It’s time to tell you about our favorite spot in Argentina – the Northwest region, mostly overlooked but very impressive .We actually went to a travel agent in Buenos Aires for advices on what would be the ideal circuit for a 15 days span. She advised us to spend a week in the Northwest and then fly to Patagonia for another week. We had to decide quick as flights and accomodations were getting full due to Carnival celebrations. We didn’t initially plan to go up North but it was totally worth it and it shows again that spontaneous decisions are often the best!
We took a flight (+/- 300 € per person) from Buenos Aires to Salta and rented a car (60€/ day) upon arrival at the airport – that’s the great thing when you are 3 persons (our friend Nadège travelled with us during the whole time in Argentina), you can afford expenses you’d usually avoid. The flights were expensive but not much more than buses and saved us a huge deal of time.
After spending a night in Salta we made our way up North, heading towards the Quebrada de Humahuaca. The roads lead us from lush green forests, through the mountains and to red, yellow and pink rocks in the desert. Just the trip itself is already absolutely stunning and the New Zealand roads, that I always described as very scenic, got some serious competition here!
After marvelling at the coloured hills and stopping numerous times for pictures, our place for the night was the village of Humahuaca. And what a great decision!
We had the perfect timing! We had the chance to be there on one of the final days of Carnival celebrations and got to spend the evening with the locals. It was absolutely craaaazy, the whole village and lots of Argentinian tourists were out partying, throwing talc and foam at each other, drinking, dancing and singing. From small children to elderly people, everybody was out having a great time. The people were incredibly nice to us, trying to communicate and teaching us some spanish and even sharing their drinks with us. We ended up drenched in foam and talc but it was such a great evening!
The next day we wanted to go to a place called Hornacal, 9 km and 40 minutes(!) drive from Humahuaca, it offers stunning views over the famous “14 (or 21) colours hills” but unfortunately we had to make a u-turn as the weather was bad, the roads were barely practicable and the visibility was very poor. A pity but the landscape we’ve seen along the way was still picturesque. Anyway, one can’t always be lucky with the weather 😉. Ask locals for directions to Hornacal they will be happy to assist.
On the same day we visited the Salinas Grandes, a stunning salt flat which we actually prefered to the famous Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia. On this period of the year the salt is not totally white, due to its mineral origin it features reddish-brownish tones. There’s also a thin layer of water over the salt. This gives a wonderful reflection effect. The perfect playground for great snapshots! Be aware that the route 52 leading to the Salinas is another very scenic route and you will make numerous stops on the way.
We spent the third night in Jujuy, the region capital, there’s not a lot to see except the main square but it’s a convinient stop along the way with quite a few hostels to chose from and shops to buy supplies.
The next day we headed to Cachi, some 160 km South-West of Salta. Another scenic drive (3-4 hours) which requires some attention and careful driving. Cachi is a very cute Quechuan village, rather small but you can easily spend an afternoon strolling around doing some souvenir shopping (which is much cheaper here than for example in Patagonia). Cachi also has some nice bars and restaurants to enjoy the nice regional wine and a tasty Argentinian meal.
The drive the next day would again be an epic one – along the Ruta 40 to Cafayate, one of Argentina’s wine capitals.
The Ruta 40 is the longest road in Argentina (from North to South) and one of the longest in the world, more than 5000km! We only had to drive 160 kms to reach Cafayate but most parts were gravel road… it’s slow, dusty, tricky but the landscape makes up for the bumpy driving. Here again drive slow and be alert, this is actually one of the roads used for the Dakar rally race, so the video below is hyperlapsed, we drove on an average speed of 40k/hour.
In Cafayate we spent a great evening doing different wine tastings in the Bodegas, buying a 3l bottle of Malbec first pressed wine and drinking it with an Argentinian guy we met at one of the Bodega.
On our way back to Salta we stopped at more amazing sites such as the ‘Anfiteatro’ you can see below. Unfortunately my belly hadn’t agreed with the gnocchi the night prior so I spent most of the day sleeping in the car 😣.
After a last evening and night (Posada Casa de Borgona) and juicy steak in Salta we took a flight to Patagonia (300€ pp) the next morning.
We totally enjoyed our week in the Northwest, this region of Argentina is often overlooked and visitors prefer to go to the Igazu falls, Mendoza or Barriloche before heading to Patagonia or Ushuaia… If you get the chance to go visit Argentina I highly recommend you to head to the Northwest and to self drive your way through it. It’s magic, you won’t regret it!
Looking forward to tell you more on our Patagonian adventures soon (good internet is quite scarce but hopefully I’ll catch up soon 😉 )