1 | La Rioja - Fiambalá
Departing from La Rioja we head northwards on paved roads. Passing
by olive groves and vineyards we enter the province of Catamarca,
continuing through age-old adobe houses and churches as part of
the attractive Adobe Route. After arriving in Fiambalá
(1,570 masl) we can visit its invigorating thermal waters, which
come down from the mountain to plunge into natural pools set between
high granite walls. Overnight accommodation in a comfortable hostería.
DAY 2 | Balcony Mount Pissis | Green Lagoon
Spectacular and demanding drive off the beaten track,
steadily snaking 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. Doubling back down we return
to Fiambalá, where we overnight in the hostería
DAY 3 | Fiambalá - Pumice Stone Field - Antofagasta
de la Sierra
An exciting journey of magnificent settings 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 an ocean 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 4 | Crater Galán Volcano
Yet another challenging off road adventure 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 skirted by a white salted shore and a remarkable mountain
scenery. 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 5 | AdlSierra - Salar Hombre Muerto - Antofalla
North of Antofagasta a detour brings us to 4,000 m altitude, where
high red cliff walls feature rock paintings of an indigenous past.
Heading back down and after another stretch through the quite
extreme nature of the Andean Puna, we approach the gleaming Salar
del Hombre Muerto (Dead Man's salt flat), the second largest salt
desert in Argentina. At its shore we take a look around the isolated,
abandoned gold mine Incahuasi, and continue our way, back and
over the mountains until reaching the striking viewpoint of Salar
Antofalla, at 4,400 masl. Here the path zigzags down and we traverse
the salt flat to arrive at the remote hamlet of Antofalla (3,500
masl), lying at the foot of the huge namesake volcano (6.409 masl).
Simple accommodation in cosy lodging.
DAY 6 | Antofalla - Arizaro|Antofalla - Antofagasta de
In the morning, a roundtrip northwards takes us to the largest
salt flat in Argentina, Salar de Arizaro, framing a looming sharp
cone named Cono de Arita, and back along the northern shore of
Salar Antofalla through an otherworldly landscape featuring grey,
red and blue mountains. In the afternoon, we drive on more lonely
tracks along Salar Antofalla to the south, discovering some 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. After traversing the salar the road climbs up to 4,400 m
and brings us through the impressive Quebrada del Diablo (Devil's
Gorge). In a two more hours drive we will be reaching Antofagasta
de la Sierra, and spending the night in the Hostería.
DAY 7 | AdlSierra - Belén - La Rioja
Driving south we gradually leave the volcanic environment, enjoying
gorgeous panoramas of Andean giants, gleaming salt pans and huge
sand dunes while descending along Cuesta de Randolfo. From the
peaceful valley of Belén we rapidly reach the city of La
Rioja. End of tour.