Expedition to San Juan
Tour starts from Mendoza, Argentina’s gateway to the Andes. It’s a regional hub, easily reached by domestic/ international flight, or an overnight bus from Buenos Aires. While this region enjoys mild weather even in winter, do mind taking some warm clothes for the higher elevations.
For the tour itinerary and reservation details, please scroll down.
Why this specific location?
The weather in Cuyo region (western Argentina) during the winter tends to be dry and very sunny, as it’s located in the subtropics (30°S). However, there are some cold spells which occasionally bring cloudy weather. It still doesn’t rain or snow much, as the area has arid climate, protected by Andes: over the last 10 years the weather on 2nd of July was predominantly perfect, with an exception of 2012 and 2016. Even in those ‘bad’ years, when the low clouds spread all the way inland to San Juan, Valle de Pismanta had good chances of clear skies. Have a look yourself at how it was in the past years (the oval-shaped mountain in the left-centre is Mogote Corralitos near San Juan; in the lower right corner is Buenos Aires):
P.S. The Chilean part, inland from La Serena does also have good weather statistics. Yet, the tour would result being more expensive, as more visitors would come into a smaller area (Valle de Elquí). And also, in case of bad weather, there is nowhere to escape – it’s a narrow strip of land between the Pacific (with its marine fog) and the high Andes with impassable roads. Still, it would be a pity to miss such an interesting destination, that’s why we offer an extension of the tour, after the eclipse, to La Silla (ESO site), Valle Elquí and Valparaíso.
Day 1. Wednesday, June 26th – Mendoza
We meet in Mendoza, the cultural centre of Cuyo region, surrounded by the famous wineries.
It’s advised to arrive by this day, for a group meeting downtown and some sightseeing, as an early departure is planned next day. Pick up from Mendoza airport is possible. However, you may also arrive one day earlier or as late as Wednesday night.
Day 2. Thursday, June 27th – San Juan
We start off northbound, to the city of San Juan (2½ hours), which will be the focus city for many eclipse chasers who chose Argentina. It lies on the southern edge of the eclipse path, and the surrounding province is a dry mountainous land, that provides favourable weather conditions in winter. After a short city tour, we cross the 142km-wide path of the upcoming eclipse, into Valle Fértil. The actual route (3½ hours) takes longer than a straight line, as it bypasses the mountain ranges and sand dunes. On the way, we scout a potential (backup) eclipse viewing site near Los Papagayos. Overnight stay near San Agustín.
Days 3–4. Fri-Sat, June 28-29th – Cañones Triásicos
Just beyond the northern edge of the eclipse path are the National parks Ischigualasto and Talampaya (another name – Valle de la Luna, Valley of the Moon). Their unique landscapes are famous as one of the best archaeological sites, where dinosaur fossils have been found. We will do some hiking to the geological sights of the Triassic period and visit Parque de Dinosauros, tracking back to the times 240 million years ago, when the present-day South America and Africa constituted a single landmass called Pangæa. Overnight stay near Villa Unión (1h away).
Day 5. Sunday, June 30th – Valle de Pismanta
In the morning we’ll head back south into the eclipse path, and after a three-hour drive will enter the high-altitude Valle de Pismanta. Right there is the eclipse ‘hotspot’, an area with some of the best viewing sites near Bella Vista (literally translated as “beautiful view”, no discrepancy here). A lunch stop at Baño Pismanta, with some time for relaxing at the thermal spa (natural source of 40° water at an altitude of 2000m). Later on we’ll drive further south (4h) in the direction of El Leoncito (next overnight stay), exploring more potential eclipse viewing spots as we go.
Day 6. Monday, July 1st – El Leoncito observatories
Eclipse briefing and a visit to the astronomy complex in the nearby mountains (1hr away), at 2550m above sea level. It’s the country’s leading research facility in optical astronomy, focused on studying the evolution of galaxies and origin of the stars. The largest instrument is 2.15 m (85 in) Jorge Sahade Telescope, operating since 1987. Both daytime and nighttime guided tours are available at the observatory.
Day 7 . Tuesday, July 2nd – the ECLIPSE DAY
Based on the actual weather forecast (in the morning), we’ll drive towards the ultimate site for viewing the eclipse — in Bella Vista, or, alternatively, in the lowlands of San Juan province (see map). Late evening return.
Viewing circumstances for Bella Vista (30.5°S, 69.3°W, local time UT-3)
Eclipse start 16:25, altitude 23°
Total eclipse 17:39–17:42, altitude 12°
(totality duration 2 minutes 30 sec);
Sunset at around 18:25*
*At many locations in the valley, the visible horizon is at about 2–4°, blocked by the Andes in the west (4000-5000m high). This will not hinder seeing the totality, but cut the final partial phases at about 30%, as the Sun will set behind the mountains about twenty minutes early.
Day 8. Wednesday, July 3rd – Valle de Calingasta, Villavicencio
Visit to the Villavicencio natural reserve and the thermals before arriving to Uspallata. Most of San Juan province, especially its Calingasta and Iglesia departments, is sparsely populated and has a lot of wilderness areas. We will have a fair chance to see the animals in their natural habitat, such as vicuña and guanaco, both being relatives of llama; Patagonian mara and gray fox (zorro gris or chilla in Spanish).
Day 9. Thursday, July 4th – Uspallata
A chill day to enjoy the mountain scenery. Unless there is a major snow storm, we’d drive to Puente del Inca, which is located 2740m above sea level and offers a unique view on Aconcagua, the highest summit in the Americas. Please note that our tour doesn’t include any mountaineering or technical hikes that require special gear&training, nor we’ll have sufficient time for that. Nevertheless, it would be recommended to take some normal winter clothes with you, as we’ll do some short hikes in the mountain valleys, with a chance of snow and mild sub-zero temperatures.
Day 10. Friday, July 5th – Cristo Redentor de los Andes
Note: If you choose ‘Argentina only’ option, it will be possible to terminate here and go back to Mendoza (1½ hours). This option is mandatory for the travelers who couldn’t get a visa to Chile (although not required for most nationalities)
After yesterday’s buffer day, we cross the Andes to arrive in Chile by the evening. The whole drive to the Pacific coast takes over 7-8 hours, and may depend on the border crossing, so we spare a day for it. The highest point of the road is at 3200m, where a tunnel cuts under the mountain range. This road is practically the only link to Chile from northern Argentina in winter, as the other passes are much higher and face extreme weather conditions. Overnight stay on the way north to La Serena.
Day 11. Saturday, July 6th – La Silla (ESO)
Late in the morning we drive from La Serena a bit more north, to La Silla, located on a 2400m-high mountain top. Here we have a guided visit to one of the world’s leading professional astronomical observatories, which belongs to the European Southern Observatory (headquarters in Garching, Germany). Later in the evening we drive back over La Serena and stay overnight in Elquí valley, near Vicuña.
Day 12. Sunday, July 7th – Valle Elquí and the observatories
A full day in the picturesque valley east of La Serena, which enjoys mild Mediterranean climate in winter. It was a hotspot for the eclipse just several days ago. Daytime activities include hiking, horse riding, thermal spa. On both previous and following night we can visit one (or more) of the public observatories nearby, such as Mamalluca Observatory.
Day 13. Monday, July 8th – Valparaíso, Pacific Ocean
Driving back south along the coast on Panamericana highway to Valparaíso. The city, nicknamed “Little San Francisco” is the busiest Chilean port and a significant cultural centre on the Pacific.
Day 14. Tuesday, July 9th – Santiago de Chile
As our tour comes to an end, we visit the capital city of Chile. You can catch an international flight home from here, or drive with us back to Argentina on the following day.
Monday, July 10th – return to Mendoza (optional)
This tour is sold out. We’d be happy if you join us in Argentina in December 2020, for the next total eclipse.
Price, per person (also possible to pay in US dollars):
Argentina only (9 nights): € 890 (approx. $1015)
with Chile extension (14 nights): € 1440 (approx. $1640)
- Lodging: medium-level, bed&breakfast, shared cottage with twin/double rooms (please inquire for single supplement);
- Transportation by private vehicle;
- Entrance to the national parks and astronomical observatories;
- Opportunities to watch the Southern hemisphere sky (subject to weather). Throughout the journey we’ll stay at locations with some of the darkest and unpolluted skies in South America.
- Free extras:
- Solar filter for viewing the eclipse. While not needed for the totality (2min30s), it is necessary to safely view the partial phases (2 hours).
- Astronomer’s advice on the eclipse planning and night sky observations;
- Spanish-speaking interpreter travelling with a group;
Tour doesn’t include:
- Air fares, both international and domestic;
- Any visa and immigration fees involved; (note that both countries are visa-free for most of European and North/South American nationalities)
- Personal medical insurance;
- Lunch and dinner – though available at extra cost at most accommodations.
- Alcoholic beverages and entertainment outside of the tour programme.
Full payment is required (after March 1st) to secure your reservation. Not refundable, except for in force majeure circumstances (e.g. illness that prevents travel, denied visa, strikes, civil unrest) a partial refund is possible.
Please contact us via the form below with any questions regarding the trip: