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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe province of San Luis is located in the Cuyo region, close to the Chorrillos River, north of Argentina (and, in fact, near the center of the country) in a spot called “Punta de los Venados”, which is the reason why people who live there are called ‘puntanos’. Originally, it was populated by various tribes such as the Michilingües, Calchaquíes, Ranqueles, Puelches, and Pehuenches. The city was built in 1564 and promptly emptied, becoming a ghost town of sorts until 1596, when it regained inhabitants and became prosperous once and for all.
San Luis has a strong political tradition of being ‘ruled’ by the descendants of the same family (the Saá) since around the mid-19th century. Sierras Grandes is extremely close to the settlement, and its climate varies in certain zones because it possesses microclimates that are quite Mediterranean, less dry and with more fertile lands. Besides these, meadows and plains abound. On the other hand, it remains a desert area, with high temperatures during the day and low ones during the night.
Activities to be Enjoyed in San LuisThe capital city itself is not very big, but there are plenty of places to visit and explore. There are remarkable museums in the capital that hold both historical items as well as ancient aboriginal findings of the region, along with interesting legends that have survived the years past. There is the Dora Ochoa de Masramón Provincial Museum, the History Museum, and the Natural Sciences Private Museum. The colonial architecture of such places, mixed with a more modern and progressive style of building, is something to behold. It is interesting to keep in mind that gambling is legal in San Luis, and therefore there is a large number of casinos around the city that offer 24-hour entertainment for those interested in gambling and cards.
Though it is still a rather small town, San Luis has many things to offer, especially when it comes to relaxing and sightseeing. The smaller towns around the capital of the province paradoxically have a richer roster of activities to offer than the city itself. That of course does not mean, in any way, that the capital is not worth a visit—quite the contrary. Its people are warm-hearted, though realistic in terms of knowing how small their city is when compared to its neighbors; nonetheless, San Luis is a place to take it easy, learn, and discover stories and bits and pieces of the past. Or, alternatively, spend most of your time in the mountains and go wild with extreme sports and then chill in thermal waters after a long day.
The San Luis CathedralFor those interested in Argentine history, it is a must to visit the Cathedral, mainly because of its neoclassical, imposing design. Here and there, there are landmarks in remembrance of the Argentine War of Independence . San Luis, along with Mendoza and San Juan, played a critical role in this war and was the starting point of the Ejército de Los Andes.
The Pringles SquareThe Pringles Square, considered one of the prettiest around, honors an historical figure: Juan Pascal Pringles, who fought alongside José de San Martín. There is a former 1884 railway station that now serves as a cultural center, as well as the main city hall.
Centenary ParkAnother very good idea to spend a day surrounded by fresh air and trees is to walk across the Park of the Nations, or Centenary Park, located south of the main city. Its biggest attraction is the open-sky amphitheater and the “Faro de la Sabiduría” (Wisdom Lighthouse) sector. This is a 124 ft tall observation deck, with a functional digital and multimedia library. You don’t have to pay any fees to enter and it’s open for people of all ages. A playground, as well as parrillas, especially designed paths, roundabouts, parking lots in and outside the park, and bike lanes are also attractions of the park.
Golf courses can also be found if you wish to take things at a slower pace. To enjoy nighttime activities, Illia Avenue is the place to go to, full to the brim with a wide assortment of pubs, wine bars (El Ángel); pastry shops, cafés; restaurants (Piuquén, Las Terrazas, Las Pircas), tea rooms; and casinos that make for an easy-going, pleasant and amusing night out.
Villa de Merlo, a Pintoresque Village Close to the CityVilla de Merlo, near the main city, is famous for its sedative microclimate. There, apart from trekking and hiking, you can enjoy rappelling and paragliding. Craftsmanship fairs, restaurants, various places to sleep in, and traditional shows can also be savored.
More secluded spots like Rincón del Este are particularly inviting if you wish to enjoy crystal clear streams (such as Piedra Blanca, to name a celebrated one) and waterfalls, along with a peaceful environment all around. In the summer, there are a handful of natural resorts strategically placed among valleys, hills, and regional vegetation that add to the calming atmosphere. Carpintería and Cortaderas are also excellent choices to kick back and relish on the quiet and amity of the area, if your plan is for a more laid-back vacation.
In San Luis there is another renowned national park, called Sierra de las Quijadas, around 75 miles away from the city, created in 1991 mostly to preserve archaeological finds and biodomes. It has several viewpoints if your stay there is short, or you can visit the valley if you have a bit more time to spare. It’s advisable to carry plenty of water, particularly during the summer. If you’re interested in water sports, or adventurous excursions, you can go to the Potrero de Los Funes lake, as well as several other, slightly less popular locations like the nearby dams, La Florida, La Huertita, and Luján. You will have to drive (or take a bus) to all of these places, but it is certainly worth it, for they are a beloved touristic spot. Potrero de los Funes offers accommodation such as hotels, guest houses and inns, and is bursting with outdoor activities. Apart from fishing, you’ll find horseback riding, hiking and climbing excursions in which you can even admire a natural waterfall.
Balde’s Thermal WatersIf you’re searching for a truly relaxing, healing experience, then Balde’s thermal waters (or, as they are also known, the waters of San Jerónimo) are an ideal choice. Located 19 miles away from the capital city, this gorgeous place is quite accessible. The Mapuche s, natives of the land, believed in the miraculous healing effect of the water and the steam that rose from the Earth. Once you get to that destination, the village of Los Tamarindos will be waiting with an amazing hot spring resort where you can stay overnight or simply enjoy a bath. Apart from its rooms, this private resort has its very own restaurant, gym, a coffee shop, and both indoor and outdoor thermal pools. There are several spa treatments offered, too, that go from face cleansing to anti-cellulite and mud therapy. It is no mystery that hot springs calm the mind and body (and wash away daily stress), as well as being good for the skin and certain physical pains; this hot spring is well-known across the Cuyo region.
In both locations, traditional restaurants can be found everywhere, offering from gourmet meals to Argentinean pastries and the ever present mate. San Luis is also renowned for being a very traditional —rather conservative in some aspects— province, and festivals (sometimes nationally known) involving colonial food, dance and imagery are really frequent. Strewn across the yearly calendar, they are usually, if not always, free and welcoming.
Lodging in San LuisAs for lodging, there are no five-star hotels in San Luis, but there are four-star hotels like Vista Suites and Spa, Premium Tower, and the family-friendly Amerian San Luis Hotel, as well as several other hotels for all budgets. There is one hostel, La Candela, and several cabins.
Accommodation can also be found in estancias. Naturally, you can also rent apartments, and there are apart-hotels, bungalows, and camping sites. As per usual, wherever you might want to go, it is best to book ahead just in case, especially if you’re going to the hot springs or to Potrero de los Funes. Both are great touristic attractions all year long; for the climate does not change much no matter what season you choose to visit in. In San Luis, transportation is done by walking, cycling, taking a bus or taxi, or driving. Purchasing a map is one of the first things you should do to get to know your way around this province, and make sure you have plenty of coins at hand (or at least, petty cash instead of larger bills) to pay for the bus rides.
Safety Concerns in San LuisThe province of San Luis is quite prosperous, economically speaking; therefore it’s considered an extremely safe city. This does not mean that usual precautions shouldn’t be taken, because crime happens everywhere, no matter how safe a place or zone may be, but San Luis in particular is a place where you can safely walk around at night. There are security cameras on every corner and policemen prowl around fairly often. While parks should obviously be avoided at night (or at least the dark zones in them, away from the designated paths), as should some random streets here and there, it is, by and large, a largely safe place to vacation in.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, curative experiences, or to sit back and simply relax, San Luis offers all of these and more, and it’s all up to you.
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Author: eymili. Last updated: Jun 17, 2015