San Juan, like the rest of the Cuyo, though even more so, is prone to the zonda, a legendary dry wind that blows down from the Andes and blasts everything in its path like a blowtorch. It’s caused by a thermal inversion that arises when wet, cold air from the Pacific is thrust abruptly up over the cordillera and suddenly forced to dump its moisture, mostly in the form of snow, onto the skyscraper peaks before helter-skeltering down the other side into the deep chasm between the Cordillera Principal and the pre-cordillera, which acts like a very high brick wall. Forced to brake, the zonda rubs against the land like tyre-rubber against tarmac, and the resulting friction results in blistering temperatures and an atmosphere you can almost see. Mini-tornadoes can sometimes also occur, whipping sand and dust up in clearly visible spirals all along the region’s desert-like plains. The Cuyo’s answer to the Föhn, mistral or sirocco, ripping people’s nerves to shreds, the zonda is one of the world’s nastiest meteorological phenomena. Although it can blow at any time of year, the zonda is most frequent in the winter months, particularly August, when it can suddenly hike the temperature by ten to fifteen degrees in a matter of hours.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Argentina features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Beyond steak: how to order like a local in Buenos Aires

Beyond steak: how to order like a local in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is often associated with steaks, but they are far from the most common cut served up in the parrillas (meat restaurants) of Argentina's capital. …

20 Apr 2016 • Daniel Neilson insert_drive_file Article
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
Why Córdoba is Argentina’s most underrated region

Why Córdoba is Argentina’s most underrated region

Although long popular with Argentine tourists, Córdoba Province receives few foreign visitors, despite being one of the most diverse parts of the country. This…

24 Feb 2016 • Shafik Meghji insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month