How to Visit Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks In A Day

This post walks you through how to visit both Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks in the same day. You may find some blogs or travel agencies that say it is impossible to visit both in 1 day. However, it is completely doable if you are willing to plan and have a long day out. This is how I did it in June 2022 when I visited Argentina. So you can copy my successes and learn from my mistakes.

The dramatic landscape of Talampaya National Park

I started and ended my day in La Rioja as this was the easiest place to base myself from using public transport and to rent a car from. If you have your own car, Villa Union is a great option to stay near the parks.

Why Visit Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks

Each of the parks has their own interesting features and they balance each other out brilliantly. They were both given UNESCO world heritage status in 2000. Talampaya is famed for it’s dramatic gorge as well as cave paintings from over 2000 years ago. As well as this, you can find a wide variety of wildlife and dramatic rock formations.

Me in the Valley in Talampaya

Ischigualasto is the home of the dinosaur and incredible natural rock formations. It includes some of the older dinosaur remains in the world. It is hard to choose between visiting each of these parks – so why not visit both?!

Driving in Ischigualasto National Park

How to Travel Between Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks

I rented a car in La Rioja from a local car agency. The price was 9500pesos per day. Although, with the inflation that Argentina is experience expect this to change. The company required an international driving licence and a credit card for the rental. The car rental place we chose had trackers which showed both where we went as well as our speed. If we had been speeding, we would’ve been charged extra. I had never experienced that with a rental car before.

For all prices quoted here, due to hyperinflation in Argentina expect them to be higher.

Moon Valley in Ischigualasto National Park

Where to stay in La Rioja

I stayed in La Rioja and visited the parks from there. I found this the easiest way to do it on my trip in Argentina. Here are the best places to stay in La Rioja:

The ‘mushroom’ rock in Ischigualasto National Park

How to visit Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks: The full Itinerary

At the tourist office in La Rioja, there are companies that offer day trips to each park but none offer both parks in 1 day.

The day before, we called up Talampaya national park to reserve the 9am tour. As I was out of peak season (June), it wasn’t that necessary and in the end we missed our slot, you are about to find out why….

The Tour and Totem in Talampaya National Park

The day started early, we left La Rioja at 6.30am. The drive was about 2 hours to the entrance of the park (no speeding, the company was tracking us!). This is when it got a bit complicated. From the entrance to the park, there was almost no sign posts showing where the meeting point to the excursion is. As well as this, there is no phone signal in the park.

Driving to Talampaya National Park

We drove for about 30 minutes and was convinced we were lost. We then found a guard post who said we needed to continue on for at least 20 more minutes. So a journey we thought was just 2 hours was actually 3….Unsurprisingly, we miss our 9 am reservation. Once you enter the park, have the confidence to keep driving to find the excursion meeting point.

Made a Llama friend on the drive!

As we were in the low season, we were able to book ourselves onto the next tour with no issues. We went to the local café and got ourselves a coffee. In all honesty, we were pretty frustrated that we had go up so early for nothing and mildly worried if we were now too tight to make both Parks.

Talampaya National Park

Talampaya national park must be entered as part of a tour, you are not allowed to drive in yourself. There are varying types of tour and that are of different length. Personally, I chose the 2.5 hour tour.

Entry plus price of tour. Must buy a tour not possible without tour of the canyon (2.5hrs) r: 3580. Entry: 2700 park

Landscapes in Talampaya National Park

The 2.5 hour tour includes the price of the bus used to visit the park. Some of the buses are open top and some closed. Our bus was closed, and I was glad of this because it was pretty cold. The first stop on the tour was to see some drawings that date back to over 2500 years ago. It is pretty mind boggling to imagine people 2500 years ago drawing something we can still see today.

A perfect spot for a morning coffee

Then from here, its is a quick drive into the canyon. This is the true wow factor of Talampaya national park. The walls of the canyon are 150m high and almost vertical, it is truly impressive. There are certain spots in which you can shout and here an echo multiple times. Just after this, we stopped off for (another!) morning coffee with some snacks of nuts and raisins, they were yummy.

From here, we continued on through the canyon to the ‘Guadi rocks’. These are natural rock formations that look like difference things. There were rocks that looked like a condor, a turtle, a camel and even the sagrada familia in Barcelona!

It’s hard to convey how high the walls are – this gives you an idea

After this, we then drove to the viewpoint of the towers and the totem. By towers, they really mean it. There are rock formations that look like they have been manmade. (I am not a geologist and how they are formed confused my brain – if anyone wants to explain this to me please let me know!). There is also a viewpoint here overlooking a large area of the park, it was really beautiful.

I think I nailed it!

This was the end of the tour and we drove back to the centre from here. On the way we saw condors, rabbits and lots of other birds! We didn’t stay long at the centre because wanted to get the next tour at Ischigualasto! The parks are about 45minute drive from each other. As we were a small group, our tour of Talampaya finished slightly early so we were able to make the 2pm tour of at Ischigualasto.

Ischigualasto National Park

As with Talampaya, you must visit Ischigualasto as part of a guided tour. Although the tours of Ischigualasto is part of a convoy of cars rather than in a guided bus. So you must have your own car. The tour departs every hour on the hour between 8am and 5pm. The tour guide car is at the front and then all of the cars follow behind them. For entry, I paid 1200pesos.

Driving through the Ischigualasto National Park

The tour in total can take 3 hours and depending on the group can last as long as 4 hours. There are 5 stop offs where everyone leaves their cars and the guide explains the interest of each point. The tour was given in Spanish but our guide offered to translate to English for our group. The circuit is approximately 40kms so you see a wide variety of scenery.

Boulders in Ischigualasto National Park

The first stop on the tour was a view over moon valley. It is a bit of a theme in Ischigualasto park that you feel like you could be on a different planet. The rock formations are truly beautiful. We even saw some llama’s running around within the valley which was fun.

View from the William Sill Centre in Ischigualasto

From here, we continued our tour to see a rock formation that looks like a sphynx which is also a short walk away from field of boulders. The boulders look like they could’ve fallen from space but they are actually naturally forming.

The Sphynx in Ischigualasto

The next stop on our tour was to see even more dramatic rock formations, including one that looked like a submarine! After this, we went to the William Sill visitors centre. This centre is a building around a dinosaur fossil that is approximately 225million years old! It is one of the oldest dinosaur remains on the planet. It is a bit mind bending to think about how long ago they were roaming around.

Submarine rock

After time to explore the centre and have a snack at the café, we went onto the final stop of the tour which was the ‘mushroom’. It is the structure that the park is known for and actually looks like a giant mushroom. This is where we said goodbye to our guide and made the journey back to La Rioja. It was a long and tiring day but a great one.

The ‘mushroom’ or ‘El Hongo’

Now you know how to visit Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks!

I hope you enjoyed this guide of how to visit Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks. Please do let me know if you found this useful and if you enjoyed your trip in the comments.

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