El Leoncito National Park, the stars in your hands

San Juan’s nights at 7,380 f.a.s.l.: a unique site in the world for stars observation.

El Leoncito National Park is located in the Southwest of the province of San Juan, over the occidental side of Del Tontal Hills, at the department of Calingasta, at 7,380 f.a.s.l., at 136 miles from San Juan City and at 21 miles from Barreal. It has two astronomic stations which are open to the public: the El Leoncito Astronomic Complex (CASLEO) and the Carlos Ulrico Cesco Astronomic Observatory (CESCO). The first one –CASLEO- is accessible through a road with poplars and willows at its sides. It features a 40 tons telescope that works with two mirrors, one of them with a diameter of about 6 ft. At the interior of the Double Astrographic Telescope’s dome, the visitor shall see an interesting collection of photographs of Comet Halley, taken in 1986. The next stop is the Automatic Meridian Circle’s shelter –the unique instrument of its kind in the country (Meridian Circles are very special telescopes that have the particular feature of moving in north-south direction, that is, alongside any place’s meridian). Daytime visits are complemented by a tour around diverse interpretative paths where visitors shall be informed by means of excellent signs and boards while they continue a quiet trekking among herds of guanacos, cascades and an imposing view of the Andean Range.

The visit to El Leoncito also permits to know areas of archaeological interest and historical important sites, like the house of the old estancia El Leoncito, used as military post by the Andean Army in its campaign to free Argentina, Chile and Peru. Besides, there is a path that takes to the Friendship Cascade (=Cascada de la Amistad) and it is also possible to visit the “Water Landscape” road. In all cases, it is recommended to inform the Park Ranger..

La visita a El Leoncito permite conocer, además, áreas de interés arqueológico y sitios de importancia histórica, como el casco de la antigua estancia El Leoncito, utilizado como puesto de avanzada militar por el Ejército de los Andes en su campaña para liberar a la Argentina, Chile y Perú. También puede recorrerse un sendero que llega hasta la Cascada de la Amistad y visitar el camino Paisaje de Agua. En todos los casos, se recomienda avisar al guardaparque.