Argentina: Transpuna - Puna - Calchaquies valley
6 days, 5
Salta, Tucumán & Catamarca Provinces over one of the most arid
areas of the world: the Puna of Atacama region, Salta city,
Calchaquies valleys, Cafayate wineries, Santa María del Valle de
Yocavil, Antofagasta de la Sierra, Antofalla, Salar del Arizaro,
Pocitos, San Antonio de los Cobres, Abra de Acay, Cuesta del
Obispo, Los Cardones National Park, Cachi, La Poma.
Day 1: Into the Calchaquies Valleys.
We start in Salta city, and our first destination is the
Calchaquies Valleys area. To get there, we will go over a
wonderful gorge called "quebrada del río Las Conchas"
where we will see many colours on the sandstone formations made
by wind and hydric erosion. When we leave the gorge, after
driving 120 kms, we will get to the valley and the first city
is Cafayate (10.000 habitants) where we will lunch and
visit one of the wineries.
After this, we shall continue
over our last 54 kms of asfalt road to get into the Tucumán
Province, to Quilmes Inn (double rooms with private
bathroom): after checking in we may visit the local ruins.
2.000 mts. above sea level .
Into the Puna.
Leaving Quilmes we continue now on a earth road until the
last day of this trip. Few kilometers after, we get into
Catamarca Province, crossing on the way an important city
called Santa María del Valle de Yocavil, after that, a
few small villages carry us up into the altitude above sea
level. The landscape becomes arid every hour of the trip.
Mountain roads with huge climbing sand dunes are the scenery
of the way to get to the edge of the Puna region, the big
mountain plateau at 3.500 mts. above sea level. The road now
is straight over the desert and the wild life (vicunas and
show us where we are: "in the middle of nowhere".
hours driving we will get to village call Antofagasta de la
Sierra, situated in the area of volcanoes landscape.
To get there, the road go over old lava flow of black stones,
and many times ask yourself in which planet should you be. It`s
hard to explain........ Check at the Antofagasta de la Sierra
hotel in double rooms with private bath.
Into the old hell!
What's that?......don't worry it's just an old volcanoe
called "Galán" with a huge crater of 40 kms. of diameter,
and in this crater there is a big lagoon called "Diamante"
beside a mountain of 6.000 mts. above sea level high!. I
promise..........it's true. This will be the hardest day because
we shall drive over 12 hours, stopping only to take a pictures
and pic nic.
The highest point with our 4x4 will be 4.800
mts. above sea level, and we will get back to Antofagasta de la
Sierra at night. I know.it's hard to stay many hours in the
truck, but let me tell you it's worth it. It will be a real
experience of a 4x4 expedition running only over miners path.
After this day, everything will be a "piece of cake", and when
we'll see again an earth road, it will look like a highway.
Day 4: Over the Salt Flat.
Leaving Antofagasta de la Sierra, we continue to the west where
we will get our first salt flat "Antofalla". Let me
explain "Salt Flat" means a flat area with pure salt........
How?: the natural salt of the earth in the mountains around,
during the rains transport sediments to the lowest level of the
landscape..........them after millons of years of this process
and the evaporation under strong solar radiation, salt
concentrates and actually we can see these salt flats.
"Antofalla" is a nice one and we can see like islands the
lava flow from the old Antofalla Volcano (snow caped in the back
ground). After crossing over to one of the sides, we get to
another small village of the same name where we will lunch in a
family house sharing life with local people.
After lunch we
continue and we get back into Salta Province, and we shall
cross the biggest salt flat in Argentina: Salar de Arizaro.
The path to cross it's runs 85kms on pure salt. During the first
part the salt is white and then it's red. It's means you can get
a sensation of staying on the moon first and then in mars.
All in the same day and cheaper than on a space tours!. The
space trip finished in Tolar Grande, a small village and a
train station. We shall sleep in a new french-argentine
refuge with 2 big rooms with 20 beds each and one bathrooms with
hot showers to each big rooms. Between the rooms there is a
kitchen and dining-room where we shall breakfast. Dinner will be
in a family house of local people.
Over the highest pass of América.
Leaving Tolar Grande, we go to into a dream: The "Valley of
the Dreams". Red mountains of sandstone, strange rock formations
and a few salt flats make a strong constrast of colours hard to
explain. It's just a dream, but we are in it. After the Valley
area, there is another salt flat call "Pocitos", then we
climb to get to 4.500 mts. above sea level and when we
finish the way down gets us to the village of San Antonio de
Los Cobres (famous because of, the Train to the Clouds stop).
After lunching in a restaurant we continue climbing to get to
the highest pass of any national road of the Americas: The
Abra del Acay at 4.900 mts. above sea level.
landscape of the way down is amazing.....we are getting back to
The Calchaquíes Valleys again but over the northern part (on the
second day leave de valley towards the puna region over the
southern part). The first small village shall be La Poma
(part of it was destroyed by the earthquake in 1930) and
then, 2 hours later we get to Cachi city........something
strange on the road,......something dark and smooth to drive on.
IT'S ASFALT!!!!! Check in into Cachi Hotel in double rooms with
private bath. Another long day is finished.
Day 6: Back to civilization.
Today we can wake up late!!!!, breakfast in the hotel around
9:00 hs, then we check out, we walk to the main square of the
village to visit the historic church and the archeological
museum. After buying "empanadas" (regional food) we start
the trip back to Salta city. On our way we stop at the
National Park Los Cardones (cactus park) to pic nic
We later descent toward the Lerma Valley
where is Salta city through the mountain road called
"Cuesta del Obispo" (in 20 kms. we go down 1.000 mts.).
Back to civilization in Salta we finish our 6 amazing days,
exiting and unforgettable experience facing with a nature into
the heart of one of the most beautifull areas of The Andes
Mountains in South America. The overnight of this day it's not
included on the trip.
all included: meals(not drinks) and accomodations.
6th overnight stay in Salta city, drinks and beverages, tips to
the guides and extras.