Spend 8 days in Salta and Jujuy to see the most emblematic sights of these beautiful provinces.
In mid-November my husband Mariano and I took a flight from Buenos Aires to the capital city of Salta, where we rented a car with extra full insurance, considering the gravel stones from the road often play tricks on the windshield. We went straight to Portezuelo Nuevo Hotel, located next to Cerro San Bernardo with beautiful views of the city. There we had a relaxed lunch by the pool, then walked along the hill, past the cable car, and visited the High Mountain Archeology Museum and the Casa Güemes Museum, both very interesting. For dinner we ate delicious empanadas in the peñas area on Balcarce street, the first of many on this trip.
We took Route 68 towards Cafayate, passing through the Cabra Corral Dam and continuing along the Quebrada de las Conchas, a gorgeous drive with amazing rock formations along the way. We arrived in Cafayate at 3:30PM, had lunch in front of the plaza and visited El Esteco Winery. We stopped to enjoy some delicious cake and coffee in the Posta de las Cabras. It was a perfect break before returning to the city of Salta. We arrived that night and stayed in San Lorenzo, just outside of the city, at a hotel called Poetas Boutique Hotel. The hotel had great service and a peaceful ambience. We loved the living room and library where guests can relax and read.
We started driving along Route 51 towards San Antonio de Los Cobres to catch the Train to the Clouds.
Before arriving we stopped around Tastil to get acclimatized to the altitude. There we picked up a hitchhiker – a nurse visiting a 90-year-old patient who lived alone in a nearby adobe house. The route is almost 100% paved and the views are incredible – along the way there are some stretches and bridges that pass through what used to be the train’s route (a journey that took about 12 hours through some amazing landscapes).
At noon we boarded the Tren de las Nubes. It was a spectacular ride! Crossing over the Polvorilla viaduct (4,200 meters above sea level) was indescribable. You can feel the altitude, but the experience is so enjoyable that you only think about the amazing landscapes around you. Each train car has a bilingual guide. The return to San Antonio de Los Cobres was at 3:00PM. Mariano got mountain sickness on the way back and between the dizziness and fatigue he ended up buying a lot of keychains – one from each person who was selling them at the train station. All vendors approach tourists with respect here and across the region.
From there we took Route 38 – pure gravel – towards Salinas Grandes in Jujuy. It was less than 2 hours away, but the trip felt eternal because we were exhausted from the long day and its intense emotions. Out of nowhere, the salt flats appeared, and from the extensive white fields of salt there seems to be no end. It’s a landscape unlike any you’ve seen.
We continued along Route 52 to the picturesque Purmamarca, had an early dinner in La Diabla and at 9:00PM arrived at the hotel we had booked for two nights in Tilcara, Posada Boutique Las Terrazas.
After breakfast, we walked through the market in Tilcara and then drove to Humahuaca to start the hike up to Cerro Hornocal, which takes an hour on the gravel road. We were in awe at the view. To see the mountain up close, we took a path that led to a better viewpoint. It’s like being in front of a landscape painting. It was magnetic and peaceful – we didn’t want to leave and in fact, spent almost an hour in complete silence in the pure air. Then we went back down the trail to Humahuaca, explored the town, ate empanadas (for a change!) and heard some beautiful songs played by a young boy. We returned to the hotel in Tilcara and at night walked through the plaza, bought some local products at El Molle and had dinner at El Patio, an excellent restaurant.
We went to the Garganta del Diablo, up an 8km gravel road by car – although many people walk up on a shorter, 4km path. At the top, we took a half hour walk to the natural waterfalls and a view of the imposing canyon. This area is where the indigenous Aylu Mama Qolla community live. We returned to Tilcara and visited the Pucará, the reconstruction of a historical fortress.
Because we still had time and it was a nice day we went back to Purmamarca (we’d only stopped there for dinner). We visited El Porito viewpoint, enjoyed the Cerro de Los Siete Colores and went shopping at the artisan market. The town is growing but it’s nice to see how it maintains its sense of calm, which is deeply valued by the visitors who come from big cities. At 5:30PM we left for Salta on Route 9. On the Jujuy side, the route is a jungle, with yungas, dams and small lakes. There is an incredible change of scenery in a short time – this part of the route is very narrow and mountainous, but very picturesque. Finally we arrived at the Plaza Hotel and ate some delicious burgers at a brewery in front of the hotel.
We took Route 33 towards El Carril with Cachi as our final destination. It took us 4 hours to arrive because we stopped at various spots along the way to look around and take pictures. This was yet another amazing road, like every one that we traveled on this trip. It took us through the Quebrada del Escoipe, the Cuesta del Obispo – the highest point on this part of the route – Los Cardones National Park and the Tin Tin straight. We also crossed Payogasta, a tiny town where paprika is produced. Cerro Tin Tin reminded us a lot of the Hornocal in Humahuaca. It is worth stopping and walking 150 meters to the top. We arrived at the ACA Inn at around 2PM and had some incredible spinach and cheese raviolis. We walked around town, had coffee in Viracocha and rested on a bench on the main square until dusk enjoying the tranquility, while a group of children played nearby. It was so enjoyable to be without the typical craziness of Buenos Aires.
The view of the Nevado de Cachi was amazing – it reaches 6380 meters above sea level with its snow-capped peaks. In Cachi we explored the surroundings, bought pieces of dried cactuses, visited wineries, the archaeological museum, a very interesting photography exhibition and stopped at La Merced for a flower market. We had lunch at Viracocha. Back in Salta Capital, we had excellent regional food in Doña Salta, which without a doubt had the best bife de choriza. We got ice cream on the way back to the hotel.
Early that morning we went to the airport. It was the first and only rainy day of the entire trip. Returning from this region with its friendly people, valleys, hills and magical villages, felt restful, as if we’d been on a long trip. We look forward to exploring much more of this beautiful part of the country the next time.
Andrea Zilberstein is a graphic designer and Mariano Wierzbinsky is an accountant and auditor. They live in the city of Buenos Aires with their 4 children, but took a week to travel alone.
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