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'Northwest Argentina self-drive'

What makes this trip special?

Colonial Salta

Colonial Salta

Salta

Salta is an attractive colonial city that is the main transport hub for exploring the north west region. A cable car runs to the top of the San Bernado hill overlooking the town, offering excellent views over the surrounding countryside.

Fertile valley of the north west

Fertile valley of the north west

Lerma Valley

The Lerma Valley which incorporates the city of Salta is a fertile stretch of highland originally made famous for its tobacco plantations. With rivers to the north and south, this is a green and lush area with a pleasantly warm, and generally dry climate.

Andean Village

Andean Village

Cachi

Set between the Cachi and Calchaqui rivers this is a village of cobbled streets, mud brick houses and an ancient church. In this corner of Northwest Argentina, the Puna highland desert meets fertile valleys, and is a great base to explore the more off the beaten track parts of the region.

Red rocks and white wines

Red rocks and white wines

Cafayate

Cafayate is a small town in the Valles Calchaquíes and is Argentina's second most well known area for producing wine. Predominantly a white wine producing area, the torrontés grape remains its best known variety and there are a selection of vineyards in and around the town. The journey from Salta is worth the visit alone, as you pass the impressive red rock formations along the ruta 68.

Picturesque Purmamarca

Picturesque Purmamarca

Purmamarca

This pretty town lies under the spectacular hill of seven colours, and there is a 3km trail around the back of the hill from town which gives you some of the best views. Whilst no longer a small and authentic Andean village due to the influxe of tourism it remains an excellent place to trawl the market stalls for traditionally woven goods.

Puna salt plains

Puna salt plains

Salinas Grandes salt flats

Beyond the regions major towns and Andean villages lie the Salinas Grandes salt plains. The vast expanse of white is punctuated only by the peaks of the Andes making this one of the most photogenic areas in the north west of Argentina.

Itinerary map for Argentina 'Northwest Argentina self-drive' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Salta
  • 2 Molinos
  • 3 Molinos
  • 4 Cafayate
  • 5 Cafayate
  • 6 Tilcara
  • 7 Tilcara
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Northwest Argentina self-drive'

DAY 1
B

Arrive in Salta

In the morning transfer to the airport and fly on to Salta in north west Argentina. On arrival you are taken on a sightseeing tour of the city. Salta was founded by the Spanish in 1582 and displays this heritage in its well-preserved colonial architecture, making it quite distinct from other large cities in Argentina. The tour gives you an overview of the main sites such as the historic centre, the Plaza 9 de Julio with its monument to the 19th century hero General Arenales, the Cathedral, the San Francisco Church, the San Bernardo convent, and the San Bernardo Hill where you take in a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. Continue to San Lorenzo, a pleasant town whose tree-lined streets of large houses and lush gardens are surrounded by a verdant nature reserve making it a peaceful residence of choice, just 10 km from the city centre. You have the rest of the day at leisure.

DAY 2
B

Pick-up hire car and drive to Molinos (203 km/5-6 hours of driving)

This morning pick up your hire car and head south out of Salta on the Route 68 to the small town of El Carril, turning west onto the Ruta Provincial 33 up the Cuesta del Obispo to the route’s highest point (at 3,348m above sea level), known as the Piedra del Molino. From here the road straightens out as you drive through the Los Cardones National Park, which is particularly famous for its giant cacti (cardones) which dot the hillside, ranging in colour from dark greens to deep red. The total drive to Cachi is 157km and takes around 4-5 hours with plenty of photo stops. On arrival in Cachi, you may want to stop and enjoy lunch in the delightful church square before continuing on to the hamlet of Molinos, some 46km further down the Calchaquies Valley along the Ruta 40. The villagers in this area make their living from agriculture, and in season you may pass enormous stretches of red peppers drying in the sun. Overnight in Molinos for two nights.

DAY 3
B

Free day in Molinos

Today you may like to visit Bodega Colomé, which is just over 20km from Molinos and is one of Argentina’s most renowned vineyards. They have the oldest and highest vines in the world at the bodega, which lies in a staggeringly beautiful and remote part of the Calchaquies Valley. Or you may choose to explore the Seclantás area, where you can buy excellent weavings directly from the producer.

DAY 4
B

Molinos to Cafayate (112 km/3-4 hours of driving)

After breakfast, set out along the legendary Ruta 40 down the Calchaquies Valley. Today’s drive is short, but it is largely on dirt roads with lots of photo opportunities, and so it takes about 4 hours. First off you reach the Valley of the Arrows – where the horizontal rock strata has pushed up vertically to look like arrow heads. As the sun sets, the mountains change colour, making for some of the most beautiful scenery of your holiday. Spend the next couple of nights in the charming wine producing town of Cafayate.

DAY 5
B

Full day in Cafayate

Today is left free to explore the town of Cafayate. The area produces excellent wine and is particularly known for its Torrontes white wine and Shiraz red wine (known locally as Syrah). We recommend following the road up past the hotel Viñas de Cafayate to the Finca las Nubes to visit the bodega. You may also choose to head a bit further south of Cafayate to visit the Quilmes ruins.

DAY 6
B

Cafayate to Tilcara (396 km/7 hours of driving)

Today the driving is on good roads, and north up the route 68 through the Valley of the Shells to Salta. The valley is strewn with vast, bright red rocks and whilst the drive only takes about 3 hours, you should allow more time as there are many photo stops to admire the superb rock formations from viewpoints in the valley. Keep going past Salta to Tilcara – this second section will take around 3-4 hours though you may wish to stop off in Purmamarca en route. You stay overnight in the village of Tilcara.

DAY 7

To the Salt flats

Today head up the Lipan mountain road to the Great Salt Flats. While not as large in size as the more famous salt flats in Bolivia, they are still expansive and extremely impressive; the road up to the salt flats is entirely paved. This afternoon we recommend visiting the ruins at Tilcara.

DAY 8

Drop off hire car

Today head back south to Salta, returning your car to the airport office, and check in for your onward flight. The drive today is approximately 3 hours.

Guide prices for 'Northwest Argentina self-drive'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Staying in mid-range hotels 2 people sharing £1,395
Staying in upper range hotels 2 people sharing £1,755
Prices are per person and include:
  • all accommodation
  • all travel within Argentina
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
  • excursions as indicated
Prices do not include:
  • transatlantic flights
  • travel insurance
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc

Customer reviews for 'Northwest Argentina self-drive'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average

Seasonal information for 'Northwest Argentina self-drive'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Salta 28°C rainfall 173mm
2 Molinos 25°C rainfall 43mm
3 Molinos 25°C rainfall 43mm
4 Cafayate 27°C rainfall 48mm
5 Cafayate 27°C rainfall 48mm
6 Tilcara 24°C rainfall 62mm
7 Tilcara 24°C rainfall 62mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Northwest Argentina self-drive'

Days 1 - 2

Del Antiguo Convento

Salta

Centrally located in the historic part of the city the Hotel del Antiguo Convento has Standard, Superior and Executive rooms all with en-suite facilities, a/c, heating, TV and Telephone. Additional features of the hotel are the Confitería (Snack bar), a small outdoor pool, a gym and free Wi-Fi.

Del Antiguo Convento
Outdoor Patio
Days 3 - 4

Hacienda de Molinos

near Cachi - Calchaqui Valley

Molinos is a delightful and traditional hacienda dating back to the 18th century when it was home to the last governor of Salta. It has 18 spacious guest rooms, all with private bathrooms (bath tub and shower) and hairdryer set around interior patio courtyards. There is a restaurant, swimming pool, games room and parking for those with a car. It is situated opposite the church in Molinos, and within walking distance of the centre of the village.

Hacienda de Molinos
Double room
Days 5 - 6

Los Sauces, Casa Patagonicas, Cafayate

Cafayate

Conveniently located only a few metres from the Main Square of Cafayate, Los Sauces is a good mid-range hotel. Ther are 24 rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning, TV and telephones.  The suites have King size beds and are located on the first floor. Los Sauces provides a good base for excursions to some of the local vineyards and short walks into the Mountains.  Within its grounds, Los Sauces has an outdoor swimming pool and garden.

Los Sauces, Casa Patagonicas, Cafayate
Hotel exterior
Days 7 - 8

Las Marias Boutique hotel

Tilcara

Las Marias is a stylish and modern boutique property, tucked away up a back lane in Tilcara. The hotel has been desgined to make use of the local materials of stone and cactus wood. There is a swimming pool, restaurant and friendly staff, whilst all 10 superior rooms have cable TV, private bathroom with bath tub and views out. There are also safety deposit boxes, independent heating, a terrace, and Wi-Fi. There are then 2 Premium Suites which have their own jacuzzi, kitchenette and BBQ area on the terrace.

 

Las Marias Boutique hotel
Pool and gardens