(By Leila Torres) The heat of the La Rioja summer is no longer an impediment to getting to know the provincial capital, which offers the freshness and greenery of the last stretch of the Yunga in the El Saladillo Natural and Archaeological Park; a modern cultural complex in the heart of the city -Kilometer Zero-; and the possibility of swimming and having fun among the hills of La Quebrada, just 20 minutes from the main square, in the Los Sauces Water Park
Known for hosting a very rich religious circuit, with churches of different congregations and of the most varied architectural styles, along with a liturgical calendar that has Tinkunaco as its highlight, La Rioja began to notice a change in the volume and frequency of visitors based on new proposals for all ages and budgets.
Its most popular festival, La Chaya, the growing number of parks and public walks with modern design, shows and large-scale sporting events, complement the options that, year after year, began to break with seasonality, that feared variable. in the tourism sector.
Easter Week and Winter Holidays, although they maintain full occupancy, are no longer the only two traditional tourist seasons in the City of La Rioja, which incorporated three new outstanding proposals in the last year.
In a very short time, these became an option that is achieving the permanence of tourists, who usually use the city as a base for their excursions to Talampaya or the Cordillera.
With Parque El Saladillo, Kilometer Zero on the Paseo Cultural and the brand new water park in the old spa of Los Sauces dam, it is being possible to extend the stay of tourists, forcing them to add at least one day of visits to enjoy these new proposals.
In addition, as they are free or very low-cost attractions, just minutes from the city center and with exclusive public transport service for these routes, they are ideal for families or groups that do not arrive in La Rioja in their own vehicles.
“Our objective, evaluating how tourism to our northern provinces has grown after the pandemic, was to get the visitor to add an overnight stay on their walk through La Rioja and spend that day in the Capital,” he assured Télam. the Minister of Tourism and Cultures, Gustavo Luna.
The former Normal School for Teachers, where Rosario Vera Peñaloza had her initial pedagogical training, has now become what is known as ‘Kilometer Zero of Tourism and Cultures’.
The place works as the trigger for the different tourist routes in the province, each one of them with a permanent exhibition space to anticipate the sites and heritage assets that the tourist will find when undertaking their excursions into the interior.
Kilometer Zero has eight thematic rooms that house content related to the paleontological, cultural and natural heritage of the province.
The Dinosaur Room, developed in conjunction with Conicet researchers who work at the La Rioja Regional Research Center, contains different life-size replicas of animal skeletons found in La Rioja, such as the Bravasaur or the Punatitán, two of the largest vertebrates on the continent.
In addition, it presents a visual tour of the geological conformation of this area of the planet.
In the rooms of Memory, of Rosario Vera Peñaloza and of the Caudillos, a large part of the history of the people of La Rioja is reflected through its heroes, heroines, intellectuals and martyrs, also captured with beauty and realism in the sculptures of the prestigious Studio Pugliese that immortalize Chacho Peñaloza, Facundo Quiroga or Rosarito, among others.
In addition, Kilometer Zero has modern and comfortable spaces for shows, a regional product store, auditoriums, and exhibition venues, receiving thousands of tourists and people from La Rioja every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and only one block from the square. major.
Just 15 minutes from the city center, and in the middle of a ravine blessed by nature and the last manifestation of the Bolivian Yunga, hides a historic ranch that is open to the public to live an unforgettable experience: the Natural and Archaeological Park The Saladillo.
There, a guided tour is offered to learn about the life of African slaves during the Jesuits’ mandate, the Republican period with the passage through the place of Joaquín V. González, and even the seizure of the farmhouse by a group of tasks of the military dictatorship for their combat practices.
The historic property is located on the slopes of Cerro Velasco, to the northwest of the city, which is accessed by a gravel road in perfect condition to visit every day of the year, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The wonders of its surroundings, the Italianate construction of its room and the hyper-realistic sculptures that recreate the tasks that the hundreds of slaves who lived on the farm had to do in the 17th century, are an unmissable attraction.
But the property hides even older treasures, because at this strategic point in the mountains, which was formerly a strategic pass between the valley in which the City of La Rioja is located and the Sanagasta valley, various original settlers settled, leaving vestiges all over the place.
Already in the 17th century, a Jesuit convent was installed there that took advantage of the humidity of the land to extract, using slave labor, different materials for the production of bricks and tiles that later embellished mansions in La Rioja and throughout the country.
More than 20 sculptures from Estudio Pugliese were recently installed on the site, following the exterior route of the Estancia, to realistically show the heavy labor to which men, women and children brought from Africa were subjected, who came to make up almost 50 percent of the La Rioja population at the time of the May Revolution.
In a city where summer and much of autumn can offer temperatures that reach 45 degrees, there is a refreshing option with the transformation of the old Los Sauces dam spa into an ideal water park to enjoy with the family, with three huge circular pools with six slides, a multi-sport field, an open-air gym, a large gastronomic space and the wonderful geography of the place, between hills and large trees.
The Park is located on National Route 75, which leads from the Capital to the summer town of Sanagasta, the beginning of the tourist circuit of the Rioja coast.
I am an author and journalist who has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. I currently work as a news editor at a major news website, and my focus is on covering the latest trends in entertainment. I also write occasional pieces for other outlets, and have authored two books about the entertainment industry.