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The idea of this trip is to include remarkable destinations of Northern Argentina, that are not so popular/famous among travelers. These attractions are distributed across the whole region, but we would like to make special focus on the province of Catamarca, which gathers an incredible variety of contrasts and beautiful landscapes. Likewise, Tolar Grande and Arizaro will surprise you in Salta, and Laguna Brava in La Rioja.
We’re also including famous sites such as Talampaya, Valle de la Luna, and some of the classics of Salta and Jujuy. Quebrada de Humahuaca, Purmamarca (7 Colors Hill), El Hornocal, Cachi, Salta city and Cafayate, are part of this itinerary as well.
This is a flexible, personalized tour, that can be adapted to your needs and preferences. Furthermore, you can do it guided or self drive.
This is an overland tour with a guide-driver that accompanies you during your experience. As we offer customized tours, we can also help you to do this trip self-guided, or to combine self-drive with guided experiences. We would love to hear about your travel ideas, and to start planning a beautiful journey for you!
Arrival at the airport in La Rioja, where our guide will be waiting for you. Then, we’ll head toward Villa Union, a village located about 3 hours from the airport.
Laguna Brava (or Brava Lagoon) is a lagoon situated at 4200 meters above the sea level (in the High Plateau), 3.5 hours away from Villa Unión. The landscapes along the way change quite a bit, which makes it ideal to do some stops in places such as Quebrada de la Troya and Valle Pintado. Upon arrival at the lagoon, we’ll see the classic scenery that matches with the season of the year: if it’s in summer (rain season), we’ll see thousands of pink flamingos! If it’s autumn or winter, the “seismiles” (peaks of 6000 meters) covered with snow will also be amazing to see.
Return to Villa Unión.
Talampaya National Park was declared UNESCO site in 2000, and will be part of our excursion today. It’s about a red-color canyon with interesting archaeological and natural history.
The other highlight of the day, and one of the musts of the province of San Juan (right next to Talampaya, which is in the province of La Rioja), is Ischigualasto. Also known as the Moon Valley, this is a field full of rocks with different shapes, caused due to the erosion over the years. The “Cancha de Bochas” and the “sphynx” are super nice to see!
Futhermore, these sites are quite rich in dinosaur fossils, which makes it very interesting for Paleontological research.
Overnight in Villa Unión
After breakfast, we’ll head to Fiambalá (4.5 hours away), in the province of Catamarca. This province has lately become a “boom” for its natural (not-so-explored) beauty and ancient cultural heritage.
We’ll pass by Miranda’s Pass (Cuesta de Miranda), Nonogasta, Mina La Mexicana, Chilecito, and Famatina.
After driving for some kilometers along Routes 34 & 135, we’ll reach the Tatón Dunes. This endless “sea of dunes” has some of the biggest dunes in the world, including the dune called “Federico Kirbus”, with a height over 1200 meters!
Return to Fiambalá.
Catamarca has different geographic regions, from Yungas (jungle) to the typical High Plateau (Puna). One of the most beautiful natural sceneries is around “Balcon de Pissis”, in the high plateau. This is a panoramic view point in the heart of the Andes range, situated at 4550 meters above sea level. The view includes mountains, colorful lagoons, and the stunning landscapes of the Puna.
We shall drive quite a bit till reach (more than 100 km, including gravel roads). On the way, we’ll pass by Laguna Celeste, Laguna Negra, and some salt fields that produce an interesting contrast with the “green lagoon”.
We’ll see some of the “seismiles”, which is a consecution of very high peaks (6000 meters or more), such as Tres Cruces Hill, Monte Pissis, and Olmedo.
We also expect to see fauna from the Altiplano: Vicuñas, Guanacos, Condors, and suris.
Return to Fiambalá.
We continue our road trip for about 400 km until reaching El Peñón, where we’ll stay for the night. A good part of the way will be through the legendary route 40.
El Peñon will be our base to visit different attractions, such as the Carachi Pampa basin, at the foot of the Carachi Pampa Volcano. This volcano is surrounded by black-lava fields and a lagoon with the Andine and James Flamingos.
We’ll continue our excursion until reaching another highlight of Catamarca: “Campo de Piedra Pomez”. This is a field
With Pomez stones that were eroded in a way that the colors and the shapes produce an incredible view. The field was caused by a massive volcanic explosión, which ashes became then this curious type of rocks. The wind then was the natural artista that sculpt these rocks until gettin the curious shapes we can see today.
Return to El Peñon.
Again with the village El Peñon as our basecamp, we’ll get to know more attractions of Catamarca. We head first on the direction of Antofagasta de la Sierra (another village in the surroundings), until reaching the region “Real Grande” (4000 m.a.s.l.). There we can find interesting reminiscences of precolombines civilizations, reflected on different petroglyphs.
This is also the entry point to the “caldera” of the Mount Galan. Cerro Galan is one of the biggest volcanic calderas (cauldron-like hollow) in the world, and the largest in the Andes Range: 34 km from north to south, and 24 km from east to wast. The walls of the “Galan” reach 5000 m.a.s.l, the peak 5912, and the base is at 4.500.
The cauldron contains a lake known as “Laguna Diamante”, home to flamingos and ducks.
Another andine lake will also be part of our itinerary: Reserva Laguna Grande. This is a lake at very high altitude (4150 m). During winter the water freezes, but in spring time it becomes the largest meeting point of Flamingos in the Puna (High Plateau). These are the “Parina Chica (Phoenicopterus jamesi)”, with more than 19.000 birds. This is also home to the andine flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus) and the austral flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis).
Leaving Peñon behind, we’ll head toward the Calalaste valley, a great place to find wild camelids. At 4200 meters of altitude and with incredible views over the Antofalla Volcano (6400 mts), we find a green field called “Vega Colorada”, great place to spot llamas, suris (andine rhea), wild dunkies, and vicuñas.
Antofalla, Antofagasta, and Santa Rosa, are small villages that used to connect the Andes with the Atacama Oasis (when the shepherds carried the llamas through these posts). The Oasis is situated at the border of a huge salt flat surrounded by red mountains and lava stripes.
After visiting these spots, we’ll head to Arizaro’s Salt Flat (third largest in the world), and the small village of Tolar Grande.
Overnight in a homestay at Tolar Grande
We’ll use Tolar Grande as our basecamp, and visit today its surroundings. For instance, “Ojos de Mar” (sea eyes). These are blue wholes in the middle of a salt lake, where scientists discovered in 2009 a huge colony of living stramotalites.
Other attractions we may include are the viewpoints of Sagrada Montaña Macón & Volcán Llullaillaco (where mommies were found), Cono de Arita (probably the day before), Caipe old railway station, and Mine “La Casualidad”.
Overnight in Tolar Grande.
From Tolar Grande we’ll drive to “Desierto del Laberinto” (laberynth’s desert), which is a desert with fossilized dunes with incredible views. Then “Abra Chorrilos” will be on our way to San Antonio de los Cobres, well known village in Salta.
From now on, the trip will include more famous destinations, located in Salta and Jujuy provinces.
We’ll cross Salinas Grandes (Salt flat) and drive down the Lipán Slope, until reaching Purmamarca, at the feet of the 7 Colors Hill.
The Humahuaca’s Gorge has been declared UNESCO site, and we can find picturesque villages (such as Tilcara) and colorful mountains along the way.
We aim to include in our visit El Hornocal, which is a mountain plenty of colors!
Overnight in Purmamarca
After breakfast, transfer to Salta city, where we’ll stay for the rest for the day to relax and visit this beautiful place.
Another highlight of the North awaits: Cachi. Cachi is part of the “Calchaquí Valleys”, and to reach it, we’ll drive up the “Obispo” slope. This slope is a road that climbs up a cliff with incredible views.
We’ll drive then through Los Cardones National Park (full of cactus), until reaching Cachi, an ancient mountain village.
Overnight in Cachi.
After breakfast, we’ll connect Cachi with Cafayate (both in the Calchaqui Valley) through the famous Ruta 40. On the way, we’ll get amazed by the villages and landscapes around, including the famous Quebrada de las Flechas (a gorge with arrowed shaped rock formations).
Arrival in Cafayate, and check in in a wine lodge surrounded by vineyards. Cafayate is the wine region of the north, with the white wine as its specialité.
Free day to relax and enjoy in Cafayate! We suggest to visit some wineries and also the surroundings of the village.
We’ll return to Salta city, but through “De las Conchas” ravine (Quebrada de las Conchas), with famous rock formations such as “Anfiteatro” and “Garganta de Diablo”.
Overnight in Salta city.
Transfer to the airport, and end ouf our tour to the northwest of Argentina.
We invite you to see our Argentina Tours, where you can experience the true Argentine culture.
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