San Luis: the best of Merlo and Potrero de los Funes
To tell you the truth, San Luis was not a province that was within our plans for our first Argentine road trip. Having Patagonia, the north, the Falls, Mendoza … choosing San Luis was more than anything a matter of proximity with its neighbor Córdoba.
But luckily we did it because it gave us several surprises that I want to share with you in this article about two unmissable places in the province: Merlo and Potrero de los Funes.
Before I start I want to clarify something: perhaps the most beautiful place in San Luis is one we did not go to. The Sierra de la Quijadas National Park is located in the northwest of the province and covers an approximate area of 73,785 hectares.
It is a park that seems to come from another world, and unfortunately, we decided not to go because of time and logistics. Traveling with a small child sometimes involves making decisions based on what is best for him, and not on what is best for you.
So if you go to San Luis do not forget to visit this place and tell us about it! Now, let’s start with what we did see.
- 1 SAN LUIS: MERLO AND ITS MICROCLAMATE
- 2 MERLO, SAN LUIS: HISTORICAL CENTER
- 3 WHAT TO DO AROUND MERLO, SAN LUIS
- 4 SAN LUIS: POTRERO DE LOS FUNES AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
SAN LUIS: MERLO AND ITS MICROCLAMATE
Merlo is so close to Córdoba that many people who visit Córdoba take a day to tour Merlo during the day. But we wanted to know a little more about that site that is said to be the third microclimate in the world (after Switzerland and California).
What is the microclimate?
It does not mean that in Merlo it never rains, or that the sun smiles 365 days a year and temperatures do not fall below 30 degrees Celsius. The concept of microclimate has nothing to do with temperature or humidity. It has to do with the air and its purity.
It has to do with those 2000-meter-high mountain ranges known as the Sierra de los Comechingones that not only block the passage of pollutants due to the type of rock they have, but also give off a very low electrical charge with negative ionization while at the same time they release oxygen atoms that are then transformed into ozone.
Yes, for me too. The point is that the air is so pure that it allows plants to coexist; plants that in other places it would be impossible to be seen together, and it gives Merlo a very pure and healthy air for the lungs.
MERLO, SAN LUIS: HISTORICAL CENTER
The city could be divided into two interesting parts to visit: the commercial one that crosses the Avenida del Sol, with an infinity of restaurants, a commercial center, and businesses of all type, and the historical center, perhaps the most beautiful part of the city.
Villa de Merlo was founded in 1797 by Commander Juan de Videla, following the orders of the Marquis of Sobremonte. It was founded in memory of the Viceroy of the Rio de la Plata Don Pedro Melo of Portugal. The idea was not to name it Merlo but Melo, but that little spelling mistake changed the place forever.
Its foundation was celebrated next to the Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary), a beautiful church of the year 1720 that can still be discovered in a walk through the center.
This type of church is what still makes us enjoy visiting a center of devotion: as it should be, without gold, without riches, just adobe walls, wooden beams, and a simplicity that makes it beautiful, and that it made it deserving in the year 1961 of the title of National Historical Monument.
In the main square, where the town’s foundation was celebrated, there is a historic well of 1890, demolished 60 years later for no apparent reason and rebuilt in 1986, respecting its original architecture. The square is the ideal place to sit down to eat something and enjoy the tranquility of a small city of low houses surrounded by mountains and a pure air.
WHAT TO DO AROUND MERLO, SAN LUIS
There are many options for circuits that can be made starting from Merlo. I’ll tell you what we did, and I’ll leave you here a list of what we could not do (due to time and adaptation issues) and that we invite you to investigate a little more or tell us in a comment below if you already did it:
- Salto del Tabaquillo: a fall of water of 17 meters of height after a walk of medium-high difficulty between ascents and descents.
- Cascada Olvidada (Forgotten Waterfall): you get there walking along the Pasos Malos stream.
- Mirador del Peñon Colorado Viewpoint: from up there you get views of Cerro Chumamaya, the valley, and the hills.
- Filo Serrano: the highest part of the hills. From up there you can see views of the provinces of San Luis on one side and Cordoba on the other.
So now I am going to tell you about our experiences.
EL RINCÓN FLOWER AND WILDLIFE RESERVE, SAN LUIS
This reserve is one of those places in Argentina that makes you wonder why it has not yet been declared a Protected Park. This wonderful natural site depends purely and exclusively on the work of volunteers who receive visitors, inform them about the place, and take care of the park.
It is home to eagles, foxes, small rodents, pumas, and dozens of animals, plants, and flowers. It is a place to lose yourself for a full day among the wildest nature. Streams, pots of transparent water, waterfalls, huge rocks to walk on, paths surrounded by mountains.
It is a real pity that it is not protected as it should be because it is a beauty without equal.
In the mornings there is an informative talk (somewhat boring, sorry for the audacity) but it’s worth it because around 11 in the morning the park ranger leaves some pieces of meat on a wooden plate and the eagles that already know the morning movements are there at the top of a tree, waiting to “hunt” their prey.
And seeing the eagles descend 120 kilometers per hour on our heads is a very nice experience.
But beyond that, the place is worth it and if you go to Merlo do not miss visiting it. I leave here some photos.
SAN LUIS: PIEDRAS BLANCAS AND THE ALGARROBO ABUELO
Piedras Blancas is a small town just 10 minutes away from the center of Merlo. There’s not much to do there: a square, a few houses, and a nice church. But on the way to visit the Algarrobo Abuelo, it is worth stopping a few minutes to see how one of those small Argentine towns that seem detained is.
The Algarrobo Abuelo (The Carob Grandfather) is exactly what its name says: a huge carob tree of more than 1200 years old inside a private park. It is wonderful to see those huge branches supported by sticks that sink back into the earth and blend with the roots. A tree that has been there for over a thousand years, living in that land.
MIRADOR DEL SOL VIEWPOINT, SAN LUIS
Nothing better to finish the day than the sunset from one of the most beautiful viewpoints of Merlo: the Mirador del Sol. There, at the top of the mountains, watching the valley below and the sun falling to the horizon, there´s a unique charm for the end of the day.
The way up is through a beautiful asphalted mountain road, and the car is parked at 1470 meters high to enjoy the views that the place gives.
For those who are willing to continue going up, from there you can drive to the edge of the hill, even higher up from where you can see the almost whole world. There is not much to say about a viewpoint. So just enjoy the photographs.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN MERLO, SAN LUIS
We chose Los Álamos Posadas as a base to tour the region. You can read about this beautiful lodging in our article “Merlo: Los Álamos Posadas”.
SAN LUIS: POTRERO DE LOS FUNES AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
Undoubtedly, the town of Potrero de los Funes, just under 200 kilometers from Merlo, should have been much more attractive before the horrible racetrack around the lake was built.
Horrible because they built a sort of a cage to prevent the race cars from flying out, and it that totally blocked the beautiful view you had from the road to the lake and the mountains. But I will try to put that aside and tell you about this place that is worth the visit for two reasons: the Native Park and the Salto de la Moneda (Coin Jump).
The Native Park is a park -well, duh …- that extends to the lakeshore and from where you can enjoy some beautiful views of the mountains. There is not much to do there, but there are grills and tables where you can prepare a barbecue and enjoy a day outdoors, eating, watching the lake, enjoying the silence of nature.
Undoubtedly the most beautiful of Potrero de los Funes is the Salto de la Moneda.
You can arrive by car (or walk for a long time from the center of the town) to where the park ranger awaits you, and after paying the entrance fee (80 pesos, around 4 dollars), there is nothing left to do but walk 2 kilometers along a path well marked by red points and arrows while enjoying spectacular views of the mountains and the valley.
The final goal is a great gift of nature: a long waterfall that drops from 12 meters high to a huge pot of fresh and transparent water that must be an oasis in summer.
The hike is of low difficulty and can be done perfectly with children, even though it is necessary to go up and down and it requires patience and a little effort. But it is just 4 kilometers round trip and the waterfall is ideal to rest and enjoy.
The place closes at 6 o’clock in the afternoon (the ranger will recommend you return at 4.30 to get back calm, but the return should not take you more than forty minutes). I leave some pictures of the place.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN POTRERO DE LOS FUNES, SAN LUIS
We chose the cabins Mirando los Cerros to make a base in the region. You can read about this accommodation in our article “Potrero de los Funes: Mirando los Cerros”.
We were in San Luis for just a few days but long enough to discover corners that we did not know they exist and enjoy the hilly nature of the region. If you liked the article and the photos do not forget to support our work and subscribe to the blog by leaving your mail in the form below.
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