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Monday, 04 December 2006

Payunia: The Earth's Origins Offer a New Look at Mendoza - Page 2

Written by Christian Denes
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The province of Mendoza is rapidly becoming one of the hottest travel spots in Argentina. And with good reason: It produces 70 percent of the country’s wine and boasts labels rated among the best in the world. It is also home to the acclaimed dry powders of Las Leñas ski resort, the white waters of the Mendoza River, and the volcanic summit of Aconcagua: a climber’s dream with numerous glaciers and the highest peak outside of Asia.

payuniaAnother result of this collaborative effort is the strict monitoring of activity within the park and, as a result, all visits must be done with an official tour company. There is no need to worry about the volcanoes themselves – they have been harmless for years. But everyone in the area gives an emphatic warning to those who would disregard the park’s protective regulation: Payunia’s size and disorienting landscape make it very easy to get lost.


The area is so immense it has been dubbed the “Black Pampas” in reference to the wide green Pampas plains where Argentina’s world-famous cows graze. Yet without signs or roads, the guides manage to distinguish between the few tracks the park ranger and tour company jeeps leave behind in the volcanic gravel.




payuniaThe best option for visiting Payunia is traveling to the small town of Malargüe. Roughly a six-hour drive from the city of Mendoza, it is the closest starting point for tours. While the tour to Payunia makes for a long day at 12 hours, the incremental escape from civilization is well worth it. Overnight trips are available as well. Either way, the guides come prepared in the morning with plenty of croissants, coffee and mate (Argentine tea), hefty sandwiches and quiches for lunch, and conversation to last throughout.

payuniaAs tourism has really begun to take off in Argentina over the past 5 years, Payunia and the Malargüe area are only just beginning to gain attention from outsiders. Payunia has recently been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Malargüe is slowly being recognized as the perfect base for skiing Las Leñas (for those adverse to the luxury hotels of the ski resort itself), caving in the Caverna de las Brujas, and visiting the Payén and Laguna Llancancelo fauna reserves.


In addition to tourism, the Pierre Auger Observatory (worth $50 million) was recently built outside Malargüe: to study the highest energy particles in the universe as they reach Earth in the form of cosmic rays. Interest has also been expressed in creating an official volcano research park in Payunia.


The excitement in the area is tangible. Never before has such a diverse variety of outsiders been present: from scientists to skiers to backpackers. Today, the area is seeing a future based not in exploiting the region’s resources, but in sharing a view of its natural wonders.payunia







©Christian Denes

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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