-1540-4913, URL: www.fortunavaijes.com.ar).
Parque Nacional El Leoncitoâ€™s clear skies also make it the perfect habitat for two astronomical observatories, both of which have free day tours: Observatorio AstronĂłmico El Leoncito (CASLEO) (daily 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. Tel: 02648-44-1088) and Cesco (daily 10 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 6 p.m. Tel: 02648-44-1087). Night tours may be arranged at either observatory (Entry: foreigners $8.50, Argentines $6).
(Altitude: 1,626 m / 5,334 ft, Population: 2,382, Phone Code: 02648)
The tourism office has information on Valle de Calingasta destinations; staff speak some English (Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-9 p.-m., weekends 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Roca and Las Heras, Tel: 44-106, E-mail: email@example.com, URL: www.calingastaturismo.gov.ar). The town also has Parque Nacional El Leoncito administration office (Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Cordillera Ansilta s/n, Tel: 44-1240, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org); police (Roca s/n Norte, Tel: 44-1022), bank, post office, phone, Internet, hospital (Las Heras s/n Este, Tel: 44-1060), pharmacy.
Feria Artesanal (weekends after 3 p.m. South side of Plaza San MartĂn)
GĂĽer Aike (Belgrano s/n Sur)â€”artist studio and gallery
Fortuna Viajes (Posada Don RamĂłn, Av Roca s/n Norte, Tel: 0264-1540-4913, URL: www.fortunavaijes.com.ar)â€”national park excursions, trans-Andean trek
Condor Expediciones (San MartĂn s/n Este, Tel: 44-1144)â€”rafting, expeditions to Valle Colorado
Many hotels are booked by mining companies.
Camping Municipal (Belgrano s/n Sur, Tel: 0264-156-723-914)â€”$1.25 per person
Hostel Barreal (San MartĂn s/n Este, Tel: 44-1144, E-mail: email@example.com)â€”$10-13 per person; also camping
Hostal Don Lisandro (San MartĂn s/n Este)â€”shared room $14.25 per person; private room for 1 or 2 persons $40; bike rental
Posada San Eduardo (San MartĂn and Los Enamorados, Tel: 44-1046)â€”1 person $43-72, 2 persons $57-86
RestaurantsEl Alero Parilla (Guiachino s/n, Tel: 44-1027)Restaurante Isidoro (Roca s/n Sur)Cliff Pizzas (Roca s/n Sur)
Other places nearby Barreal: Calingasta,
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