The area around Salta represents the 10% of Argentina but encompasses half of the history of the country. From the Incas, and other local cultures - which are characterized by the excellent adaptation to the highlands-; to the Spanish domain (this region holds the most ancient traces of Spanish heritage) and Independence days - which had a strong imprint on the culture and lifestyle of the people living in the area.
One of the most fascinating aspects of a visit to the Northwest area is the chance to mingle with the native population, some of the friendliest people on Earth. Since the rigorous climate up the mountains has discouraged permanent settlements, the local inhabitants preserve practically intact their ancient customs and traditions. Their polychromatic dresses, their expressive artwork and handicrafts, their music, their colorful markets and street fairs and delicious gastronomy are eloquent expressions of the soul of these people and their love for PACHAMAMA (Mother Earth). Some of the most spectacular geological formations on Earth are to be found in the impressive landscapes, which encompass the northwestern Argentine provinces. Not only we include this gorgeous formations but also most of the most amazing deserts and high altitude lakes (comparable - and sometimes superior to some extent- to Atacama and Uyuni).
Here are some sample itineraries to entice you, though we can customize something to suit your interests:
Salta Area With Group Day Tours
Here is a sample itinerary, using group day tours. We can make it shorter if you don't want to do all of the tours. If you want private tours, we can overnight in some of the small towns so you don't have to go back to Salta each night.
DAY 01. SALTA
Arrival in Salta. Meet and greet at the airport and transfer to the hotel.
Optional afternoon group walking tour at extra cost of US$34 per person, with minimum of 2 people
DAY 02 - Full Day CACHI 285 km
Southwest drive through the spectacular Cuesta del Obispo, climbing to more than 3000 m. and the Recta del Tin Tin, with the unforgettable landscape of giant cardon cacti and the snow-capped Andes. Visit the ancient town of Cachi, with its old chapel and archaeology museum - one of the best of its kind in Argentina.
We head south from Salta city skirting the rust-colored tobacco fields at the city's edge before heading west on RP 33 the gravel road that journeys through the parched Quebrada de Escoipe (Escoipe canyon). At the canyon's end the landscape changes abruptly as the Cuesta del Obispo (Obispo Pas) and the Valle Encantado (Enchanted valley) both huge, verdantly green valleys come into view. As the road climbs the mountains that overlook the valleys, condors can be easily seen gliding overhead.
Doubling back and forth as it ascends, the road eventually climbs to about 12,000 feet. The terrain is stark. The mountainsides are mostly a dry baked brown. Cattle, sheep and llama graze for what little vegetation they can find on the lower and middle slopes. Eagles and condors soar above the peaks.
At 3620 m (11874 ft) above sea level, the trail levels off at La Piedra del Molino, and we find the access to the beautiful PN Los Cardones, a national park populated by thousands of huge cardon cacti. The park is also crisscrossed by myriad stone trails constructed by colonizing Inca forces in the 15th century.
The small village of Cachi (2300m / 7544 ft) is located within a short distance form the park western border and is the area's main attraction. It is tiny, but a good place to rest. Cachi's restored colonial church is a national historic monument. The museum of local archeology has a collection of native artifacts of the Andean region.
DAY 03 - Full Day CAFAYATE 368 km Home of the Wines in Salta
Full day expedition to Cafayate, home to the only true native varietal Argentine wine - the Torrontes - of fruity and sweet flavor. Visit to the wineries with opportunities to sample the exquisite and unique local wines. The drive to Cafayate passes by some impressive geological formations produced by erosion on the colorful sedimentation of sandstone over the past 60 million years.
The first 30 miles or so go along a tree-lined two-lane road, passing through tranquil villages with buildings of deep red earth. Then the trees start to be scarce and the mountains can be seen in the distance.
In the Quebrada de Cafayate (Cafayate Ravine), the cliffs and crags come in every color: brick red, pale orange, yellow, white, green, slate blue and rich purple.
Cafayate is the most important city in the Calchaqui valleys, but it is also a tiny paradise for wine lovers looking for a tranquil hideaway. It is also home to some of the world's highest vineyards (1750m / 5740 ft) featuring grape varieties such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon and the local's specialty - The Torrontes. This Spanish grape, white wine of fruity but dry and distinctive flavor, has found its perfect terroir which makes this wine absolutely unique.
The first Torrontes wines were planted in 1850 on the La Florida vineyard which was owned by the Etchart Bodega. Nowadays it has passed into the hands of Pernod Ricard, the famous wine and Spirit Company.
Another wineries to be visited are El Esteco, host of the amazing Patios de Cafayate Hotel and the winery Finca Las Nubes, home to the Jose Luis Munier wines. This is an idyllic hillside spot 5 km from Cafayate. The winery is framed by a backdrop of steep, rising mountains covered in cacti that stand like sentinels on the hillside.
DAY 04 - Full Day HUMAHUACA CANYON 380 km
Full day expedition enjoying the multicolored landscape of the Humahuaca canyon, the peaceful villages, old chapels, native markets, small museums, and the remains of an ancient pre-Inca fortified town. Humahuaca, Uquia, Tilcara, Maimara and Purmamarca will be some of the fascinating stops during our day. The Quebrada de Humahuaca, an Andean gorge of rust-colored mountains and ancient settlements is one of Argentina's most distinctively South American Natural experiences. Purmamarca, is the base town from where to explore the amazing Cerro de los Siete Colores. This polychromatic mountain (considered an artist's palette of colors) is best seen from a hill on the edge of the village, and is a backdrop of this enchanted village where you will be able to enjoy the most interesting purchases in the local market.
The red streets and easy access makes Tilcara the favorite of all visitors. Within walking distance (a short trek outside town) is the Pucará, a restored pre-Columbian fort which offers spectacular views. The access fee (to be paid locally) includes the access to the Museo Arqueologico which houses an excellent and diverse collection of artifacts as well as offering insight into native cultural beliefs.
Humahuaca with its narrow shaded streets of adobe houses is a picturesque village worth of visiting. Visits to the local church and the Town Hall famous for its clock tower where a mechanical San Francisco Solano gives a daily blessing at noon.
A visit to the Museo Arqueologico should not be missed. Guided by Don Sixto or his son, the Museo pictures the lives of the "coyas", the local inhabitants, their traditions and celebrations, their everyday life, their houses, in a simple yet interesting way. (Entrance fee to be paid locally).
DAY 05. SALTA - depart
Transfer to the airport to fly to next destination
Price per person in US$ through April 2017: (with group tours)
Note: If only 1 person is on a group tour, price will be higher.
Price per person in US$ through April 2017: (with private tours)