Piedra Parada, Chubut: A Natural Wonder in the Patagonian Steppe

Piedra Parada in Chubut is exactly what it sounds like, a giant stone monolith towering in the middle of the Patagonian steppe.

The standing stone and its surrounding geographical formations were all formed from a volcanic eruption 50 million years ago.

Today you can easily visit the Piedra Parada and its neighboring canyon, the Cañadón de la Buitrera, walking through otherworldly landscapes that formed millions of years ago.

This post is a complete guide to you to Piedra Parada.

Read on for details on how to book a day trip from Esquel or to spend a few days exploring all the great things to do in and around Piedra Parada.

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How to visit Piedra Parada, Chubut

The Area Natural Protegida (ANP) Piedra Parada is 2 hours northeast of Esquel.

Read all about the best things to do in Esquel, Argentina.

You can visit Piedra Parada from Esquel as a day trip on your own or with an excursion with a local tour operator.

Alternatively, if you have the time and the vehicle, you can go for a few days, basing yourself in the small community of Gualjaina.

Piedra Parada – Esquel Day Trip

The most common way to visit Piedra Parada is as a day trip from Esquel.

You can also do this day trip from Trevelin, just 20 minute south of Esquel.

El Bolson also advertises Piedra Parada as a day trip but at 3.5 hours each way, I wouldn’t recommend it.

If coming from El Bolson, I’d stay at least one night in Gualjaina to rest, ideally two.

How to reserve your Piedra Parada day trip?

A lot of things in Argentina are fairly informal.

Piedra Parada isn’t as widely known and in demand so these excursions won’t show up on platforms like Viator or GetYourGuide.

You’ll need to look online directly with local providers.

Chubut Explorers, for example, was a company I saw pop up at a lot of sites we visited.

If you’re already in Esquel or Trevelin, I recommend going to their Tourist Information offices to arrange your excursion.

If you’re planning in advance and are not there yet, I recommend messaging them on their respective Instagram accounts – Esquel and Trevelin – which are both very active.

Área Natural Protegida Piedra Parada

This area isn’t yet one of Argentina’s national park but it is an official Área Natural Protegida.

Treat it with the respect it deserves and leave no trace.

The area itself is just under one hour from the community of Gualjaina.

Once there, you’ll see two different geographic formations: the Piedra Parada and also the Cañadón de la Buitrera (Vulture Canyon).

Piedra Parada towers over the shore of the Rio Chubut.

There is a one kilometer path that runs the circumference of the monolith that you’re free to walk on your own.

With very little refuge from the sun here, the river’s shore – under the shade of poplars and willows – is a common picnic spot for guided tours and campers alike.

Our Piedra Parada picnic spot under the shade of the trees and bridge

After lunch, the canyon is just across the bridge.

The road actually dead ends into the parking lot for the Cañadón de la Buitrera so literally you cannot miss it.

A park ranger is based here and will likely be here to greet you and brief you on the walk.

We got there at 4:30 and he told us we needed to be done with the hike by 6 or 6:30 at the latest.

So try to get there early enough to be able to fully enjoy the walk at your leisure.

While the Piedra Parada has the shock factor due to its size, for me the beauty of the Cañadón de la Buitrera was the true highlight.

The path through the canyon is just a few kilometers long and very flat and easy but the views around each corner were breathtaking.

Original populations, the Tehuelches and Mapuches first lived in this canyon over 5,000 years ago and in some areas you can see cave paintings.

If going with a guide you’ll reap the benefits of learning a bit more about the geology and the history of the region.

Keep your eyes open for wildlife, like condors or the more adorable chinchillón.

The latter is like a large chinchilla and I’ve always wanted to spot one when on these desert canyon hikes but our loud toddlers make wildlife viewing beyond the odd lizard or beetle impossible.

Things to do in Gualjaina (Beyond Piedra Parada)

If staying in the area, what else is there to do in Gualjaina?

Staying for a few days is for those that truly like to get off the beaten path.

Piedra Parada only receives an estimated 3,500 visitors each year as it is, and most of them visit just for the day.

There is admittedly little to do here but that is sometimes part of the charm.

Book a relaxing lunch at the vineyard, go for a leisurely hike, and definitely stargaze after dark.

How long should you spend in Gualjaina?

Two days is plenty: one day to explore Piedra Parada and a second for wineries and the La Ventana circuit.

You’d only need more days if you’re planning on a lot of rock climbing or other outdoor sports like fishing or mountain biking.

And most overnight visitors actually are rock climbers, which leads me to…

Rock Climbing in Gualjaina

If you’re a climber, Piedra Parada is a major destination for you in Argentina.

There are areas of the piedra itself that are ideal for climbing, along with areas in the canyon.

Ask tourist information in Gualjaina for dates that climbing is allowed and where you can safely climb.

Look for this little sign that marks the trail up to Cerro La Ventana outside Gualjaina

La Ventana Circuit

Just a few kilometers from downtown there is a short circuit you can drive to admire the stunning desert scenery.

To get here, you’ll head back out of town the way you came when you arrived from Esquel.

Instead of take a right to return to Esquel, take a left.

From here you’ll see signs marking the way or use a map that you’ll have picked up at Gualjaina’s tourist information.

The main landmark you’re out here to see is the Cerro La Ventana, a hill with a natural window formation.

Drive slow or you’ll miss it, there’s a tiny sign for it where you can park next to the dirt road.

Small arrows point upwards to mark the trail. All of this is across from a small farmhouse so keep an eye out for that to avoid missing it.

The hike up to the top is fairly short and shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes.

My husband scurried up while I stayed in the car with our napping kids.

The view is spectacular because you see the valley on both sides: the more lush green valley due to the rivers (where your car is currently parked) and on the other side the arid desert and road that leads to Piedra Parada.

Apparently there is also a small plaque commemorating the Welsh settler John Daniel Evans and his horse Malacara, whose skill and speed saved his rider (the lone survivor) in an ambush.

We missed the plaque just like we nearly missed the trail to La Ventana.

Fun fact, Malacara has a bit of cult fame and you can visit the horse’s grave in Trevelin.

From here you can just keep driving back to town or visit…

Cielos de Gualjaina Winery

Mendoza gets all the fame but Argentina is filled with wineries from north to south and tiny Gualjaina is no exception.

Cielos de Gualjaina is a small family run winery producing excellent white varietals.

We met the owner on a guided visit and tasting and were really impressed by the family’s passion for the project as they test out different varietals to see what can thrive in these extreme conditions.

Definitely reserve your visit in advance.

They are currently growing for tourism, with plans for picnic lunches and the like in addition to the current tours and tastings.

Where to stay in Gualjaina

Let’s be honest, pickings are slim.

This isn’t a destination you want to go to without your accommodation reserved.

There aren’t many beds in town and it was booked full during our weekend there. I booked a couple of weeks in advance and we almost couldn’t find a room.

  • Hosteria Huancache – The best place to stay in Gualjaina, there are hotel rooms and a couple small cabins to choose from. The garden is beautiful and seems like an oasis in the otherwise desert landscape. The property is also home to a vineyard.
  • El Viejo Ñandu – A small complex of townhouse-style apartments. In the common areas there is a parrilla and area to relax outside.
  • Bhodi Apartments – We were able to get a small house/apartment at Bhodi, it was basic but did the job, with two bedrooms it was great for a family. The only downside is you aren’t allowed to cook in the kitchen but there’s a small stove you can use for tea or coffee.
  • Piedra Parada Climbing Hostel – For backpackers, solo travelers, and obviously, the climbers.

Our Two Days in Piedra Parada, Chubut

We based ourselves in Gualjaina for two nights and I am so glad that we did.

To stay here, you’ll need your own car, check rental car availability and rates from Esquel.

The drive was fairly easy but we got a late start and going after dark wasn’t ideal. Try to make the drive during the day.

Ruta 40 is paved and as we turned east on to Ruta 12 it remained that way for a while before it eventually turned into a classic ripio dirt road.

This stretch of road wasn’t in the best condition.

Some areas were mostly loose gravel and it had the bumpiness of a washboard. We needed to slow our speed significantly.

The view of Piedra Parada from Vulture Canyon

We arrived into Gualjaina late at night. Waking up early we had a full day to take advantage of without the wasted 4 hours of driving that comes with a day trip.

In the morning we drove the short circuit to see Cerro La Ventana before driving out to Piedra Parada in time for a late picnic lunch by the river at its base.

After our late picnic we arrived at the Cañadón de la Buitrera and started the walk at around 4:30.

The park ranger said we needed to be out by 6 so that left us about an hour and a half to explore before driving back to Gualjaina.

We visited Piedra Parada as part of a larger road trip from the mountains to the coast.

So on our second day we squeezed in a visit to the local winery before driving through the Piedra Parada protected area a second time.

But this time we continued onwards to Paso del Sapo and Los Altares before eventually arriving at the coast.

Argentina Travel Resources

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE | It is always a good idea to travel insured. It protects you in so many cases, like lost luggage and trip cancellations, medical emergencies and evacuations. It’s very affordable with the potential to save you thousands in the case of an emergency. I recommend SafetyWing.
  • PHONE PLAN | These days, traveling with data is essential. Especially in Argentina where everything is managed on Instagram and WhatsApp. I recommend this E-SIM card. It’s hassle-free and affordable, for more read how to get an Argentina sim card.
  • ACCOMMODATION IN ARGENTINA booking.com is the most common hotel site used in Argentina and it’s where you’ll find the most options.
  • RENTAL CARS | I love to travel Argentina via road trip, I’ve always used rentalcars.com, now they are operating under the umbrella of Booking.com’s car rental system.
  • BUS TICKETS | Check Busbud for long distance bus routes and tickets.
  • VPN | If you’ll be using a public WiFi connection and want to secure your data, I highly recommend using a VPN, I personally use and have had a good experience with ExpressVPN. I also use it to access Hulu and American Netflix from Argentina.
  • FLIGHTS | Always check Google Flights and Skyscanner for flights to and within Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina is the local airline with the most routes. FlyBondi and Jetsmart are two budget airlines with dirt-cheap prices (but expect to pay for every add-on like luggage).
  • BOOK A CONSULTATION | I offer one-on-one travel consultations to help you plan your trip to Argentina. Pick my brain to get a local’s insight. Click here for more information.

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