June 13, 2013
While we were in San Rafael we wanted to see the Atuel Canyon, which we had heard was amazing. We spent one day at Valle Grande, which was easy enough to get to by catching a bus from town to the dam wall. However, we didn't realise that none of the activities would be running, it was too far to walk to the top of the dam, and that the bus only had one return time – 7pm, when it was dark and cold, and all the cafés were shut!
After our first failed attempt, we decided to hire a car for the day so that we could have the freedom to explore in our own time. This proved to be the best option! We took a wrong turn coming out of San Rafael, and ended up driving a different route to El Nihuil, which turned out to be a spectacular drive across desert plains with mountain peaks in the far distance.
Eventually, we turned off the main road and headed towards the village of El Nihuil. There is not much to this dusty little town, but we did find one restaurant that was open, so we had lunch and then continued on our way. The canyon starts here and provided hours of epic scenery.
There are several huge dams used for hydroelectric power. The last is at Valle Grande, where there are also a lot of activities that you can do (mostly in Summer) such as kayaking, rafting, trout fishing etc. However, there was pretty much no water in the river as it hardly ever rains, and the dam holds the main flow.
The dramatic landscapes and colours in the rock were incredible. Add a dash of Autumn, and it was just beautiful. We had a great day and would highly recommend anyone around the area to check out the Canyon!
Dam wall at Valle Grande