Search in La Ruta Natural

You can search the content of your interest in La Ruta Natural page here.


El Leoncito National Park

San Juan

The El Leoncito National Park is one of the main astrotourism destinations in the country, and a window to the whole universe, attracting Astronomy lovers and enthusiasts worldwide, as well as travellers who want to explore its amazing desert-like landscapes.

It can be visited all year round. For astronomical observations, avoid full moon nights. Free admission.

What to see

One of the objectives of El Leoncito National Park is to maintain the atmospheric conditions of the area, one of the clearest in the world. To observe the sky, there are two international-level observatories: the Carlos U. Cesco Observatory (CESCO) and the El Leoncito Astronomical Center (CASLEO). Both observatories are open to visitors, offering day and night guided tours that you can book in advance directly with them.

At the CASLEO, the tours last between 30 and 40 minutes. With an explanatory talk, you will get to know part of the facilities and the Jorge Sahade Telescope (the telescope with the biggest aperture in Argentina). Night guided tours may last over 1 hour, including astronomical observations outdoors. This observatory provides dinner and even accommodation for one night.

The CESCO also has day guided tours lasting between 30 and 40 minutes, and night guided tours including telescope observations.

For night tours, it is important to bring a warm coat (even in summer) as temperatures can be very low.

Walking through the desert

Apart from the astronomical observations, you will enjoy its desert-like high-elevation landscapes where you can spot vicunas, guanacos, foxes and other animals.


The park also has low and medium difficulty hiking trails, viewpoints with information about the main characteristics of this protected area.

Pampa del Leoncito

On National Route 149, in front of the park entrance, you will find Pampa del Leoncito, a huge 12-kilometre long and 5-kilometre wide plain (it used to be a lake that dried out thousands of years ago).

Thanks to its hard ground and the strong winds in the area, this place is used for land sailing.


Barreal is the most important town near El Leoncito National Park. This is the starting point of many adventure tours, such as ascending the mountain range, rafting, kayaking in the Los Patos River, and the famous Crossing of the Andes following the Sanmartinian Route through the Los Patos border crossing. Moreover, there are wineries offering guided tours and wine tasting.

Ansilta Mountain Range and Mercedario Mountain

A visit to this area can be combined with other attractions. Based on the town of Barreal, you can discover the Ansilta mountain range, a mythical place for lovers of mountaineering and high altitude hiking, with seven peaks over 5000 meters. You can also reach Cerro Mercedario, the fourth highest peak in Argentina and the second in importance in the region. More information in the must-see Ansilta Mountain Range and Cerro Mercedario.

How to get there and move around

The entrance to the park is located 20 km south of Barreal along Provincial Route 149 (paved). Once in the park, the Information Centre is located 12 km away from the entrance.


From San Juan Capital City, you can reach the park following National Route 40 and 149; from Mendoza Capital City, follow National Route 149 coming from Uspallata (100 km).


There are bus services running from San Juan Capital City to Barreal, and from Mendoza Capital City to Uspallata. In both capital cities, you can rent a car or hire a tour.

Where to stay

The park has a free campsite, picnic areas and grocery stores/dining rooms.


Barreal has several accommodation alternatives such as cottages, inns, lodges, hotels and camping sites, as well as restaurants and grocery stores.


Another option is to use Calingasta as a base (located 68 km away from Leoncito) where you will also find accommodation options.

More information