1 | La Rioja - Villa Unión
We start our tour in the city of La Rioja, arriving at Villa Unión,
the largest settlement in the Bermejo Valley, a few hours later.
It is also possible to meet and start the trip in Villa Unión.
DAY 2 | Laguna Brava
Heading into Andean heights the road winds upwards in the midst
of multicoloured gorges. To an altitude of 4,200 m, a magnificent
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 - Fiambalá
After following a snaking road along the beautiful Cuesta de Miranda,
through 500-meters-tall red rock walls dotted with cactus, we
arrive in Chilecito, where Station 2 of the cableway La Mejicana
is worth a stop. Constructed in 1903 by the German company Bleichert
and Co. to transport gold and other metal extracted from a mine
in Cerro Famatina, at an altitude of 4,600 m, in its time it was
the longest and highest cable railway of the world, stretching
up for 34 km. Passing by olive groves and vineyards we enter the
province of Catamarca, sighting age-old adobe houses and churches
as part of the attractive Adobe Route. After arriving in 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 4 | Balcony Mount Pissis | Green Lagoon
Spectacular 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 unfolds a breathtaking view 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. Doubling back down we return to Fiambalá, where
we overnight in the hostería again.
DAY 5 | Fiambalá - Pumice Stone Field - Antofagasta
de la Sierra
An exciting journey of incomparable backdrops and adventurous
off road passages: A path meandering along a riverbed in a scenic
gorge, a steep road zigzagging up a mountainside with fantastic
vistas, and an almost invisible track crossing a sea of sand and
white-grey looming dunes. Immersed 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), a green oasis sitting in an expansive
and arid plain dotted with black volcanoes and lava-flows, we
spend the night in a roomy guesthouse.
DAY 6 | AdlSierra - Antofalla|Arizaro - Tolar Grande
On yet another captivating journey we drive along a solitary road
snaking up through colourful elevations and crossing a pass at
4,500 m altitude. It offers a magnificent overlooking view of
Salar Antofalla, the longest salt flat of the world (160 km),
and leads to the green settlement of Antofalla. Hemmed in by red,
blue and grey mountains, this tiny villa lies at the foot of the
huge namesake volcano (6,409 masl). We continue on and enter Salta
Province, reaching and traversing for about 80 km the largest
salt flat in Argentina, Salar de Arizaro, framing a looming sharp
cone named Cono de Arita. We arrive in Tolar Grande (3,500 m),
a small village surrounded by stunning nature, and spend the night
in a cosy hosteria.
DAY 7 | 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 Andean high plateau, called Puna in Argentina,
until reaching San Antonio de los Cobres (3,775 m), the 'gate'
to the Puna. Not far from here we next head down the long curving
mountains and impressive 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 ruins of Santa Rosa de Tastil, an
enormous pre-columbian site, superbly set on a hillside with overlooking
views. Arrival in Salta and end of trip.