As you move into the Western Pampas, and towards the border with La Pampa Province, the scenery starts to change, and you cross an unbroken stretch of pampas with little except farmland, homesteads and the odd market town for several hundred kilometres. The unremitting flat landscape is given welcome relief by the modest mountain range of Sierra de la Ventana, which offer good trekking near two pretty villages – Sierra de la Ventana and Villa Ventana – and their many well-equipped cabañas (perfect to use as a base for exploring the area), while the drier, more desert-like features of the pampa seca (dry pampa) herald the start of the long route south through Patagonia.Read More
Sierra de la Ventana and around
Sierra de la Ventana and around
The rugged Sierra de la Ventana mountain range, 550km southwest of Buenos Aires, is the principal attraction of southern Buenos Aires Province. Running from northeast to southwest for 100km or so, the sierras’ craggy spine forms an unlikely backdrop to the serene pampas and provides the best opportunities in the province for walking and climbing. The range is named after one of its highest points, the Cerro de la Ventana, a 1136m peak pierced by a small “window”, or ventana; it’s located within the Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist, bisected by the RP-76, the main highway through the sierras. There are plenty of options for accommodation in the area: as well as a base camp within the park, there are two villages within striking distance of the range, with Sierra de la Ventana being the best set-up for visitors, around 30km southeast of the park entrance. Villa Ventana is a quiet wooded village south of the park, just 5km from the park entrance; it has a more laidback atmosphere than Sierra village.
Formed principally from sedimentary rock during the Paleozoic period, the range is notable for its intensely folded appearance and for its subtle grey-blue and pink hues. Though the harsh, somewhat threatening, peaks may appear rather barren, the area also supports a surprising range of wildlife, including pumas, foxes, guanacos, armadillos, vizcachas and copper iguanas, which are named for their distinctive colour and are one of over forty species endemic to the region.
The province’s highest peak, Cerro Tres Picos (1239m), sits on private land 6km south of Villa Ventana. It is less dramatic-looking than Cerro de la Ventana, but its height, combined with its distance from the nearest base, makes it a more substantial hike. It is usually done as a two-day trek, overnighting in a cave on the way up. The route passes through the Estancia Funke (t0291/494-0058, wwww.funketurismo.com) and you must go with a guide provided by them. The estancia has a campsite and albergue; rooms in the nineteenth-century homestead are reserved for German-speakers only, in keeping with the estancia’s Germanic origins. Rock-climbing and mountain-biking are also possible. The easiest way of getting around the sierras is with your own transport; if you’re relying on public transport you’ll need to plan carefully: a local service by La Estrella runs along the RP-76, stopping more or less everywhere along the route, including at both park entrances, the turn-off to Villa Ventana and Sierra de la Ventana. Buses go two times a day in either direction. Alternatively, you could take a remise (t0291/491-5517).