We hike a series of remote valleys and passes linked by ancient trails through original Andean cultures of Kola origin.
This is one of the top trekking tours available from Salta.
Everything bursts with colour in this region from the multi-coloured mountains to the shimmering lakes, with flamingoes and condors flying in the background against a clear blue sky.
Included is a visit to the famous Purmamarca – a Mountain of Seven Colours – plus the Salt Flats on the high plains of Lipan.
Our La Quiaca hike starts in the province of Salta, a dry and beautiful area full of vineyards and surrounded by vivid mountains.
Among these mountains are Humahuaca, Tilcara, Uquía and Purmamarca, all of which we visit.
Humahuaca is a bustling town packed with artisan shops, a dramatic town square and often live music in the streets, and where we start to acclimatise.
Next to Iruya, a quaint village perched on the edge of the Andes and the trek starting point.
From here, our remote and historical hiking route goes straight into the High Andes and the dramatic scenery that very few have seen.
Pumamarca's famous multi-coloured Rainbow Mountain.
Trek on ancient Inca trails to the heart of remote Andean communities.
Pass colourful valleys and walk alongside crystal clear, seasonal rivers.
Explore Salta and its wonderful wines, empanadas and asados (BBQs).
Picturesque campsites in the middle of nowhere to get you away from it all.
Professional, bilingual local guides bring the histories and present of this area to life.
The mountains appear to be from a different world, the colours, shapes and formations are beautiful and demand attention.
Some of the paths are fairly steep but the rewards of being in such wonderful surroundings are worth the effort.
T. Shearman, Salta area
We welcome you at the airport and transfer you to your accommodation in Salta. We have the rest of the day to enjoy the town, which is packed with charm.
The central plaza is surrounded by history and historical buildings and some of the finest churches in the region. The Cathedral’s Virgin Mary statue has an interesting history and is well worth a visit, as is relaxing in one of the cafés in the square.
Salta is also home to fine empanadas and good wines and it’s worth trying both in one of the many cafes, restaurants or bodegas.
Lodging at Hosteria, double or single.
We depart early on our way to Campo Quijano, going through the Quebrada Del Toro, and the finally arriving to the pre Hispanic city of Rosa de Tastil with its legendary ruins.
We are already above 3,000m/9,843ft as we start to acclimatise for the trek ahead.
Our trip continues to San Antonio de los Cobres, a typical town located at 4,000m/13,123ft above sea level. From here we go over the Paso de Jama to the high Puna where we stop and have a traditional lunch at a villager’s house. From here we head to the “Salinas Grandes”, or Salt Flats.
We then descend into Lipan and make a stop at the town of Pumamarca and its famous ‘Los Siete Colores’ – the Mountain of Seven Colours. Later we arrive to our lodge at the picturesque town of Tilcara.
After breakfast, we leave the hostal and head to the bus station to catch a public bus to the north.
It’s a scenic 3-4 hour journey over a high pass, with a classic Andean zig-zag descent to the small and picturesque town of Iruya. The houses and buildings here are entirely solar powered, a testament to the dry and sunny climate.
There is plenty of time to explore the town, which features steep and beautifully cobbled streets and a striking church, typical of the region.
There are some good look out points at the top of the village and interesting livestock stalls at the foot of it.
We spend the night in this interesting place in simple lodging.
Early in the morning, we head out of the town and descend to the confluence of the Rio San Isidro and Rio Iruya, which continues as Rio Iruya.
These waters are easy to cross in the dry season when we trek, but become enormous raging torrents in the wetter months.
After our river crossing, we being our ascent of the Andes until our first pass is reached, the Abra Del Colorado. With some amazing views, we then descend to the San Juan River where we have lunch.
After our break, another ascent awaits before we head down to Chiyayoc village at 3,100m/10,170ft.
We have time to relaxin our simple lodging after this 8-9 hour trekking day.
Our trek continues through this amazing landscape.
The day starts after breakfast and it’s a descent to take us to the valley of Rio Trancas. By now you will be accustomed to the terrain of ups and downs, and know that once we reach a river bed, our crossing to the other side will be met with an ascent as we criss-cross the deep rivers of the Highland Andes.
At our pass, we have fabulous views of the town of Rodeo Colorado, our destination for the night.
Before we reach the campsite, we head down to Rio Pera and follow this for a short while.
This has been another trekking day of 8-9 hours and we arrive at our camp for the night.
Following two long days of trekking, today we have a shorter day today of 4-5 hours. We descend (most of the way) to the town of Molino.
Behind us, there is always the amazing view of the valley of the Rio Nazareno.
From this valley there is short ascent to our camp, where you can relax, chat with the locals and appreciate the great views.
This is the last stage of our trek across the old Inca Paths and stairways.
We spend 5-6 hours walking alongside the river, encountering wildlife and great colours on the way before we reach Nazareno Village and our simple lodge.
In the morning we have breakfast and head off in vehicles to the northern region of Argentina, La Quiaca, situated next to the frontier with Bolivia.
From here we continue our way to Salta, where showers and cold drinks and beers await, and perhaps some more of those empanadas.
After breakfast we transfer you to the airport/station, or continue your travels.
End of services.
Prices From $1,800 / £1,526 per person
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Bilingual guide (Spanish – English) during trek and trips, transfers, hosterias and lodges as listed, mules to transport tents and food and up to 8kg of personal items for travellers, communal camping gear, meals as listed
Sleeping bag, foam mat, medical and life insurance, international and internal flights, tips, alcoholic or soft drinks, airport taxes, personal items, optional excursions, meals not listed, entrance fees to National Parks or Museums
In towns we use hosterias – central, clean and simple accommodation close to the centre and similar to hotels.
While trekking we may camp or use simple lodges provided by the communities we visit.
When camping, we provide all communal kit and your tent, and include a dining tent and toilet tent.
The lodges are like mountain huts and have beds.
Tour guides, drivers and muleteers are locals from Argentina, who live and work in this fantastic area of the country.
Our team tries to provide as much employment to local people as possible.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please enquire.
You usually wake early, around 07.00, and have a filling breakfast in your hotel or the dining tent, which is usually coffee, toast, jams and porridge.
After breakfast, packs are prepared and your guide explains the day’s walk, and you typically walk 3-4 hours in the morning before lunch, with a short or break or two en route.
Lunch, while out walking, will be sandwiches, fruit etc. Please bring some snacks of your own, as those available in northern Argentina are expensive and not always the best quality.
After an hour or so for lunch – depending on weather conditions – you will continue your walk, usually 1-3 hours more, although some days are shorter or longer than others, and then relax at camp. Some days are long.
Dinner will often be a soup to start and then a main of pasta with a sauce, or perhaps a main of fish, chicken, meat with potatoes, followed by pudding.
After eating, you can choose to socialise with team members, relax in your tent or take in the views.
It can get cold very soon after sunset, so most people will fall asleep early and then rise early the next day, helping to conserve energy.
You need to have a good level of fitness for the trip, as the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy it.
Those with no previous trekking experience can trek this trip, although experience of hiking is beneficial and we would recommend plenty of walking before joining up with the tour.
However, the trip is open to anyone with a positive attitude who wants to walk in a stunning and remote part of northern Argentina.
Argentina is a land of contrast.
Nothing states this better than the fact it features the highest point in the South America, Aconcagua, and the lowest, Salinas Chicas, 40m below sea level.
Its vastness – it is the eighth largest country in the world – and diversity are just part of the appeal. A fantastic culture of fine wine and dining sits alongside its adventurous and beautiful landscapes.
The local’s cheery disposition and fantastic word plays add to the enjoyment of being in this fascinating country.
The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.
There are distinct regions of Argentina, from the Andean culture of the North West to the rancho lifestyle of the plains of Patagonia to the eternally seductive Buenos Aires.
Argentina’s neighbours are Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.
The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa.
There is jungle in the extreme northeast while the southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia.
The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. Close to Aconcagua lies Mendoza, an area famed for its fine wine production.
The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert.
Most Antarctic cruises embark and disembark in Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, allowing access to the South Pole, South Georgia and also the Falkland Islands.
Argentina’s seasons are the reverse to the northern hemisphere, with summer running from October to March, and winter from May to September.
Buenos Aires and the Pampas in the north are temperate; cold in the winter, 5-15°C, and hot and humid in the summer, 17-27°C, the warmest and most humid being December to February. Spring and Autumn are lovely times to visit Buenos Aires.
The best time to visit Iguazu Falls is from January to March – the rainy season, this is when water flow of the waterfall is greatest, but the waterfall is amazing at any time of year. The hottest months in Iguazu Falls are October through April with lows of 20°C and highs of 32°C. Winter sees this fall to highs of 22°C and occasional lows of 12°C, with cooler nights. Being tropical and humid, there is always the chance of rain in Iguazu.
Bariloche is nestled in Argentina’s Lake District and is built next to the cold water Lake Nahuel Huapi. During the summer, daylight extends from 6am to 10pm and temperatures fluctuate from 5-20°C, the warm days making for ideal conditions for exploration. In the winter, snow abounds for skiers and daylight is from 9am to 7pm, city temps varying from just above to just below freezing, with much cooler temperatures in the mountains.
The rain-shadow effect in Bariloche means weather conditions are relatively dry and stable. Summer rainfall in the town of Bariloche is low (average 5 days precipitation a month).
Good kit is vital for every trip.
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When planning for the varied climatic conditions encountered, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.
To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:
First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.
Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.
Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.
Below is a more detailed kit list.
Detailed kit list
All other non-personal trekking camping gear e.g. tents, cutlery etc is provided.
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Bariloche is the jewel in Argentina’s Lake District Crown.
Beautiful mountains, forests and lakes make this area perfect for anyone who likes the outdoors.
You can kayak, bike and hike around the stunning scenery of Nahuel Huapi National park.
Or perhaps hike to amazing viewpoints with panoramas over a geographically stunning area of great beauty.
Bariloche also offers the Cruce Andino Lake Crossing into Chile. The best time to visit the area is October-April.
Buenos Aires is Argentina’s elegant capital city.
It is a city of culture, art and music and gateway to the rest of the country, well worth a few days of exploring.
Must sees are the Casa Rosada Government Palace, the Cathedral, La Boca district with its colourful houses and tradition of tango and football.
Also not to be missed are the flea market and streets of the bohemian neighbourhood of San Telmo and the Recoleta cemetery where Evita’s tomb is to be found.
After a guided tour by bike or on foot, take the time to sit at one of the many excellent coffee shops and watch the sophisticated Porteños go about their business.
The city has a plethora of good restaurants and is a haven for meat eaters, with plenty of veggie options too.
The night life is buzzing and the district of Palermo will have a meal and bar to suit all pockets and tastes.
El Calafate is situated on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, and is your starting point for discovering Argentine Patagonia.
Most trekkers will come through El Calafate en route to Chalten and Fitzroy National Park.
Nearby attractions to El Calafate itself include the Perito Moreno Glacier – one of the few glaciers which is still advancing. There are a series of walkways mean that you can get up close to the 75 m high and 5Km wide glacial wall.
Other glaciers which can be visited are the Upsala glacier and the town has its own Glaciarium – ice museum.
The town offers a wide range of accommodation options and restaurants as well as outdoor shops.
El Chalten is the trailhead for the trekking trails into the Glaciares National Park – Fitzroy!
Day treks include the Torre Trail (to Lake Torre), trek to Laguna Los Tres at the base of Mount Fitzroy, and the Loma de Pliegue Tumbado Trek.
The town is also the departure point for expeditions to the Southern Ice Field.
Other options in the area include horseback riding, kayak, mountain bike and glacier treks.
This small settlement has a variety of accommodation options.
The mighty roar of the water poring over the cliff edges is the soundtrack to this incredible spectacle of nature.
Iguazu Falls is made up of some 275 individual cascades which line the rim of a crescent-shaped cliff about 2.5 miles long.
From here, the waters plummet up to 82m/269ft into the gorge below, in one of the most dramatic settings in Argentina, with the thunderous roaring of Iguazu heard from miles away.
Walk the paths among the different falls and for those with a head for heights take the walkway that leads you into the heart of the Devil’s throat, the biggest, deepest, most impressive fall.
There is the opportunity to take a boat ride at the foot of the falls or to just walk and admire the lush tropical vegetation and wildlife, as well as the scenery.
It is well worth visiting both the Argentine and Brasilian sides of the Falls to really experience and appreciate the true power of these waterfalls.
North west Argentina is one of those places that is still off the beaten track but when you get there you wonder why.
The main gateway is the city of Salta – famous for its pasties, known locally as empanadas.
Places to visit are Cafayate – famous for its wines and the “Quebrada de Las Cochas” with its incredible rock formations.
North of Salta don’t miss Humahuaca with its multicoloured hills, Tilcara with its Pukara (pre-Columbian fortress) and the Salinas Grandes salt flat.
The Valdez Peninsula on the northern coast of Argentine Patagonia is a paradise for nature lovers.
The Southern Right whale can be spotted from June to December, killer whales from September to April and Magellanic Penguins from September to March.
Sea lions, dolphins, seals as well as guanacos, rheas and armadillos can be found all year round.
There are lots of shells, fossils and natural history on full display in the rocky cliffs.
The gateway airport is at Trelew and the ideal base for exploration is Puerto Madryn.
Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, is Argentina’s southernmost city and is perched on the Beagle Channel.
What was once a remote penal colony is now a bustling port and the gateway to Antarctica.
Ushuaia is historically interesting, Charles Darwin wrote much about it, and it is home to some interesting museums of naval history.
Visitors can take a sailing tour on the wildlife rich Beagle channel, visit a Penguin colony during the season, trek into the mountains behind the city and kayak in the Tierra del Fuego national park.
Cruises set off from here for Antarctica or Punta Arenas in Chile – via Cape Horn.
2022 guide price, per person, shared room basis
Runs with min. two people
Shorter/longer stays possible
Single supplement applies
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