Talampaya is a national park located in La Rioja Province, Argentina, approximately 60 km from Villa Unión (where we stayed after visiting the park) and 100 km from Villa San Agustín (where we stayed in the night before). The park was designated a provincial reserve in 1975 and it was only considered a national park in 1997. Due to its important archaeological and palaentological sites found in the area and it was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
The landscapes are just amazing! Like Valle de la Luna (read more about it here), Talampaya is the result of erosion by water and wind in a desert climate characterized also for its large ranges in temperature, torrential rain in summer and strong wind in spring. The Talampaya canyon and its rock formations with walls up to 143m are absolutely gorgeous. It was also found several dinosaur fossils at the dry bed of the Talampaya river. During our visit to the park we saw foxes, maras and condors.
The park entrance fee (120$ARG/person) allow you to visit the two canyons: Talampaya Canyon and Arco Iris Canyon. Both visits need to be done with the park official guide (390$ARG/person for Talampaya Canyon and 290$ARG/person for Arco Iris Canyon). We decided to visit the Arco Iris Canyon because the Talampaya Canyon could be seen from route 76 and we found more interesting to see the colorful rainbow canyon.
We visited Arco Iris Canyon on the afternoon (which was the best timing to appreciate better the colors). It was just us and other two people (Argentinians) which was great to learn more about the canyon and its rocks formations. The visit starts 10/12 km after the southern park entrance and the first 45m are inside a van through a pebble road and most of the time on the dry Talampaya river. We stopped a couple of times before arriving to a place where it was supposed to the a small walk through the river springs right in the middle of the canyon. With approximately 60m height, it is not as big as the Talampaya Canyon, but it surprised us for its magnificent colors and forms. It seems we are inside a rainbow made of rocks. The guide showed us several kinds of rocks and explained us when they were formed (millions of years ago). He also commented some rock formations that resembled people and other animals.
The visit itself had a total duration of approximately 3h30 and after doing it we drove for another 30 minutes through route 76 (inside the park) stopping a couple of times to take pictures of the Talampaya Canyon and the panoramic views. We totally recommend visiting this national park and the Arco Iris Canyon in particular.
Next stop: Laguna Brava (Argentina)!