Andes off road

4x4 to Mine at Famatina

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This once in a lifetime tour along the northwestern Andes in Argentina combines adventurous off road drive with striking natural beauty. Largely still unknown and spectacular landscapes, abandoned places and almost unreal atmospheres will create long lasting memories.
DAY 1 | La Rioja - Villa Unión
We start our tour in the city of La Rioja, arriving at the small town Villa Unión, the largest settlement in the Bermejo Valley, a few hours later. It is also possible to meet and start the tour in Villa Unión .

DAY 2 | Laguna Brava - San José de Vinchina
Heading into Andean heights the road curves upwards in the middle of multi-coloured gorges. To an altitude of 4,200 m, a stupendous panorama of a sky blue lagoon and snow-capped pinnacles opens up. Laguna Brava (Brave Lagoon) is an extensive altiplanic lake of salty waters. The Reserve was established to protect native fauna like vicuñas, guanacos, foxes and flamingos, and is surrounded by giants like the Veladero (6,436 m) and Bonete (6,872 m) volcanoes. In the afternoon we drive down again to spend the night in Villa Unión.

DAY 3 | Villa Unión - Chilecito - Famatina
After following a snaking road along the beautiful Cuesta de Miranda, through 500-meters-tall red rock walls dotted with towering cacti, we arrive in Chilecito, where Station 2 of the cableway La Mejicana is worth a stop. Constructed in 1903 by a German company to transport gold and other metal extracted, in its time it was the longest and highest cable railway of the world, stretching 34 km up onto the gold mine of Cerro Famatina at an altitude of 4,600 m. Not far from here we enter a fertile green valley and reach Famatina, featuring a church home to an articulated Christ, and a perfect take-off area for paragliders also. Overnight stay in a roomy hosteria.

DAY 4 | La Mejicana Mine
Sierra de Famatina is a magnificent mountain chain neighbouring the Andes and flanking Famatina to the west. Its highest peak, rising to 6,097 m, is the glacier-covered Cerro Famatina, which is where the abandoned mining site La Mejicana, the last station of the cable car, is placed. A rugged road snakes up following a meandering yellow river and passing by an incredibly fabulous gorge and multi-coloured hillsides before reaching a last stretch of vertiginous bends. At 4,600 m altitude, the rusty remains of the station and the mine appear before us sunk in abandonment, and colossal iron towers, interwoven by steel cables, can be seen rising into the sky until they get lost behind the goldish, cragged slopes of the mountains. We return back down the same route to overnight again in Famatina.

DAY 5 | Famatina - Fiambalá
We easily continue our journey entering the province of Catamarca and sighting age-old adobe houses and churches as part of the attractive Adobe Route. Leaving the small oasis of Fiambalá behind us, we head straight into the heart of its surrounding desert, the monumental undulating sand dunes of Tatón, which are among the highest in the world. The nearby village of Tatón, charmingly nestled against a sandy hillside in a ravine, invites to stay for a while -- to enjoy this peaceful setting, to have a little picnic or to "sandboard" as a fun way to explore the dunes. After returning to Fiambalá (1,570 m) we can visit its invigorating thermal waters, which come down from the mountain to plunge into natural pools set between high granite walls. We overnight in a comfortable hostería.

DAY 6 | Balcony Mount Pissis/Green Lagoon - Las Grutas (Paso San Francisco)
Fascinating and demanding drive off the beaten track, steadily winding up into the paradisiacal Andean world of 19 "sixtyhundreds". Carrying names like Blue, Black and Green because of their intense colour, we pass by shimmering lagoons. At an altitude of 4,200 m a natural balcony offers a breathtaking view of untouched nature and of Mount Pissis, rising as the highest volcano of the world. It is a glacier-covered massif with five summits and 6,882 (IGN) meters in height, one of the remotest mountains in Argentina. As the track leads down along Black Lagoon and even deeper into the wilderness, we reach the glowing Green Lagoon, which resembles an enormous blue-bordered emerald. After heading back down we follow a serpentine road up to Paso San Francisco, driving amid captivating backdrop to Las Grutas, near the Chilean border. Overnight in rustic dorm accommodation (4,000 m).

DAY 7 | Las Grutas - Peinado Volcano - Antofagasta de la Sierra
A challenging but outstandingly beautiful, pure Andes off road journey. Slowly ascending into a spectacular volcanic region, it goes through limestone gorges, heavy sand valleys and volcanic rocks, feasting the eyes on dramatic vistas of orange, white and black-coloured peaks framing two lagoons, an olive green and a turquoise. After skirting the Peinado volcano (5,741 m) the track abruptly descends, joins the Peinado's dazzling green-blue lagoon and turns into an almost invisible sandy path, leading to Salar Antofalla and through otherworldly, solitary desertscapes to Antofagasta de la Sierra (3,440 masl). This green oasis quietly sits in an arid plain of the Andean high plateau, called Puna in Argentina, and is surrounded by black volcanoes and lava-flows. Overnight stay in a roomy hostería.

DAY 8 | Crater Galán Volcano
Yet another intrepid journey into wild beauty. Catching sight of gracious suris and flocks of vicuñas we reach Laguna Grande (Big Lagoon), populated by thousands of pink flamingos and bordered by a white salted shore and a remarkable mountain backdrop. Continuing on we gradually ascend to an altitude of 4,800 m to gain the crater rim of the Galán volcano (5,912 m), the widest caldera of the world (36 km). After a steep descent we explore the volcano's interior, revealing a turquoise lagoon and bubbling hot springs. Returning the same way we again spend the night at Antofagasta de la Sierra.

DAY 9 | AdlSierra - Antofalla
Heading westwards, at altitude 4,400 m we cross a striking mountain pass opening up impressively colourful panoramas of Salar Antofalla, the longest salt flat of the world (160 km), and zigzag down to traverse the salt flat. Following its shore we discover the hidden gems: the astonishing circular lagoons, known as "Eyes of the Field"; and the copper-green oasis of Botijuela, where the curious bottle-shaped cone of an extinguished geyser stands out. In the afternoon we arrive at the hamlet of Antofalla (3,500 masl), sitting at the foot of the huge namesake volcano (6,409 m). Simple accommodation in cosy lodging

DAY 10 | Antofalla - La Casualidad - Tolar Grande
The mighty mountains surrounding Antofalla will be replaced today by a vast, ochre-coloured puna setting featuring majestic volcanoes and enormous salt flats. Immersed in boundless nature and like a ghostly vision of the past stand the remains of the mining settlement La Casualidad, at 4,000 m, and of the mining site La Julia, at 5,200 m altitude next to the chilean border, both joined by an also abandoned, 15 km long cable car which transported the sulphur extracted in the mine. Additionally we will pass by the forsaken railroad station Caipe, where the sulphur was dispatched from. The sights and expansive views we enjoy while driving through these places are overwhelming. After crossing Salar de Arizaro, Argentina's largest salt flat with a surface area of 1,500 km2, we arrive in Tolar Grande (3,500 m), a small village encircled by idyllic landscapes. Overnight stay in cosy hostería.

DAY 11 | Tolar Grande - Salta
After an exciting stretch through the bizarre red rock formations of the Valley of the Dreams, the road takes us through the empty vastness of the Puna until reaching San Antonio de los Cobres (3,775 m). Not far from here we next head down the long curving mountains and striking gorges of Quebrada del Toro (Bull's Gorge), almost paralleling the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds). On half the way, we visit the ruined city of Santa Rosa de Tastil, an enormous pre-hispanic site superbly set on a hillside with overlooking vistas. Arrival in Salta and end of trip.

DAY 6 | Balcony Mount Pissis - Fiambalá
As described above (DAY 6). After heading back down we return to Faimbalá. Overnight again in the hostería.

DAY 7 | Fiambalá - Pumice Stone Field - Antofagasta de la Sierra
An exciting day of incomparable scenery and adventurous off road passages: A path meandering along a riverbed in a scenic gorge, a steep road zigzagging up a mountainside with fantastic views, and an almost invisible track crossing a sea of sand and white-grey looming dunes. Unfolding in this fascinating volcanic landscape lies the enormous, moon-like Pumice Stone Field, its pastel coloured formations eroded into unusual shapes. By exploring it we feel as visiting another planet. After arrival at Antofagasta de la Sierra (3,440 masl), we spend the night in a roomy guesthouse.



:: Best time to travel: March - May | October - December
:: Itinerary subject to climatic and road conditions
:: This tour can be carried out as GUIDED SELF DRIVE TOUR also
:: Itinerary can be customized to your requirements
:: Reservations at least 6 weeks in advance

:: terrestrial transfers with experienced driver and/or guiding 4WD fully equipped
:: 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, 1x pic-nic
:: local guides support
:: access to national parks / tolls
:: meals, alcoholic beverages / additional drinks
:: during guided self drive tour, vehicle, fuel, street tolls
:: individual activities + expenses
:: medical expenses/insurance
:: tips
Laguna Brava
    La Mejicana last station
Dunes of Taton
Mount Pissis | Black Lagoon
Peinado Volcano
Laguna Grande
Antofalla Botijuela
Antofagasta de la Sierra
4x4 along the Andes
Cerro Estrella + Mina Julia
    Green Lagoon
    Pumice Stone Field
Valley of the Dreams
north argentina | puna andes north | puna andes north full
andes route 40 | in the sky | sixtyhundreds | hidden puna