- See the highlights of Buenos Aires on a self-guided city tour
- Tour Salta's colonial center and ride a cable car up to viewpoints
- Explore the painted mountains of the Quebrada de Humahuaca
- Visit the salt flats and lagoons of the rugged Puna de Atacama
- Go wine tasting and tour the cactus forests of Los Cardones
|Arrive in Buenos Aires, Optional Activities
|Fly to Salta, Optional Activities
|Drive to Tilcara, Visit Pucará de Tilcara
|Explore the Quebrada de Humahuaca
|Salinas Grandes, Drive to San Antonio de los Cobres
|San Antonio de Los Cobres
|Drive to Tolar Grande, Optional Activities
|Explore Salt Flats & Ghost Towns
|Drive to Antofalla, Cono de Arita & Salt Flats
|Drive to El Peñon, Antofagasta de la Sierra
|Explore Piedra Pomez & Carachi Pampa
|Drive to Cafayate, Visit Quilmes Ruins
|Wine Tour & Quebrada de las Conchas
|Los Cardones National Park, Drive to Salta
|Fly to Buenos Aires & Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires, Optional Activities
Welcome to Argentina! This South American nation is world-famous for its unspoiled natural wonders, particularly in the southern Patagonia region. However, this two-week journey focuses on the highlights of the country's north, of which there are many. You'll arrive in the capital of Buenos Aires, and at the terminal, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city. After checking in and unwinding, you can venture out and explore on a self-guided tour.
Start in Centro (downtown) at the famous Obelisco monument, which sits in the middle of Avenue 9 de Julio. Boasting a whopping 16 lanes, this is the world's widest city street. From there, you can walk to the Teatro Colón, one of South America's premier opera houses. The Colon's neoclassical facade has been the face of one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.
Continue east and you'll arrive in Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Nearby is the pink-hued Presidential Palace known as the Casa Rosada, while farther south, you'll wind up on the cobbled streets of San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. If you like, head across town to Palermo, another historic enclave known for its expansive public parks, which are some of the most beautiful in the world. This trendy area is also a great place to dine like a local at a parilla (steakhouse), where you can tuck into a thick, juicy steak drizzled with chimichurri sauce.
Day 2: Fly to Salta, Optional Activities
A driver will pick you up in the morning and transfer you to the airport for the two-hour flight north to Salta. Officially founded in 1582, this northern metropolis has a well-preserved colonial center defined by landmarks like the 19th-century Salta Cathedral, which overlooks Plaza 9 de Julio, the main square. Upon arrival at the airport, pick up your rental car and continue to your hotel in the city.
Take the rest of the day to settle in and enjoy the city. Easy to explore on foot, Salta's historic downtown is lined with gorgeous neoclassical buildings, lively cafés, and bars teeming with a young crowd. You can also head to the city's eastern edge and ride the cable car eight minutes to the top of Cerro San Bernardo. The panoramic views atop this 853-foot (260 m) hill are the best in the city.
Day 3: Drive to Tilcara, Visit Pucará de Tilcara
Time to hit the road! After breakfast, you'll hop in the car and travel north from Salta for about three hours to the town of Tilcara. It's a scenic drive that will take you along valley roads into the neighboring Jujuy province. Upon arrival in town, you'll visit the pre-Inca fortress ruins of Pucará de Tilcara, which date to the 12th century. This defensive fortification occupies a strategic spot on a hill that once afforded views of enemies approaching through the narrow mountain valley, Quebrada de Humahuaca.
After touring the site, you'll return to town and check into your hotel. Then you'll have the rest of the day free to explore Tilcara. Be sure to stop by its 17th-century church and local municipal market, where you can browse handicrafts, traditional clothing, woven fabrics, handmade jewelry, and more.
Day 4: Explore the Quebrada de Humahuaca
Spend the day touring the famous Quebrada de Humahuaca by car. This narrow mountain valley is famous for its dramatic rock formations, multi-colored hills, and Indigenous Quechua towns. You'll visit some of these villages and experience a more traditional way of life. The residents in these rural communities still raise sheep and crops the same way did over 100 years ago. After meeting with locals, you'll learn about such farming methods, plus tour ancient irrigation ditches built by their ancestors.
Highlights include a stop at Uquía, a quiet, dusty town renowned for its 17th-century church, which features portraits that mix religious scenes with those depicting Spanish conquest and Indigenous culture. In the afternoon, you'll visit the village of Humahuaca, whose impressive whitewashed church dates to 1641 and mixes Andean, Spanish colonial, and Indigenous architectural styles. From there, continue to Hornocal, a mountain whose mineral deposits have imbued it with a mosaic of hues, resulting in its nickname, "The Hill of the 14 Colors." Later afternoon, you'll return to Tilcara, where you'll overnight.
Day 5: Salinas Grandes, Drive to San Antonio de los Cobres
In the morning, you'll drive about 30 minutes south of Tilcara to the charming town of Purmamarca. Lined with carob trees and adobe houses, the town sits at the foot of another multi-hued mountain, the famous Cerro de Los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors). You'll have plenty of time here to snap photos of the mountain and take a leisurely stroll around town.
Afterward, you'll leave Purmamarca and continue driving along the Cuesta de Lipan, a spectacular tract of winding mountain road, to Salinas Grandes. This large salt plain lies high in the Puna de Atacama (arid high plateau) and spans a whopping 1,236 square miles (3,200 sq km). Once a lake, the flat comprises a salt crust 1.5 feet (.5 m) thick. On a tour, you'll learn how salt is extracted while enjoying panoramic views of the snowcapped Nevado de Chañi mountain. Afterward, you'll drive a couple of hours south to the small town of San Antonio de los Cobres, where you'll overnight.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Drive to Tolar Grande, Optional Activities
Continue the road trip in the morning as you leave San Antonio de Los Cobres on a drive that will take you past otherworldly red rock formations before reaching the vast and rugged Puna de Atacama. Your destination is Tolar Grande, a small rural village and the last inhabited town before you reach the western border with Chile. Here, you'll check into your accommodation and can spend the rest of the day exploring the area's deserts, salt flats, and volcanoes.
Day 7: Explore Salt Flats & Ghost Towns
Head out in the morning on a day trip to some of the most incredible landmarks and landscapes in the Puna. First, you'll travel across Salar de Arizaro, a vast salt flat near the border with Chile that spans an impressive 617 square miles (1,600 sq km). Then drive to Mina Casualidad, a ghost town sitting at 16,404 feet (5000 m) above sea level. Once a hub for extracting sulfur, the mine was closed in 1978, and the town was abandoned. Take some time to explore Mina Casualidad and enjoy the eerie tranquility as you visit its derelict buildings. Afterward, you'll return to Tolar Grande.
Day 8: Drive to Antofalla, Cono de Arita & Salt Flats
You're in for a treat, as this morning, you'll drive about four house south to Antofalla, one of the most mesmerizing regions of the Puna. The area features stunning mountain ranges, vast salt flats, and volcanic formations. One such highlight is the Cono de Arita, a volcanic pyramid that rises from the middle of the plains and is one of northern Argentina's most unique and awe-inspiring landmarks.
Then drive through the dramatic Campo Amarillo mountain region to the Salar de Antofalla. This large salt flat sits at an altitude of 11,483 feet (3,500 m) and covers an area of about 193 square miles (500 sq km). Adjacent to the flat is the isolated town of Antofalla, home to only about 40 people. Here you'll enjoy the unique experience of overnighting with a local family in this remote locale.
Day 9: Drive to El Peñon, Antofagasta de la Sierra
Leave after breakfast on a 3.5-hour drive south to El Peñon, a small highland village in Catamarca province surrounded by expansive valleys and towering peaks. On the way there, you'll stop to enjoy the views at Antofagasta de la Sierra, a green oasis nestled among the arid plain of the Puna at 11,286 feet (3,440 m) and surrounded by black volcanoes. From there, continue driving to El Peñón, where you'll overnight.
Day 10: Explore Piedra Pomez & Carachi Pampa
Make El Peñon your base as you explore highlight landmarks in the surrounding region. First, you'll visit Piedra Pomez (the Pumice Stone Field), a dazzling landscape with giant white volcanic rocks. Then travel to the Carachi Pampa, a unique volcano whose jet-black coloring was produced by basalt spilling. Nearby is a lagoon where you can spot pink flamingoes wading in the water. In the afternoon, you'll return to El Peñón to spend your last night in the Puna.
Day 11: Drive to Cafayate, Visit Quilmes Ruins
After a leisurely breakfast, you'll leave the mystical Puna and set off on an epic, six-hour drive through awe-inspiring landscapes, including snowcapped peaks, volcanoes, salt flats, and giant dunes. You'll also drive over Cuesta de Randolfo, a high mountain pass ranging from 5,900 feet (1,800 m) to 6,600 feet (2,000 m). As you descend from the pass, the topography will change to cacti-dotted deserts as you follow a road leading to the 12th-century Ruinas de Quilmes. Covering 74 acres (30 ha), this is the largest pre-Columbian settlement in Argentina.
After touring the ruins, you'll continue north to Cafayate. This popular tourist town is nestled in the Calchaquí Valley of Salta province, which is renowned for its red rock formations and many vineyards. In fact, this is the premier wine-growing region of northern Argentina, famous for producing the torrontés varietal, a refreshing and aromatic white wine. Upon arrival, you'll check into your accommodation and will have the rest of the day free.
Day 12: Wine Tour & Quebrada de las Conchas
After a leisurely morning, travel to a few of the area's wineries, such as El Porvenir, El Esteco, and San Pedro de Yacochuya, and enjoy a tasting session at each one. It's a great chance not only to taste delicious wines, like torrontés, but you'll also learn about the terroir. This includes strolling through the region's high-altitude vineyards, which sit between 5,200-9,800 feet (1,600-3,000 m) above sea level.
In the afternoon, take a drive through the Quebrada de las Conchas, a deep valley of red canyons characterized by intense colors and spectacular geological formations. You'll stop at unique rock formations here, like the Amphitheater, nicknamed for its outstanding natural acoustics. At the end of the day, you'll return to Cafayate.
Day 13: Los Cardones National Park, Drive to Salta
Today, you'll leave Cafayate and drive north for a few hours to Los Cardones National Park. This 251-square-mile (650 sq km) protected area is famous for its giant cacti that grow abundantly at this altitude, which ranges from 3,937 feet (1,200 m) to 16,404 feet (5,000 m). The route you'll drive follows along the Cuesta del Obispo, a road that snakes up a scenic mountain slope carpeted with lush vegetation. In this area, you'll likely spot plenty of native wildlife, including vicuñas, mountain cats, and falcons.
You'll also stop off at Valle Encantado (the Enchanted Valley). Here, you can take a short nature hike to enjoy the mountain scenery and unique rock formations. Afterward, you'll continue driving a couple of hours north back to Salta, where you'll check into your hotel and can spend the evening relaxing.
Day 14: Fly to Buenos Aires & Depart
And just like that, your two-week sojourn in northern Argentina has concluded. Enjoy one last breakfast in Salta, after which you'll transfer to the airport for the flight back to Buenos Aires, where you'll catch your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!
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