The Central Andes Region


Indigenous Populations
The indigenous populations of the Central Andes included Diaguitas, Capayanes, Olongastas, Huarpes, Capazanes, Yacampis, Michilingües, Calchaquies, Ranqueles and further east, Pehuenches, Comechingones and Sanavirones. Puelches inhabited areas over the entire region. There is evidence that the region was inhabited as long ago as 2000 BC, that crop cultivation began by 300 BC and that this area later was part of the Inca Empire.

Terrain and Weather
This is a varied region containing arid and semi-arid mountains (including the Western Hemisphere's tallest peak), hillsides and flatlands. Strong hot winds have carved fascinating rock formations in certain areas, a popular sight for travelers on Argentina tours. Summers are hot with winters that are relatively cold in some areas and mild in others. There are rivers and large lakes in parts of the region.

The region contains five national parks of varying landscapes for visitors on Argentina tours: San Guillermo, El Lioncito, Sierra de la Quijadas, Quebrada del Condorito and Talampaya. While visiting Talampaya National Park, travelers usually explore the provincial park next door, Parque Provincial Ishigualasto, a 156,755-acre park with similar attributes called the valley of the moon and the nearby archeological sites of San Agustin del Valle Fertil. A sixth national park, Los Venados de las Pampas is not yet open to the public. Adventure sports enthusiasts on Argentina tours are drawn to the region for river rafting and kayaking on the Atuel, Diamante and Mendoza rivers. Hiking, bicycling, skiing and parasailing are also popular year-round pastimes.

Mountain Mecca
At 22,900 feet, Mendoza Province's Cerro Aconcagua, is a popular destination for mountain climbers who travel to Argentina. Of the world's tallest peaks, it is the most accessible for novices since Parque Provincial Aconcagua provides a climbing route that requires no special equipment. South of Aconcagua, on the border between Argentina and Chile is 12,600-ft La Cumbre Pass. It is a popular mountain destination for tourists on Argentina tours who come to see the Christ the Redeemer of the Andes statue, commemorating the peaceful resolution of a conflict between the two countries. Mendoza contains many ski resorts. The most popular spot for international visitors is Las Lenas with 4,035 ft of vertical drop and forty miles of runs in a season that runs from June to mid-October.

Southern Explorations offers three options for visiting Mt. Aconcagua, the nine-day Argentina Mountains & Wineries tour, the fourteen-day Patagonia & Wineries tour and a four-day Mendoza tour extension.

Wine Country
While the production of wine plays an important economic role in most of this region's provinces, Mendoza is its viticultural epicenter. The region's mix of high altitude, much sun, natural irrigation and pristine environment produce high quality wine grapes, resistant to disease. It is here in Argentina's most prestigious wine region in the vicinity of Mendoza where the grapes are grown for almost eighty percent of Argentina's wine. The area is known for both its reds and whites, especially Malbec because here (unlike France) the climate allows the grape to fully ripen on the vine, and Torrontes, a white similar to Chardonnay and grown only in Argentina. Like the Napa Valley, Mendoza Province contains small towns with pleasant accommodations, superb cuisine and plenty of tasting rooms with winery tours, making the province a popular stop on Argentina tours. Its most modern winery is the Bodegas Salentein between the towns of Mendoza and San Rafael.
Southern Explorations offers four trips to Argentina's wine country, the nine-day Argentina Mountains & Wineries tour, the eleven-day Chile & Argentina Wine Adventure, the fourteen-day Patagonia & Wineries tour and the fourteen-day Luxury Patagonia & Wineries tour plus a Mendoza Tour Extension with an optional trip into the mountains including a stop at La Cumbre Pass, if weather and road conditions allow.

The Jesuit Block
Cordoba, the country's second largest city, and its surrounding hill towns, are Argentina's Jesuit heartland. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the region's Jesuit architecture tells a fascinating history of civic and anthropological engineering when, for a century and a half before being expulsed, the Order of Jesus sought to transform the landscape and culture of Spain's ill-gotten territory. The city itself contains several Jesuit landmarks including the Iglesia Catedral and the Manzana de las Luces. Nearby is the settlement of Alta Gracia that supported the Order's universities. It gained fame during its post-Jesuit era as a museum paying homage to two of its later residents, Che Guevera, who came here for his asthma and Spanish composer Manuel de Falla who took refuge during Spanish Civil War. Other Jesuit estancias as well as the National Jesuit Museum are in the area should you wish to visit them on Argentina tours.

Other Sights and Activities
San Juan Province's Vallecito is the site of the Difunta Correa shrine, where pilgrims pay homage to the unofficial saint they believe performs miracles. The shrine has grown over the decades to include quite a collection of novelties including a chapel filled with wedding gowns offered by those whose bridal prayers have been answered. Though not acknowledged by the Catholic Church, Holy Days bring out thousands of worshipers. Many cities in the region have unique museums you might want to see in your travel to Argentina, including the Museo Arqueologico La Laja near San Juan, and the Casa de Fernando Fader in Mendoza Province's Chacras de Coria, a residence decorated with the artist's murals, tiled indoor pools and paintings. The region's hot springs include Termas de Santa Teresita in La Rioja Province and Pismanta in San Juan Province.

In January, Cordoba Province attracts many visitors on Argentina tours to the city of Jesus Maria for its annual Festival Nacional de la Doma y el Folklore (Horse Training and Folklore Festival), to cheer competitors from throughout the world. The city of Cosquín holds a well-attended annual National Folklore Festival and hosts music festivals of other genres during the summer. Mendoza's big events center around wine, including the popular Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia wine harvest festival in late February or early March.