Atuel Canyon offers amazing nature for those visiting San Rafael in the Province of Mendoza (Argentina); It’s an opportunity to experience local attractions other than tasting famous wines or climbing Aconcagua.....
.... but that is not all – adventurers can also chose biking tours, hiking and adrenaline-loaded zip-line escapades (called “El paseo en tirolesa” in Spanish).
Frankly it will be difficult to find better place for ‘tirolesas’ than the Atuel Canyon.
No wonder that zip-line platforms “mushroomed” in the canyon.
You can find 14 platforms, some offering a “high speed ride” over the distance of up to 240 meters (800ft) at an altitude of 100m (330ft)….
You literally fly suspended in the air well above the bottom of the canyon attached by a harness to the steel cable….
Well, those looking for more adrenaline in their veins certainly will find it here! Please note however that these adventures can also help to "empty your stomachs" !.
“El paseo en tirolesa" (zip-line)
Breathtaking scenery of the Valle Grande (San Rafael)
Talking about adventures – I have to mention the “Dunas del Nihuil” (Nihuil’s Dunes). For this one we have to go back to the village Nihuil at the entrance to the Atuel Canyon (place where we started our tour down the canyon).
The vast area or the land up the Atuel River forms a 30,000 hectares dessert covered by volcanic ashes accumulated over millions of years.
This land of dunes reaching up to 200 m (660 ft) of altitude and dotted with rocky peaks belonging to the Sierra Pintada (Painted Mountains Range) is a paradise for 4x4 rides. You can rent the 4x4 vehicle in the Nihuel Village, but it is recommended to take also a local guide. Keep in mind that once there – all you see are dunes and no man’s land well “beyond” the horizon…..
The guide will also help to avoid areas of endangered ecosystem – part of our beautiful Mother Nature that first of all we have to protect to be able to cherish later!
BTW- the “Dunas del Nihuil” are part of the famous Dakar Rally path. For those not familiar with the subject – the Dakar Rally for the security reasons was recently moved from the Africa to the South America.
While in its current itinerary the rally has nothing to do with Dakar (just keeps the name as part of its long history), the South-American landscape of the Atacama dessert, high Andes, steppes and San Rafael’s Sierra Pintada offers no less excitement and difficulties than the African Sahara).
Coming back to the Atuel Canyon - while these activities are available throughout the year, water sports may be affected by the seasonal fluctuations of the water level - usually the highest during the local winter (May-October) and lowest during the local summer time.
From my perspective, the Atuel Canyon is also one of the best places for photographers, what I tried to prove throughout these pages. You are welcomed to have your own opinions and perceptions from the virtual trip to the Atuel Canyon.
I’m sure that you will find here pictures that captured the beauty of the Atuel Canyon and inspired you to take this tour at the first opportunity.
Nihuil III dam separates the Valle Grande Lake from the downstream Atuel River re-emerging in its full strength and beauty.
The Legend of the Atuel River.
Usually places of stunning beauty are inspiring people to add some sort of “mysticism” to the work of nature. No wonder, the Atuel River has its own legend: Once upon the time the area was inhabited by the peace-loving Talu tribe.
But then in a twist of events a long-lasting drought hit their land pushing the tribe to the edge of "extinction”.
Searching for help the tribe’s elders decided to send the wife of Talu’s chief – Clara with her young son Atuel to the high mountains to beg gods for merci. After weeks of prayers without any action from gods Clara decided to make the highest sacrifice – offering her own and her son’s lives. Dying, each dropped tears from which a river was born bringing back life to the villages.
Not finding any trace of Clara and Atuel, Talu elders realized what happened and gave the name Atuel to the miraculous – life bearing waters…..
Gallery of Pictures
Turbulent water emerges after passing the labyrinth of tunnels and the final stage - the dam.
The place when the fun starts
Zip-lines are almost everywhere .....
....and with the water the life comes back....
.... with a full spectrum of vivid colours.....
.... as t can be seen - life pops-out everywhere .....
....and that striking and lively nature brings tourists ....
Green roof over an open-air restaurant offers more than just shade.....
After this long day trip along the Atuel River we are finally leaving the canyon...
Those more open to adventure may try to board the Stone Train - courtesy of the Mother Nature. But no rush, it is really loooooong! There is a place for everybody :-)
Long Stone Train - It's an amazing work of our Mother Nature
Leaving the Atuel Canyon is not ending your adventure. You will arrive to the city San Rafael where you can visit the historical place called Villa 25 de Mayo – a birthplace of the city of San Rafeal.
It was here when in 1805 a Fort of San Rafael del Diamante was build to defend Spanish settlements from attacks of Pehuenches - indigenous people established on these territories in pre-Columbian times.
Today the fort (National Historical Monument) is in ruins, however the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel dated from that time is kept in a good original shape.
Well, that will be the end of the Atuel Canyon tour. I'm sure that now "armed" with the information shared on these pages as well as charmed by the beauty of the nature exposed on the pictures you are storming the plane for Mendoza. Wish you all the best..... May be one advise - take the wineries tour at the end of your stay in Mendoza. Because all other tours need your full attention :-).
To go upstream the Atuel River please select the link: Valle Grande San Rafael previous (page 2)
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