Argentina’s Extreme North

Our Argentina trip is a unique journey for true desert enthusiasts exploring the heart of South America’s high altitude wilderness. The north west of Argentina is one of the continent’s most remote and striking areas. It’s a land of volcanoes, salt flats and remarkable rock structures.

From the regional hub of Salta we travel by 4WD into Argentina’s Puna, a high altitude desert encompassing diverse ecosystems. We travel hundreds of kilometres through haunting landscapes, dotted with small pueblos but for the most part bare of human presence. Driving through multi-coloured canyons and hills en route to Cafayate, we pass fields of white sand dunes and explore the heritage of pre-colonial Argentina at Quilmes – a testament to the indigenous groups of the region. From here we traverse high passes to the Piedra Pomiz. This is a vast area of enormous pumice rocks and dunes, almost Saharan in appearance and a delight for any keen photographers.

After exploring this region and taking our vehicles off-road to its lesser-visited parts, we head to the Galan Volcano. En route, we pass the salt lake of Laguna Diamante and stop to see its birdlife. We explore the caldera – one of the largest in the world – and then continue our journey through shimmering white salt flats, lakes and stunning volcanic cones rising from the desert floor. After exploring the vast expanses of the Salar de Arizaro, we head to the ‘deserto del labirinto’, one of the highlights of the trip and surrounded by six thousand metre peaks.

Our route back to Salta takes us to the Andean pueblo of Purmamarca with its coloured mountains and typical adobe buildings. We end our journey in a comfortable finca.

This is a region of breathtaking beauty, of multi-hued mountains and imposing volcanoes where nature rules, and we intrude. Little visited and often ignored in favour of Argentina’s better-known attractions, the Puna holds an allure for those who like their travel uncompromising and adventurous. Its spell will remain long after you have left.

Argentina’s Extreme North

Highlights

  • Incredible desert scenery
  • Journey through shimmering salt flats
  • The pre-Inca site of Quilmes
  • Desolate valleys and white sand dunes
  • Explore the wilderness of the Puna

Day 1 - Buenos Aires

Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight Hotel Dazzler Recoleta or similar.

Buenos Aires

Influenced by the great European cities, but with its own distinct personality proudly shining through, Buenos Aires is a city where historic cafés and French-style palaces sit alongside buzzing nightclubs and chic bars. From browsing the innovative art galleries, to dining in stylish restaurants and dancing the seductive Tango, this eclectic city pulses through the night and mesmerises everyone that sets foot here.

The people of Buenos Aires are known as Porteños and are known to be kind and hospitable as well as extravagant and well groomed. As the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the Americas, with nearly 14 million inhabitants, at first sight, the city and its adjoining province can seem dauntingly big. Most of the main sights, however, are set in and around the compact centre of the city, meaning you’ll probably visit about half a dozen of the forty-eight barrios.

The city centre and the pedestrianised Calle Florida are always abuzz, but the elegant Avenida de Mayo and bohemian café culture of Avenida Corrientes provide a welcome break. The south of the city is where you’ll come across the city’s finest architecture, with late nineteenth-century townhouses displaying ornate Italian facades and San Telmo is known for its artisan fair, cutting-edge artists and tango joints.

Working class Boca further south sports blue and yellow buildings in support of their football team Boca Juniors, whilst in contrast, you can wander along leafy avenues lined with French-style palaces in the wealthier Retiro.  Shopping and dining are best in Palermo and plenty of museums sit in-between here and La Boca. But, despite this wealth of attractions and fast-paced living, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re in the country’s capital, as Buenos Aires is graced with an abundance of parks, gardens and tree-lined plazas abloom with flowers and populated by songbirds. Not to mention the city’s wild ‘green lung’ – Reserva Ecologica – which lies just beyond the docklands.

Day 2 - Salta

Transfer to the airport and fly to Salta, in Argentina’s northwest. The afternoon is free. Overnight Finca Valentina or similar. (BD)

Salta

Salta is the regional capital and gateway to the northwest, a jump-off point to the wild landscapes beyond. Founded in the late 16th century it has become a large city of around 600,000 inhabitants, nestled within the foothills of the Andes and with some stunning colonial architecture in the form of cathedrals, churches and old mansions. Of particular note is the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana, which houses three Incan mummies discovered nearby and is well worth a visit.

Day 3 - Cachi - Molinos

Head out of Salta, travelling from the green jungle of the Yungas to the semi-deserted Calchaquí Valley, and crossing the Piedra de Molinos Pass at 3400 metres. We continue through landscapes dotted with guanacos and cacti, stopping at the colonial pueblos of Cachi and Molinos, where we end the day in a historic hotel, which once belonged to a powerful landowner. Overnight Hacienda de Molinos or similar. (BL)


Day 4 - Quebrada de las Flechas – Quebrada de las Conchas

Travelling along a difficult road, we reach the southern part of the Calchaqui Valley, the land of the first Spanish settlers here. From here we enter the ‘Quebrada de las Flechas’, thousands of hills of chalk, clay and ash in the shape of arrows, then continue to the ‘Quebrada de las Conchas’ with its spectacular multi-coloured canyon. Overnight Cafayate Wine Resort or similar.  (BL)


Day 5 - Quilmes – El Penon

Drive through the desolate valleys of Catamarca to the pre-Inca site of Quilmes, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Argentina. From here take a stunning journey across the altiplano today on one of the less travelled routes, passing white sand dunes, volcanoes and lagoons to end in the small oasis of El Penon. Overnight Hostaria El Penon or similar. (BLD)

The Puna

With high altitude deserts and high mountain passes, the Puna in Argentina’s northwest is raw wilderness at its best.

Puna Jujeña, the remote altiplano of northern Jujuy, is characterised by expansive salt flats, herds of guanacos and lagoons speckled with pink flamingos. In places, Puna Jujeña is punctuated with large Quebrada-style chapels and dotted with tiny indigenous, mud-brick hamlets. The pampas of this region are bordered to the east by jagged peaks and outside the small village of Tres Cruces in the north of Jujuy lie strange rock formations named the “Devil’s Backbone” which were formed millions of years ago as a result of violent tectonic activity.

Puna Catamarqueña is one of the most deserted and remote parts of the country and it stretches all the way to the Chilean border. The backdrop to this overwhelmingly beautiful region is the Andean Cordillera, and majestic volcanoes, frozen lakes and huge expanses of altiplano grazed by vicuñas are all among the sights to behold.

Day 6 - Piedra Pomiz – El Penon

From here continue to Piedra Pomiz, where a vast landscape of enormous pumice rocks confronts us, many up to ten metres high. Continue to the coloured mountains of Antofagasta de la Sierra and the coloured lagoon of Carachipampa, and return to El Penon. Overnight Hostaria El Penon or similar. (BLD)


Day 7 - Laguna Diamante – Galan Volcano

Head first to the Laguna Diamante, a vast high altitude salt lake home to large numbers of birds including flamingos. Moving on we reach the Galan Volcano, one of the largest calderas in the world, and explore the surrounding area. End the day in Antofagasta. Overnight guesthouse. (BLD)


Day 8 - Peinado Volcano – Antofalla

Head north to Peinado Volcano, one of the region’s prettiest, then cross the shimmering expanses of the Salar de Antofalla en route to the small oasis of Antofalla. Overnight guesthouse. (BLD)


Day 9 - Salar de Arizaro – Laguna Lullaillaico – Tolar Grande

Drive to the expanses of the Salar de Arizaro to see the Cono de Arita, a pyramid of black rock that is a striking contrast to the white salt flats. From here we climb up to the Laguna Lullaillaico, where the mummies of Incan children were found, and on to the ghost town of La Casualidad. On our way back to Arizaro we watch the setting sun change the colours of the mountains, then arrive in Tolar Grande. Overnight Casa Andina or similar. (BLD)


Day 10 - Tolar Grande

Spend the day exploring the area around Tolar Grande, on foot and by vehicle. We visit the ‘ojos del mar’, a series of blue holes in the midst of a white salt lake, and hike to a hidden sand dune for superb views of the surrounding area. In the afternoon we visit the old railway station of Caipe, and again enjoy a fantastic sunset on the way back to Tolar Grande. Overnight Casa Andina or similar. (BLD)


Day 11 - Deserto del Labirinto – Purmamarca

After so many incredible landscapes it’s hard to believe the best is still to come, but the scenery of the ‘Deserto del Labirinto’ is simply mind-blowing. We pass through a red desert landscape of fossil dunes and gypsum crystals, surrounded by 6000-metre-high volcanoes, making stops to explore along the way, including the Salinas Grandes – around 100km of white flats surrounded by volcanoes. Our day ends at the Andean village of Purmamarca, with its ‘Hill of Seven Colours’, the result of different strata of rocks and minerals. Overnight Marques de Tojio or similar. (BL)


Day 12 - Humahuaca - Salta

Drive through the impressive scenery of the Quebrada de Humahuaca to the village of the same name, and explore the surrounding area including the coloured mountains of Hornocal and the Pucara of Tilcara – a pre-Inca fortress. Finally, we return to Salta, the end point of our expedition. Overnight Finca Valentina or similar. (BL)


Day 13 - Buenos Aires

Transfer to the airport for a flight to Buenos Aires. The rest of the day is free. Overnight Hotel Dazzler Recoleta or similar. (B)


Day 14 - Buenos Aires

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)


Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide once you reach Salta, and services of representatives in Buenos Aires.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

British nationals will be granted a 90-day stay in the country without a visa and your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You may also need to provide proof of onward or return travel.

Citizens of Ireland, most of the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA can also enter Argentina for 90 days without a visa. Citizens of Australia and Canada must pay a reciprocity fee of US$100 for the former and US $92 for the latter. The payment is valid for multiple entries for twelve months for Australians and Canadians can use it for multiple entries over a ten-year period.

Other nationalities should contact their nearest embassy to check visa requirements.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Arrival and departure taxes

There are no arrival and departure taxes to pay. Departure tax is included in your flight ticket.

Money

The currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso (AR$). ATMs are widely available but limits on withdrawal can be low whilst withdrawal charges are high. You can withdraw several times per day. The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and Mastercard and money exchangers prefer US dollars. You will need your passport to exchange money.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO do not advise against travel to any of the areas we visit on this trip.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Argentina. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated May 2019

Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Argentina’s Extreme North
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
01 December 2019
Price (PP) -
£4,799
Single Supplement -
£500
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
22 November 2020
Price (PP) -
£4,799
Single Supplement -
£500
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
21 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£4,899
Single Supplement -
£500
Trip Status -
Available