Andes off road

Route 40 Northwest Argentina

Welcome Tours + Expeditions Andesoffroad Services + Accommodation The region Andesoffroad contact Interesting links
HIDDEN PUNA (incl. nazareno + iruya)

7 DAYS salta - SALTA

A one-of-a-kind tour through the expansive Andean high plateau unfolding in immediate eastern vicinity of the Andes, in the extreme northwest of Argentina. Barren but colourful, this lesser known region is an ideal destination to discover hidden gems.

DAY 1 | Salta - San Antonio de los Cobres - Susques
Departing from Salta we gradually ascend in curves the Quebrada del Toro (Bull's Gorge), mostly paralleling the "Train to the Clouds" and visiting the ruined city of Santa Rosa de Tastil, an enormous pre-columbian settlement, superbly set atop a hillside with overlooking views. Past the town of San Antonio de los Cobres (3,775 masl) we reach the mighty La Polvorilla viaduct, the last and highest station of the Train, to pass underneath and to continue northwards on the newly redesigned Route 40 in the midst of the expansive, barren Andean high plateau, called Puna in Argentina. This stretch features a river valley, gigantic boulders scattered alongside the road and the huge Tuzgle volcano (5,520 m), and goes through the earth-coloured villages Sey, Pastos Chicos and Huancar, camouflaged in the open plain. By the end of the day we arrive in Susques (3,896 m), a small town with a lovely church dating from 1598 - one of the oldest churches in the country. Overnight stay outside Susques in a nice hotel.

DAY 2 | Susques - Lagoons Vilama - Cusi Cusi
Still heading north and after passing through solitary adobe settlements, the route branches off onto a stony track and meanders into the northwestern extremity of Argentina, where the Vilama Nature Reserve extends over 1,500 ha comprising a series of lagoons. The largest one, the ample and turquoise Vilama, is home for many species of birds, and completes the majestic scenery of a remote open space framed by the towering Andes sitting in the distance. It is well worth a rest on the shore of the lake, after which we continue following a curvier, clearly more mountainous and colourful road until we feast our eyes on the red-white-yellow Valley of the Moon, unfolding below us in an enormous hollow. We hike down and wander among the wavy and pyramidal sandstone hills, warmly lit by the afternoon sun. In the nearby quiet oasis of Cusi Cusi (3,790 m) we spend the night in a modest lodging.

DAY 3 | Cusi Cusi - R40 - El Angosto - Santa Catalina
Today we travel along the final segment of Route 40, also passing by km 5,000. Churches standing alone on a vast landscape, peaceful little villages, bare-rock pastel-coloured hillsides, a riverbed in a deeply carved canyon and a slowly ascending road lead to 4,000 m altitude, where we enjoy stupendous views as we wind along a ridge paralleling a red mountain chain. After corkscrewing down we reach Argentina's northernmost hamlet, El Angosto (3,581 m), set in a green river valley and richly surrounded by brick-red gorges neighbouring Bolivia. Heading back to the east, a final undulating stretch of road brings us to the seldom visited puna-town Santa Catalina (3,770 m), housing a delightful 17th-century church and the highest library in Argentina. Overnight stay in a cosy hosteria on a tree-lined street.

DAY 4 | Santa Catalina - Lagoon Pozuelos - La Quiaca
After traveling alongside the bolivian border, at the village of Cieneguillas, known for the excellent llama fiber they produce, we head southwards into Laguna de los Pozuelos, a nature reserve covering 380 km2 on a wide plain, at about 3,600 m altitude. The salty lagoon it encircles provides a perfect habitat not only for more than 40 species of birds, but also for thousands of flamingos, which in summer cover the lake like a pink cloud. We can get nearer by accessing the reserve at its southern end and after a walk over the salted wetland areas of the lakesides. Now bordering the reserve to the north, the road takes us past a more inhabited region rapidly to La Quiaca. This larger town lies facing the bolivian Villazón, both separated by a river and joint by a bridge. We settle to our hotel and have the rest of the afternoon free to spend at leisure.

DAY 5 | La Quiaca - Yavi - Nazareno - Abra Pampa
Nearby La Quiaca to the east we visit the mudbrick-village of Yavi and its notable church, a colonial treasure with gold decorations and onyx windows, and continue heading south, winding gently before steadily climbing up into a deserted, impressive mountainscape. The higher it goes, the more breathtaking and distant the views. At 4,720 m altitude the road traverses the Cerro Fundición pass and leads over countless narrow serpentines 1,500 m down to the village of Nazareno, stunningly nestled in nature, its farmhouses spreading out on the hillsides. After a nice walk round the town, we drive back over the pass and down in western direction to the transitional plains and towards the main route, reaching Abra Pampa (3,484 m), "the Capital of the Puna", about 30 km further ahead. We overnight in a typical guesthouse.

DAY 6 | Abrapampa - Iruya
Passing by some unusual rock formations with colours layered together we drive south for a short distance before veering off east. Here a curvy gravel road winds up the twisting grass-covered mountainsides until crossing a pass at altitude 4,000 m, where we enjoy fantastic bird's eye views of an endless mountain river valley below us. We zigzag down through deeply cut slopes and, further ahead, into a magnificent colourful gorge, where Iruya is perched on top of a cliff, at a height of 2,780 m. This enchanting village is dotted with a remarkable church and with steep, narrow cobblestoned streets, and the inhabitants still maintain numerous ancient traditions. In the afternoon we can trekk up to the viewpoint or alongside the river to explore the splendid surroundings. We spend the night in a friendly local guesthouse.

DAY 7 | Iruya - Salta
We head back south along the Quebrada de Humahuaca 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.
Or, a few additional days in Quebrada de Humahuaca will nicely complement this itinerary !



:: Best time to travel: March - May | October - December
:: Raining season summer (January - February) please contact
:: Itinerary can be customized to your requirements
:: Reservations should be made at least 5 weeks in advance

:: terrestrial transfers with experienced driver and/or guiding fully equipped 4WD
:: coordination, logistic, technical and mechanical assistance
:: bilingual guide / accompaniment (English/German/Spanish)
:: accommodation in local guesthouses based on double room and breakfast
:: refreshments and snacks
:: local guides support
:: access to national parks / tolls
:: meals, alcoholic beverages / additional drinks
:: during guided self drive tour, vehicle, fuel, street tolls
:: access Talampaya and Ischigualasto Parks
:: individual activities + expenses
:: medical expenses/insurance
:: tips
Church Puna Route 40
    Jujuy Valley of the Moon
Vilama Lagoon
Santa Catalina
El Angosto
Laguna Pozuelos
Way to Nazareno
Way to Iruya
north argentina | puna andes north | puna andes north full
andes route 40 | extreme andes | in the sky | sixtyhundreds