If you're looking to do a deep-dive into northwestern Argentina, this trek gives you access to a gorgeous region of towering mountains and deep valleys, and the chance to immerse yourself in high-altitude communities that can only be reached on foot. With no one major site to work up to but rather a full ten days of extraordinary places, on this trip, the journey really is the destination.

Highlights

  • Explore Salinas Grandes, one of the continent's largest salt flats
  • See archaeological ruins in Salta, Rosa de Tastil and Pucará de Tilcara,
  • Conquer high mountains like Alfacito, Campo Lagune, and Cumbre Grande
  • Explore high-altitude villages like Tilcara, Molulo and San Francisco
  • See the seven colors of the Cerro de Los Siete Colores

Overview

If you're looking to take in some truly stunning scenery, there's nothing like the region of Salta, which offers dry deserts, lush valleys, broad salt flats, towering mountains and gushing waterfalls, as well as a chance to stay in several high-altitude villages that have barely been touched by time.

Beginning and ending in the city of Salta, where archaeological ruins and museums are worth a trip all on their own, this tour will take you across the Salinas Grandes salt flats, through mountain passes like Paso de Jama and Abra del Potrero, and into villages like Tilcara and Molulo. You'll marvel at the colorful rock layers of the Cerro de Los Siete Colores and the thundering waterfall of Garganta del Diablo, and spend several nights camping under the stars, right at the center of this incredibly diverse, vibrant region.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires - Flight to Salta Salta
Day 3 San Antonio - Salinas Grandes Tilcara
Day 4 Devil’s Throat - Tilcara Tilcara
Day 5 Tilcara - Veranada de Yutos Pampa Semi
Day 6 Veranada de Yutos Pampa – Molulo Molulo
Day 7 Molulo - Abra del Potrero Abra del Potrero
Day 8 Abra Del Potrero - San Lucas San Lucas
Day 9 San Lucas - Calilegua – Salta Salta
Day 10 Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

Spend a day exploring the capital of Argentina 
Spend a day exploring the capital of Argentina 

Welcome to Argentina! Renowned as the "Paris of South America," and the "Queen of El Plata," the capital city of Buenos Aires is defined by passion. This is exemplified in the rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), which is far and away the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will be waiting to take you in a private car to your hotel where you can relax after a long flight. But make no mistake: the city will beckon you. So after a quick recharge, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The best starting point would be the city center.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the most famous icon of the city. This obelisk (which even Argentines admit is a little too reminiscent of the Washington Monument) is worth a visit for its location alone. It sits right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, which boasts a whopping 16 lanes, making it the widest city street in the world.

  • Stop by the Teatro Colon, one of South America's premier opera houses. The horseshoe-shaped gallery features 2,487 seats and incredible acoustics. Even if you plan on taking a tour or catching a show here on another day, it's always breathtaking to pass by its exterior. The Colon's neoclassical facade has been the face of one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.

  • Stroll Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Puerto Madero may be the "new money" finance center of Buenos Aires, but it's also one of the most pleasant pedestrian areas in a city famous for its paths. A romantic stroll involves walking over the canal on the Puente de Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset. 

  • Dine at an Argentine steakhouse or parilla. When night falls and dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and enjoy a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with the nation's famous chimichurri (a garlic, herb, and vinegar sauce). Know that Buenos Aires is a culture that thrives after dark, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends. 

Day 2: Buenos Aires - Flight to Salta 

Salta, Argentina
Salta's pink cathedral

After breakfast in Buenos Aires, transfer to the airport to board your flight to Salta, one of Argentina's most impressive Spanish colonial cities. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted at the airport and transferred to your hotel. 

Take the rest of the day to get settled in and enjoy the town. Easy to explore on foot, the city's compact colonial center is lined with gorgeous Neo-classical buildings, lively cafes, and bars teeming with a young and trendy crowd. In the afternoon, you might consider taking the cable car up Cerro San Bernardo to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of the city and beyond.

You can also visit the city’s pink Cathedral of Salta, consecrated in 1878, as well as the striking mauve and yellow Church of San Francisco. Other sites include the Baroque Town Hall building, and MAAM, the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, which sheds light on important archaeological discoveries in the Andes.

If time allows, stop at the Historical Museum of the North, which displays items on indigenous culture as well as pieces dating back from the colonial period.

Not to be missed is a stroll around the craft market, where you can buy traditional products, from rugs to pottery.

Day 3: San Antonio de los Cobres y Salinas Grandes

Frolicking on the vast white expanse of the Salinas Grandes
Frolicking on the vast white expanse of the Salinas Grandes

Today, you'll journey to the town of Campo Quijano and through the stunning Quebrada del Toro, marveling at wide-open vistas, rocky gorges and dense forest along the way until you reach the pre-Hispanic city of Rosa de Tastil with its legendary ruins. You'll continue on to San Antonio de los Cobres, a typical high-altitude town 13,123 feet above sea level.

After you've caught your breath and enjoyed the scenery, you'll clamber through the mountain pass known as Paso de Jama, stopping to appreciate the immense Salinas Grandes, one of the continent's largest salt flats. Descending the Lipan slope, you’ll make a stop at the town of Pumamarca and its famous Cerro de Los Siete Colores (or Hill of the Seven Colors), where seven different rock types in seven different colors create a stunningly vibrant display. Once you've sufficiently taken in the day's many wonders, put up your feet and relax at your lodge in the picturesque town of Tilcara.

Day 4: Devil’s Throat to Tilcara

Tilcara
The pre-Inca Pucará de Tilcara archaeological site

Wake up in Tilcara and take the morning to get acquainted with your surroundings. Two squares — La Plaza Grande and La Plaza Chica — anchor a town known for its archaeological remains, including the magnificent Pucará de Tilcara, a colorful market, and a grand white adobe church. In the afternoon you'll take a quick and easy jaunt over to the Garganta del Diablo (or Devil's Throat), a thundering waterfall set against the red rocks of a canyon. To get there, you'll follow the paths hewn by the Kolla people, an indigenous community who traversed these lands long before the Spanish arrived. After three to four hours admiring the amazing landscape, you'll head back for your second night in Tilcara.

Day 5: Tilcara to Veranada de Yutos Pampa

Campo Laguna on the descent to Yutos Pampa
Campo Laguna on the descent to Yutos Pampa

Get an early start and be prepared — you've got a full day of hiking ahead of you. Today you'll conquer two peaks, taking time to acclimatize to the high altitude. First up is Alfacito (9,500 feet above sea level), which offers a slow ascent that allows you to get used to the thin air. Second and even more impressive is Campo Laguna (13,780 feet above sea level), the highest point of today's crossing. After a relaxing lunch, you'll take your time to descend to Yutos Pampa (10,500 feet above sea level). Your home for the night will be a picturesque camping spot.

Day 6: Veranada de Yutos Pampa to Molulo

Taking a breather on the way to Molulo
Taking a breather on the way to Molulo

Today it's onwards and upwards, as you continue your hike to the top of Mount Cumbre Grande, from where you'll be able to look down into a lush valley lush full of densely packed forest. By afternoon you'll reach Molulo, a town 9,680 feet up, where you'll spend the night.

Hiking duration: 6-7 hours

Day 7: Molulo to Abra del Potrero

You'll wake up in Molulo and enjoy a tranquil morning, meeting the locals and learning about how they live in this fascinating, high-altitude area. Take lunchtime as a chance to get energized, since you'll be continuing your trek in the afternoon, towards Abra del Potrero, a high mountain pass between Cerros Colorados and Loma Larga, with lush vegetation. Tonight you'll camp in the mountains, surrounded by the natural scenery you've just conquered over the last half-day.

Hiking duration: 4-5 hours

Day 8: Abra del Potrero to San Lucas

Lush vegetation on the trail
Lush vegetation on the trail

Today, you'll follow the Abra del Potrero mountain pass until thick forest gives way to a wide open, red landscape with sparse trees. This is the route towards the top of San Lucas (8,200 feet above sea level), which you will take the day to climb up and then descend, reaching the town by evening, where you will stay for the night.

Hiking duration: 7-8 hours

Day 9: San Lucas via Calilegua to Salta

Calilegua National Park
Calilegua National Park

On your last full day of trekking, you'll cross from San Lucas to San Francisco. As you forge a path through the deep valley carved by the San Lucas river, you'll see dense vegetation. After crossing Valle Grande, you'll hike up to Peña Alta, where a monumental vista awaits you as your reward for a successful trek. From there, a transfer will take you through the small town of San Francisco and Calilegua National Park to the village of Libertador General San Martín, named after an Argentinean national hero. From there, you'll return to the city of Salta, where you can enjoy a warm bed, a roof over your head, and a celebratory meal to mark the end of your trip.

Hiking duration: 5-6 hours

Day 10: Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure 

One last look at Buenos Aires from the air
One last look at Buenos Aires from the air

After breakfast, bid farewell to the city of Salta and transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the international terminal for your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Trekking Argentina's Salta Region - 10 Days
Map of Trekking Argentina's Salta Region - 10 Days