I grew up in Buenos Aires but I haven’t lived in Argentina for 10 years, so whenever I get the chance to visit, I try to schedule a couple of days visiting somewhere new to me. It’s funny how being an immigrant makes you see your homeland in a whole different light. Suddenly it’s unacceptable to me that I haven’t visited every national park and historical landmark in my 21 years living there, even if my parents packed me and my sister on long road trips around the country pretty much every year of my youth. San Juan is generally overlooked by tourists who favour the northern provinces of Salta & Jujuy instead when making their way to Bolivia and Peru. Whenever you find travel features on northern Argentina, the classic images of Andean crafts, llamas and colonial architecture are generally from San Juan’s neighbours. Argentina’s main olive grower and ranked second among the wine-producing provinces, San Juan offers all the incredible landscapes without the scheduled tour buses and arranged food stops.
I decided to travel there with my mum and did very minimal research; I wanted to remain surprised by what I found there. Endless land of olive groves and vineyards accompanied by amazing hospitality made this an unforgettable trip. There’s something magical about driving with no reservations to get to, leading to some of the most interesting places to put our heads down at the end of the day. We stayed at an organic educational farm, where we got to visit all the animals and eat the best salad of my life, freshly picked from the land that day. We also slept at a former farmhouse run by one very passionate man who picked us up in his Jeep and drove, literally, through strong flowing rivers to get to the secluded property. Another incredible experience was staying the night at an old nunnery, where we were the only guests which definitely made it quite creepy at night! We saw incredible moonlike desert landscapes at the Unesco World Heritage Site Ischigualasto Provincial Park, also known as Valley of the Moon, where some of the oldest dinosaur remains were found. Its dry and windy weather, badlands and strange rock formations almost transport you to another planet. We ate pizza with locals in sleepy towns and followed a couple of wild horses around an orchard. San Juan really proved to have surprises waiting at every turn.
Andrea Fernandez is an editorial photographer currently based in beautiful Vancouver, surrounded by the forest & the ocean. She was born in Buenos Aires, south of the world with long hot summers and the most vast landscapes. She developed a thirst for travel at a very young age; pretty sure taking her very first step aboard an aeroplane had something to do with that. She fell in love with photography while in the darkroom at the University of Brighton, living by the seaside and spending all possible time running around music festivals eating watermelon. She is attracted to vintage everything and is perpetually planning her next trip.