1 | Salta - Cachi
After departing from Salta and past the Lerma Valley the road
enters a verdant ravine enclosed by steep red cliffs, and begins
to ascend the Cuesta del Obispo until reaching in scenic serpentines
the highest point at 3,348 masl. Here we emerge onto the Los Cardones
National Park, a vast desert crowded with hundreds of centenary
candelabra cacti. Upon arrival in Cachi (2,280 masl), a laid-back,
quiet town at the foot of the snow-covered Nevado de Cachi (6,380
masl), we wander around on its cobbled streets and among adobe
homes painted white. Overnight accommodation in a cosy guesthouse.
DAY 2 | Cachi - Calchaqui Valley - Cafayate
On this journey we travel along the sandy valley of the Calchaqui
River, which is at its most attractive in autumn, when red peppers
are laid out to dry on the fields. Following the meandering river
we will visit picturesque villages, like Seclantás and
Molinos, featuring adobe-houses and delightful churches, and we
also will enjoy wonderful sceneries such as the Quebrada de las
Flechas (Arrows Gorge), a labyrinth of serrated rocks stabbing
upward like arrows. After reaching Cafayate (1,660 masl), north
Argentina's wine capital, encircled by vineyards and well known
for its aromatic torrontés white wine variety, we overnight
in a homely posada.
DAY 3 | Cafayate - Antofagasta de la Sierra
Continuing on Route 40 through the valleys of Santa María
and Hualfín, we also traverse a wide arid steppe. Then
the road twists and climbs up towards the Andean high plateau,
called Puna in Argentina, crossing an altitude of over 4,000 m.
The landscape starts to change and becomes fantastic as we feast
our eyes on the first flocks of vicuñas, on huge sand dunes,
gleaming salt flats and snow-capped summits. After arrival at
Antofagasta de la Sierra (3,440 masl), a green oasis lying in
an expansive barren plain dotted with black volcanoes and lava-flows,
we spend the night in a roomy guesthouse.
DAY 4 | Roundtrip Salar Antofalla
Today we experience the raw beauty of nature. At altitude 4,400
m we cross striking mountain passes opening up breathtaking, white-blue-red
vistas, and travel along the shore of Salar Antofalla, the longest
salt flat of the world (160 km), to discover its hidden gems:
the remote hamlet of Antofalla, sitting at the foot of the namesake
volcano; the astonishing circular lagoons, known as "Eyes
of the Field"; and the incredibly colourful oasis of Botijuela,
where the curious bottle-shaped cone of an extinguished geyser
stands out. Overnight again in Antofagasta de la Sierra.
DAY 5 | AdlSierra - Salar Hombre Muerto - San Antonio
de los Cobres
A soliatry road leads northwards to the glimmering Salar del Hombre
Muerto (Dead Man's salt flat), the second largest salt flat in
Argentina. At its shore we take a look around the abandoned gold
mine Incahuasi, and continue our way through the barren and expansive
Puna until getting to the mighty La Polvorilla viaduct. At 4,220
m in altitude, it is the last and the highest station of the Tren
a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds). A few kilometers ahead, we
arrive at the ancient mining town of San Antonio de los Cobres
(3,775 m), where we overnight in a restful hotel.
DAY 6 | SACobres -Salinas Grandes - Purmamarca
After a few hours of empty vastness we reach Salinas Grandes (Big
Salt Flats), an immense and white shimmering salt surface. Winding
up to an altitude of 4,175 m the road (Cuesta de Lipán)
finally zigzags down a steep slope and takes us to Purmamarca
(2,192 masl), a tiny scenic village sitting framed by a red, pink,
purple and white mountain, the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven
Colours Hill). We spend the night in a lovely posada.
DAY 7 | Purmamarca - (Quebrada de) Humahuaca
Early in the morning we take a walk on the Seven Colours Hill
before heading north to travel up the Humahuaca Ravine. The "Quebrada"
is a long and narrow path of valleys and hillsides miraculously
coloured, dotted with towering cacti and picturesque small towns.
We visit Tilcara and its nearby 'Pucará', an invaluable
pre-Inca hilltop fortification. Maimará's hillside cemetery
and the polychrome Paleta del Pintor (Painter's Palette). The
lovely church in Uquía, known for its unique paintings
featuring angels armed with Spanish weapons. And we stroll along
the narrow streets of bewitching Humahuaca. Overnight stay in
a comfortable hotel.
DAY 8 | Humahuaca - Salta
We drive back south along the Quebrada and pass by the city of
Jujuy. To reach Salta we either can follow the old connection
road meandering through a lush jungle, or we can drive on a highway,
a longer, but faster stretch. End of trip.