From the multicolored gorges of Cafayate to the Yunga cloud forest, and on to the salt flats of Jujuy, northern Argentina is an immensely diverse destination. This off-the-beaten-path region is great for hikers and bikers to get out and explore easygoing villages and gorgeous natural wonders while taking in some gaucho culture and enjoying superb local wines.

Fast Facts

  • The climate is extremely varied throughout the region. Pack layers of clothing for different conditions. 
  • Altitude also varies greatly throughout the provinces. Hydration is the best way to combat altitude sickness.
  • Rental cars are the most popular and convenient option for travel between cities. Guided tours are also possible. 
  • There are two, primarily domestic airports with direct flights from Buenos Aires. These include Salta Airport: Martín Miguel de Güemes International (SLA), and Jujuy Airport: Gobernador Horacio Guzmán International (JUJ).

Overview

This 9-Day itinerary takes you to Salta and Jujuy provinces of Argentina, a remote area where the highlights are the dramatic scenery of colorful cliffs, local hospitality, well-preserved colonial-era towns and visits to farms. Tour the area by car and do some activities along the way, including hiking, biking and horse riding. 

Due to its remote location and relatively few European immigrants, the indigenous cultures and traditions of Salta and Jujuy have maintained a prominent influence in the local culture. The locals of the region are known for their eagerness to share their hospitality and traditions. Whether you speak Spanish or not, they’re likely to strike up a conversation and tell you why the area they call home is the very best in all of Argentina. The area is also known for its excellent dry wines and perfectly prepared empanadas. Note that this itinerary passes through some high altitude country so take it easy when doing the activities mentioned below. 

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore the historic buildings of Salta

Catedral Basilica De Salta
Catedral Basilica De Salta

Salta is the capital city of Salta Province, and its central location makes it the perfect base for your trip. After getting settled into your accommodation for the night, head out to the main square, Plaza 9 de Julio, to experience the local vibe of the city and see the pink Catedral Basilica de Salta. If you’re interested in seeing more colorful churches, don’t miss the blue Iglesia De La Viña on Alberdi.

For great views of the city and some exercise, take a 45-minute hike to the top of Cerro San Bernardo. Alternatively, head out of town to Quebrada de San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Gorge) nature reserve for a short hike in the Junga cloud forest.

Days 2 & 3: Hiking and Mountain Biking near Purmamarca

Ruta 52 from Purmamarca to Salinas Grandes
Ruta 52 from Purmamarca to Salinas Grandes

Get an early start and travel to Purmamarca by car (2 hours 45 minutes). Head into town to see the local craftsmen’s market and then venture out to hike El Cerro De Siete Colores (The Hill of Seven Colors) before settling into your accommodation for the night. 

Use Day 3 to go mountain biking in Quebrada de Humahuaca (1-hour drive), or to explore the Salinas Grandes Salt Flats (2-hour drive).

Pro-Tip: Altitude sickness is common for visitors in this area, take your hikes and bikes rides at an easier-than-usual pace.   

Day 4: Experience gaucho life near Chicoana

Gaucho near Salta
Gaucho near Salta

Drive back towards Salta and continue past the city another 45 mins south to Chicoana. Here you can spend the night at a traditional finca (ranch). You’ll learn about the modern family life of gauchos while exploring the roads and trails used by the gauchos on horseback. Sleep at the finca, or do an overnight horseback riding and camping excursion in the surrounding mountains. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to be treated to a traditional asada (steak) feast at least once during your stay!

Days 5 & 6: Visit Historic Cachi

Quebrada De Las Flechas on Route 40
Quebrada De Las Flechas seen from Ruta 40

 

From Chicoana drive two hours west to Cachi. Use the day to explore the cobblestone streets lined with white adobe houses. If traveling between April and May, take a “Pepper Tour” to see the rows of vibrant red peppers being harvested for paprika. 

Use the next day to visit with a potter in San Carlos and learn about their craft, or hike and picnic through the Acsibi caves, or Quebrada de las Flechas for dramatic scenery truly unique to the area.

Days 7 & 8: Taste Torrontes Wine and Visit the Quilmes Ruins 

Bodega El Esteco Winery in Cafayate

The multicolored mountains and canyons of Cafayate lie 3 1/2 hours south of Cachi. However, the famous route 40 will do more than keep you entertained during your drive. Along the way seize the numerous opportunities to stretch your legs and take in the scenery.

After arriving in the city, take a stroll and do some souvenir shopping on the square, or head straight to a winery for empanadas and Torrontes wine. The dry climate that has created such spectacular scenery is also ideal for growing some of the best and most unique wine in the country. Torrontes is a rare white wine cultivated in the Valles Calchaquíe and made in a dry style.

Use Day 8 to head south and tour the Quilmes Ruins in Tucuman, or opt for hiking/biking in Quebrada de las Conchas (Canyon of Shells), a national park along Route 68. The Garganta Del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), The Amphitheater, and The Obelisk are just a few of the breathtaking canyons and rock formations to be seen along the way. 

Day 9: Museums and market visits in Salta

The main square of Salta
The main square of Salta

Heading North on Route 68, make your way back to Salta. Use your last day to check out the Archaeological Museum or the Artisanal Market for last minute poncho and maté souvenirs. Be sure to have one more empanada feast, and maybe catch a taxi up to Cerro San Bernardo to watch the sunset alongside the locals. 

Map

Map of Explore Northern Argentina - 9 Days
Map of Explore Northern Argentina - 9 Days