Multi-coloured mountains and quaint Andean villages pock the northwestern region of Jujuy. We arrange the hire car and logistics so you can explore this beautiful region at your own pace.
Starting in Salta, there are fantastic rock formations to visit along the terracotta-coloured Quebrada de las Conchas that leads to Cafayate.
From your base, head out and try some of the finest wines in Argentina at stunning bodegas offering unique terroirs in these desert-like, high-altitude terrains.
The area’s famous fruity white, Torrontes Rioja, or the world-renowned Malbec, are just two of Cafayate’s star wines. Many bodegas offer wine-tasting experiences paired with snacks like the famous local empanadas or cheeses.
There are plenty of fine dining experiences to enrich your stay in an area big on colour and vibrant with life. Spend sunny days exploring Andean villages replete with history and art. Indeed, it will be hard to leave without some artisanal textiles, ceramics, or paintings.
Our example itinerary is just that; extend it, lengthen the driving distances, or hire a guide. Just let us know how you’d like to explore Cafayate.
Check our seven-day self-drive Jujuy trip for a more in-depth exploration of Argentina’s northwest wine region.
Enjoy fine food and wine tasting at scenic bodegas
Take the trip at your own pace
Multi-coloured mountain scenery
Wander through artisanal markets and pre-Inca ruins
Visit historic towns with quaint plazas, churches, and houses
Discover Argentina’s hidden northwest
It was an amazing trip and we are definitely going back.
Lucy and Dina, Bolivia/Chile/Argentina tour
Pick up a saloon vehicle (medium size, paved roads only) at our Salta office, hotel, or airport: free mileage and two authorised drivers.
Salta, with a population of around 700,000, is a medium-sized city. Fortunately, its predominantly grid road system makes navigating and driving through easy.
The first target is the scenic Route 68 (RN68) to Cafayate. The total driving distance is around 110 miles / 170 km with several en route stops, including a good couple of hours for a leg-stretching walk if desired.
Today you’ll drive through the terracotta-coloured Quebrada de las Conchas, heading south from Salta.
After leaving the city, we recommend a stop at the Quebrada de las Conchas viewpoint, approximately 90 minutes from Salta. This is a great spot to stroll, take pictures, and enjoy a picnic.
In this order, there are three big-ticket stops in quick succession as we keep south on the RN68: the Devil’s Throat, the Amphitheatre, and Yesera. Access each from the main road and take a short walk to them.
The Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), all reds and oranges, leaves the visitor with the impression of having walked into some bestial thorax. The site sits among a fantastic landscape. Sitting and contemplating the wind that runs through the throat is mesmerising if you arrive solo.
The Amphitheatre (El Anfiteatro) offers beautiful acoustics, hence its name. There are lovely colours and rock formations that augment the setting. Occasionally, people play instruments or sing within the Amphitheatre with stunning results.
La Yesera brings to mind the rock formations found in the United States Monument Valley, smaller but in brighter colours. Wander around the stacks near the road or take an optional 2-3 hour hike to El Paso.
El Paso trek (optional)
Hike along a canyon to El Paso lookout (1,470m/4,823ft) through colour rocks and mountains. The geological formations here are so vivid it’s hard not to believe they are alive and actually some 70 million years old.
Follow the main path into the canyon and return the same way to your car. Please note that while suitable for confident trekkers to self-guide, we recommend taking a guide or a hiking map and being sure of your routes.
After exploring the wonders of Quebrada de las Conchas, it’s time to head to Cafayate (1,700m/5,600ft) and your hotel.
Self-drive distance: 112 miles / 180 km
We recommend spending at least one day in Cafayate to explore the local vineyards. You can hire bikes in town and pedal between bodegas, hire taxis, or walk.
Cafayate is arguably Argentina’s second best-known wine region after Mendoza. The town’s high altitude makes its wines unique in one of the world’s highest regions, apt for growing grapes.
The sun is intense in Cafayate, making grapes grow thick skin as protection. Days are followed by cold desert nights that balance out the daytime rays and give the area a long growing season.
Dry soil means fewer grapes, a bonus for winemakers as they get fruits with greater concentrated flavours. Irrigation comes from meltwater from the nearby Andean peaks.
Here are some classic bodegas to visit for wine tasting and meals. We recommend booking tours in advance (please ask for the extra cost) or choosing your own adventure.
Bodega El Esteco
The classic bodega is within walking distance of the centre. It offers horse riding on top of wine tasting and fireside wine events. Good food is served, too, with local cheeses and empanadas popular.
Famous varieties include malbec, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
La Estancia de Cafayate
This estancia has the lot: a hotel, golf course, spa, tennis centre, polo club, and horse riding options. There is a fine dining area as well as wine tasting to enjoy.
A short way (1 mile/1.65km) from town, Piattelli is one of the most famous vineyards in Argentina. Tours and wine tasting must be booked in advance.
Spend more time exploring Cafayate’s vineyards or take a short drive up mythical RN40, Ruta 40, to Andean villages. The RN40 stretches over 3,000 miles/5,000 kilometres from Argentine Patagonia to Jujuy, hugging the Andes.
RN40 is the longest road in Argentina and rivals the world’s most extensive routes, like Route 66 in the US and Australia’s Stuart Highway.
The Cafayate stretch passes through the Quebrada de la Flechas. In Spanish, flechas means arrows, and the colourful mountains mimic an arrowhead’s shape along this valley.
There are many interesting places to visit today, so make sure you set off in good time or choose a few to explore fully. We can arrange accommodation in these towns if you prefer, rather than returning to Cafayate for the night.
There are many walks around Animaná, plus a visual arts museum with sculptures and ceramics.
Look out for vino torrontés, an intense and fruity white wine.
Stop here to see a historic church and browse artisanal products in the Camino de Los Artisanos.
This town is home to a lovely church and a fascinating archaeological museum. It is a good stop for buying artisanal wines.
The town’s San Pedro Nolasco de Los Molinos church has a cactus roof! For art, the James Turrell Museum is a must. Many people also visit the Colomé winery, the oldest vineyard in Argentina—wine tasting by reservation only (let us know in advance).
A charming town known for the quality of the Salteños ponchos woven here. Plaza de La Junta is a palm tree-laden and green place to people-watch. Or perhaps you’ll visit the colonial church, Nuestra Señora del Carmen.
Many folks enjoy the food in Seclantás, especially the empanadas, tamales (steamed maize dough, filled with meat and beans), and humitas (slowly steamed ground maize).
Cachi (2,530m/8,300ft) is the northernmost town we recommend trying to reach today. There is an archaeological museum, a historic Spanish colonial church, and traditional homes made of adobe.
Note: It is 100 miles (161km) from Cafayate, making a round journey of 200 miles approx.
Spend the day exploring the area, then drive back to Salta and drop off the vehicle (hotel in Salta not included tonight).
Cafayate to Salta distance: 112 miles / 180 km
Alternatively, you could drive 211 miles / 340 km from Cafayate through the Andean villages of Animaná, San Carlos, Angastaco, Molinos, Seclantás, and Cachi on Route 40.
You’ll need to start early to make the most of stops en route.
Cafayate — Cachi — Salta distance: 211 miles / 340 km
Taking this route requires taking the RN40 as described on day 3. From Cachi, you head to provincial route 33, RN33, for fantastic straights and lovely curves.
Take the famous Tin Tin straight from Cachi, a 10-mile / 15-kilometre road that follows an ancient route. A favourite photo is the seemingly never-ending, straight line of tarmac disappearing into the distance.
Later come the curves as you climb to a viewpoint, Piedra del Molino, the road’s highest point (3,348m/2,080ft). The descent is a driving dream with many twisting curves down the Cuesta del Obispo, surrounded by velvety mountains and a dizzying precipice. Take time to stop for photos or visit small towns you may see en route.
Soon the lights of Salta welcome you. Drop off your vehicle, and enjoy Salta (hotel not included), the empanada capital of the world, with fine wines, museums, and plazas.
Prices From $650 / £551 per person
Enquire about booking
Car rental (saloon, paved roads only) with unlimited mileage and two authorised drivers, hotels and meals as listed, car insurance (coverage of theft, fire or destruction of the vehicle and damages against third parties up to USD 10,000), breakfast at hotels
International or domestic flights, tips, tours, wine tasting, petrol/diesel for car, entry fees to attractions, meals other than stated, alcoholic or soft drinks, transfers
We’ve selected 3-4* hotels with charm and character. Example hotels include:
This tour is self-guided. Please let us know if you would like a guided tour.
Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any needs you have.
Hotel breakfasts usually include bread, jams, honey, yoghurts, tea, coffee, and fresh juices, although this varies from hotel to hotel.
In Argentina, red wine, BBQs, meat and pizzas/pasta feature heavily in restaurants.
Unless you add it to your trip, there is no strenuous activity, but the most critical factor is that much of this tour takes place at high altitudes.
Most days involve 3-5 hours of driving and short walks of 5-20 minutes to attractions. Longer walks may be added should you choose.
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.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world, and has a myriad of climates from humid tropics to bracingly cold Patagonia.
When planning for these changeable climatic conditions you will encounter across Argentina, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.
The sun is very strong throughout the country, so good sun cream, a hat and sunglasses are vital. Summer in the north of the country means t-shirts and shorts.
It can also get very cold at night time especially in the mountains. Jumpers, fleeces and warms hats – which you can buy there – are also essential.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
Below is a more detailed guide.
Detailed kit list
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).
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.
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.
2023 guide price only
Please ask for more info
Trip runs with a minimum of two people
Shorter/longer stays possible
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