During this Argentina travel, we'll take a trip back in time to discover the cultural legacy of the ancient Incas, Diaguita, and the Spanish conquistadors, set against the backdrop of the magnificent peaks of the Andes. Hike among an array of strangely shaped and polychromatic desert landforms created from the primeval seabed. Visit the famed vineyards of Cafayate, hike through deep gorges, and climb dramatic mountain passes as we trek across Northwestern Argentina!
Tour the ruins of Quilmes, the largest pre-Columbian settlement
Hike Las Conchas Gorge, surrounded by red sandstone walls
Trek the valleys and cultural sites of the Cachi Mountains
Explore the colonial town of Salta at your leisure
Arrive Argentina today and transfer independently to your comfortable hotel. Spend your free time exploring the amazing architecture of Buenos Aires, or simply relax after your long international flight. Overnight.
This morning you'll fly to Northwestern Argentina, the most traditional region of the country where the size and influence of the indigenous population is still considerable. After arriving in the vibrant city of Salta, you'll continue your Argentina travels on a drive of discovery through the northwest as you make your way south to the wine country of Salta province. Along the way enjoy views of pre-Andean mountain vistas, the lovely Las Conchas Gorge, and the lush Calchaquies Valley. You'll stop at the ruins of Quilmes, the last stronghold of the Calchaquis people in their resistance against the Spanish. Dating from around 1000 A.D., Quilmes was a complex urban settlement with a population of as many as 5000 people. Here you'll see an excellent example of pre-Hispanic urban architecture complete with perfectly preserved walls of neatly set flat stones. Later in the afternoon you'll continue on to Cafayate, one of the most important wine regions in South America. Here you'll find a tiny colonial town dotted with vineyards, bodegas (wine cellars), and countless archaeological remains. Settle into your lovely bodega lodge and enjoy dinner complete with wine straight from the cellar!
Today you'll depart the lodge for a full day of hiking through the breathtaking Las Conchas gorge. This narrow valley with its red sandstone walls is one of the most picturesque areas in Salta. Millions of years ago this area was at the bottom of the ocean. Feast your eyes on the fantastic shapes produced by eons of wind and water erosion. Soak in the majesty of the colorful landscape and the history of this ancient stretch of the Inca path that amazed Spanish conquerors and modern travelers alike. This afternoon you'll return to your lodge retreat for a tour of the wine cellar.
Driving north you set out along the Calchaquies Valley, passing romantic villages full of colonial architecture and Hispanic art. The road soon takes you into the impressive Quebrada de la Flecha (Flecha Gorge), where a collection of sandstone spikes often appear like moving figures due to the play of natural light. This area holds much historical evidence of aboriginal settlements - adobe huts stand on sand dunes here. In Molinos you'll visit a large adobe church, and in the center of town you can still see the old water-driven mill that was used to grind maize. This is a great spot to search out a unique gift - you'll find many local craftsmen selling only handmade goods. You'll end your day at the most picturesque place along the windy Calchaqui road - Cachi. Wander the cobblestone streets, visit an ancient chapel made from cactus wood, and discover one of the best archaeological museums in Argentina.
Day 5: Cachi Mountains
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning start out with a leisurely walk through the Cachi Adentro valley in the foothills of the snowcapped Cachi Mountains. After lunch you'll take a brief drive to Belgrano Ranch to load up for your 3-day hike. To help share the load, you are accompanied by packhorses and baquianos. When all of the equipment is loaded you'll set off from Finca Belgrano on a winding trail that gradually ascends the Belgrano River gorge. The end of this short (approx. 4 hours) hike will find you at the adobe farm of Corralito just in time for tea. After tea, settle into camp and then treat yourself to a walk to a viewpoint to enjoy stunning sunset views of the Cachi range and the southern end of the majestic Pukamayu (Red) valley. (Total hiking distance- 7 miles).
Day 6-7: Pukamayu Valley Trekking
2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Today is a day of discovery as you continue your journey through the Cachi Mountains. Explore the cultural and natural heritage of the region with visits to ancient native ruins and marvel at fantastically eroded colored sandstone landforms. Crossing several valleys, you'll gradually ascend to Patahuasi (3,400m), a cultivated plateau perched high above the valley with stunning views of Pukamayu and Vallecitos surrounded by snowy mountains. Beginning your descent to Vallecitos you'll pass an ancient Indian shrine where it is easy to imagine former worshippers overcome with the beauty and grandeur of their surroundings. The air quickly warms as you enter the Pukamayu valley where the myriad of rock colors and forms are astounding. Tonight you'll meet up again with your pack train and camp at Vallecitos along the natural valley terraces with spectacular views of this magical landscape (Total hiking distance- 11 miles).
On Day 7 you continue trekking with a relaxed pace, taking a circuit of the Pukamayu valley with its fantastic landforms. Even though there are no visible roads, the valley is dotted with fascinating cultural sights. Along the way you'll have a chance to try to puzzle out the meaning of intriguing petroglyphs, stop at an ancient water mill, and visit native dwellings to learn about local cultivars such as potatoes, corn, quinoa, and fruits. Before returning to your camp at Vallecitos, wash off the dust from your journey with a refreshing dip in the Capillas River, its waters reflecting the red valley surrounding it (Total hiking distance- 11 miles).
You'll start out the day with the challenge of crossing over the mountains, ascending to 3,000 meters, enjoying some of the best views of the Calchaquies Valley along the way. As you descend into the valley to meet your transport to Salta, you'll pass by traditional small towns and farms inhabited by local artisans and farmers. From the Calchaquies Valley it is on to the city of "Beautiful Salta", a gem of a colonial town set in the lovely Lerma Valley. The city is home to true criollos (native Argentineans of Spanish parentage) with a culture that has remained untransformed by generations of immigrants. Wander through the shops and the markets discovering delicious local cuisine, works by local artisans, art and history museums, and the grand colonial architecture. This last evening is yours to explore as you like.
Day 9: Return Home
Catch your flight to Buenos Aires and connecting flights homeward or continue to another destination in Argentina, such as Iguazu Falls. With more time in Salta, spend an extra night and do the Train to the Clouds excursion to witness beautiful landscapes and scenery as you travel on one of the world's most amazing railways.
Everything was amazing! The planning with Adventure Life went smoothly. The actual trip was fantastic! One of the best trips I have experienced. The cruise staff members were knowledgeable and attentive. I will be writing more about this on the blog!