Thinly populated southern Mendoza Province  can pride itself on several important and diverse reserves of various sizes and accessibility. For the most complete information, visit the website for the provincial Dirección de Recursos Naturales Renovables (www.recursosnaturales.mendoza.gov.ar ).
Immediately west of Malargüe , a 28-kilometer gravel road leads toward the Andes and the 650-hectare Reserva Natural Castillos de Pincheira, a series of volcanic sedimentary landforms resembling castles, that were a hideout for caudillo-bandit José Antonio Pincheira.
About 65 kilometers southeast of Malargüe via RN 40 and RP 186, the most significant feature of the 40,000-hectare Reserva Natural Laguna de Llancanelo is a shallow wetland that’s home to 220 bird species, many of them migratory, including three species of flamingos. While it’s ostensibly open for guided visits only, matters are much more flexible for those with their own transportation.
Immediately south of Laguna de Llancanelo, Mendoza Province’s largest reserve is the 442,996-hectare Reserva Natural La Payunia, a volcano-studded landscape whose high point is 3,680-meter Cerro Payún (it is only one of 800 volcanoes within the reserve, however). It has abundant wildlife, including more than 10,000 guanacos as well as pumas, condors, and rheas. Accommodations are available through Malargüe’s Kiñe Turismo Rural Ecológico (tel. 02627/47-1344, tel. 011/4524-2993 in Buenos Aires, www.kinie.com.ar ).
On the southwestern slopes of Cerro Moncol, 80 kilometers from Malargüe via paved southbound RN 40 and an eight-kilometer dirt lateral, the 450-hectare Reserva Natural Caverna de las Brujas (8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$5 adults, US$2.50 children) is a limestone cave open for guided tours. Reservations are not required—just visit the tourist office during open hours.