Valle de Iglesia lies in the northwest corner of San Juan Province. Sierra del VolcÃ¡n and Sierra Negra rim the east side of the valley. To the west, the Andes scrape the sky. Valle de Iglesia encompasses several plains (llanos): de Conconta, Romo and de la Patris. This is a land frozen in time, with ancient ruins, geoglyphs and colonial churches. It also invites adventurers to relax in thermal springs after days of trekking and windsurfing.
Rodeo village marks the center of the valley (Altitude: 1,557 m / 5,108 ft, Population: 2,393, Phone Code: 02647). From here all journeys begin. The Museo ArqueolÃ³gico de la UniÃ³n Vecinal de Rodeo has a small archaeology collection (Santo Domingo s/n).
On the north edge of town is Dique Cuesta del Viento. During the morning hours, the calm waters of this hydroelectric dam reservoir are perfect for fishing, kayaking or a brisk swim. Come afternoon, the winds pick up and kite surfers hit the turquoise lake. The best months for this sport are between mid-October and early May.
Ten kilometers (6 mi) east of Rodeo, between Colola and Pachimoco, is Museo de Sitio RÃo de la Tranca. This ancient ceremonial site is one of the few places in Argentina where geoglyphsâ€”geometric designs created by white, red and black stones upon the earthâ€”exist (Ruta Nacional 150, Tel: 02647-42-3008).
The valley unfolds south of Rodeo. Fifteen kilometers (9.3 mi) away is Termas de Pismanta, at 2,010 meters (6,595 ft) altitude. This spaâ€™s slightly radioactive, mineral-rich waters burst from the earth at 45ÂºC (113ÂºF) (Ruta 150 s/n, Tel: 02647-49-7091, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, URL: www.hoteltermaspismanta.com.ar). Pismanta village has a small municipal museum with archaeological finds and local artisan work (25 de Mayo 687, Tel: 03435-42-3169).
Just south of Pismanta and three kilometers (1.8 mi) east of the highway is Achango (Hachango; Altitude: 1,790 m / 5,873 ft) which has a mid-18th century chapel. The white-washed temple, made of tapia (rammed earth) and algarroba, has a bell tower, cemetery and corrals. It is dedicated to the Virgen del Carmen, who is venerated in November. The CusqueÃ±o statue of the Virgin Mary has natural hair and a silver crown.
Four kilometers (10 mi) south of Pismanta, Ruta Nacional 150 makes a sharp west turn, passing through breathtaking puna landscapes to the Paso Agua Negra border crossing into Chile, which is open only November-April (no public transportation).
Other worlds wait to be discovered north of Rodeo, along Ruta Provincial 407 (dirt). In Angualasto (19 km / 12 mi; Altitude: 1,711 m / 5,614 ft, Population: 303, Phone Code: 02647) is Museo ArqueolÃ³gico Luis Benedetti, a circular Stone building dedicated to the regionâ€™s archaeology. The collection includes childrenâ€™s funerary urns and a mummy (Calle Principal s/n, Tel: 02647-49-3008). In the area are ruins of tambos and other structures.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary to traverse the next 147 kilometers (91 mi) to Parque Nacional San Guillermo, a 160,000-hectare (395,369-ac) reserve protecting Argentinaâ€™s largest population of vicuÃ±a. The national park also has a large number of guanaco, as well as rhea, puma, condor, red fox and other fauna. Also within the boundaries are ruins and an Incan road. Much of the land lies above 3,000 meters. A refuge with bathroom and kitchen facilities is being built.
Each town has a tourism information office. The Parque Nacional San Guillermo office is in Rodeo (Cantoni s/n, Tel: 02647-49-3214, E-mail: email@example.com). Lodging is available in Rodeo, Dique Cuesta del Viento, Pismanta and Angualasto. Rodeo also has camping. Only Rodeo has banking services (ATM).