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The best kept secret

The Crown of the Inca is one of the best kept secrets of our geography.

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La Rioja
Corona del Inca

A small point in the vastness of the Earth. That place, no other, can provoke extreme emotions, intense feelings, sublime experiences. Everyone finds his own space eventually, but for that you have to walk, walk, search. In Argentina there are thousands of those different, special places. For many, one of them is in  La Rioja , it is La Corona del  Inca  . This place is one of the best kept secrets in our geography. Like all the good things, it's not easy to access there. It could be said that it is a journey reserved only for the most  adventurous .

In the confines of the Cordillera de los Andes, a vast circle of volcano hides this immense  crater  located at 5500 meters above sea level. Inside, an incredibly turquoise heart formed by melting waters. The sand hills surrounding this water mirror contain irregular ice spikes that seem to sprout from the inside of the earth.

On its origin there is no firm version: some believe that it was the top of an ancient mountain, which collapsed on itself during a volcanic explosion, and others assume that the  crater  was produced by the impact of a meteorite. Those who know the place describe it as a strange and unique landscape, which seems to have been taken out of a dream.

As we anticipated, access to watch it live and live is not easy at all. To get there you have to sign up for a journey that begins before dawn. The starting points are the towns of Vinchina or Alto Jagüe, last villages before the mountain range. As long as the weather conditions are favorable, travel in 4x4 vehicles starts. On the way you cross the Quebrada del Peñón, Laguna Brava and the Pampa del Veladero. The latter stands out for being a desert valley in which penitents emerge: ice mounds that remain standing all year round even under the summer sun.

The road continues along the mountain range mountains where you can see the Veladero and Bonete hills with 6500 meters high. The really impressive thing about this stretch is a few kilometers ahead when you get to see the Pissis volcano, which rises to 6882 meters. Leaving these formations behind, we begin to see the sand hills that anticipate that we are arriving at destination. When you see the immense crater with the deep blue lake you have to get off the 4x4 and walk down to the shore to enjoy the dreamy landscapes of Corona del Inca. The most experienced can go kayaking on the water mirror that has the record of being the highest navigable lake in the world.

This tour can be done between April and December. The rest of the year, due to snowfalls, it is impossible to reach destination. Even at the time indicated, it is mandatory to do so in the company of knowledgeable specialists in the region who have the necessary equipment: logistic assistance, oxygen supply, high mountain feeding and rescue equipment. It should be borne in mind that at this height there are no vegetation or animals, oxygen levels are scarce and the temperature in summer can reach 10 degrees below zero. The tour takes a full day to arrive, contemplate the landscape, and return to Vinchina. If you want to enjoy the experience more quietly there are tours that travel the intermediate tourist spots and give time to acclimatise so as not to suffer altitude sickness or “aiming”.

If you are ready for the adventure, the  Crown of the Inca  is a destination that cannot be missed on your list.

Publication Date: 12/05/2018

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