Road Trip!!!!!

Trip Start Oct 15, 2012
Trip End May 17, 2013

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Flag of Argentina  , Salta Province,
Friday, April 19, 2013

So we have heard quite a bit about Salta and its surrounding area but also that to really appreciate it you really need a car. After somewhat regretting not getting a car and driving through the lakes while in Bariloche we decided to take the plunge this time.

It is something never us will regret or forget.

The Plan:
So we decided once we had the car we would head south through the Quebrada de Cafayate to Cafayate where would stay the night. The next day we would drive the back toad up to Cachi before heading back to Salta for the evening.

In Salta we would meet up with Eric who we first meet all the way back in Puerto Varas and had done Torres Del Paine with and carry on our road trip. The first leg would mirror the route the tren A las nubes (train to the clouds) takes up through the Quebrada de Toro before crossing over the the salinas grande (salt flats) and towards pucharca. The next day we would drive the Quebrada de Humahuaca passing through Tilcara, xxxx and Humahuaca. The last day would effectively see our return to Salta doing the reverse of yesterdays journey.

Day One: Salta - Cafayate
So after picking up the car early in the morning we were quickly on our way. The first hour of the drive is pretty so so as you pass many of Salta outlying suburbs and/or towns. Once you reach the Quebrada however the scenery is pretty spectacular for the rest of the journey. It is hard enough to do this place justice with photos let alone with words so I am really not going to try to hard, just go (eben if you only go by bus!). You pass endless red rock formations that glisten in the sun shine along with fabulous views over green valleys to give a beautiful contrasts between desert and almost tropic landscapes.

We get to Cafayte in the early evening and after sorting out a hostel we chill out in town for a while (as everything is closed). However around 7:30 we head off to a wine bar (I guess I had not mentioned Cafayate is the main white wine producing region in Argentina) . We decide to try the local variety known as Torrontés which was actually quite nice (given I prefer red wines). After as Gabriella was feeling a little drunk we head off to the house of empanadas and order a dozen of them in various flavours (I remember having some Carne, Vegetable, something with blue cheese, amoung others) and they were absolutely fantastic. After to finish off our evening we head off the the local gelato place which is well known for having wine flavoured ice cream. We stick to the Torrentés and have to say it was extremely strong but good.

Day two: Cafayate - Cachi - Salta
We are off early, which is good as it ended ip being a long drive. Today we are spending a lot of the day on the famous route 40, a road that stretches over 5,000km from the south of Argentina to the northern border with Bolivia. It also means however we will be driving dirt roads for the majority of the day.

After yesterdays fantastic scenery we both left wondering if we would be disappointed today, turns out we could not be more wrong. In some ways while similar to the previous day it could also not be more different and have to say probably preferred it even more, maybe even more so has driving slowly we had more time to take it all in or maybe just the fact your driving on dirt roads makes it feel more authentic not sure. It takes us almost 6 hours to drive the 150kms to Cachi. We also managed to get a puncture on the way which was annoying but turns our very easy and cheap to fix (hardly surprising sure they have tonnes of those on this road.

We only spend about an hour or so in Cachi, as while we would love to stay longer we still have at least a three hour drive and want to back main road before dark. However in that time we manage to look around e plaza and church have a yummy lunch (empanadas and a quinoa salad) and also have a decent gelato.

The drive back is actually quite nice as well it involves going over a pass (at around 3,100m) before descending all the way back down to around 1,200m. the descent is a bit scary in that there are obviously very big drops but could not see much as was low cloud everywhere not the best of combinations. We did manage to get back to the main road just as it was getting dark

Day Three: Salta - San Antonio de Los Cobres - Salinas Grandes - Purmamarca
Today is a long drive and thus we are starting very early at 7:30 given a large part of todays drive is on dirt roads and with the experience of yesterday we want to give ourselves as much time as possible.

The first part of the journey is through the Quebrada de Toro following the famous train to the clouds, a drive that includes getting up to 4,200 meters. Again it is an amazing drive but different enough to the last couple of days to keep it interesting. Effectively following a river valley alot of the way. On reaching San Antonio de Los Cobres you can can continue for around another 40 minutes to the famous viaduct, La Polvorilla which is the end of the train line.

We head back to San Antonio, stopping briefly for lunch (xxxxx) before continuing our journey. The next bit of the drive is a bit hard as it is all dirt roads and we are unsure how long it is going to take us. The landscape is the most barren we have come across on this drive and is like driving through and endless desert. We do so a number of Llamas and Vicunas (not actually sure which they both look the same) and thankfully the journey takes only three hours. The last bit is interesting ad we are driving around the Salinas Grande a giant salt flat just right there in the middle of nowhere.

On reaching lovely tarmac we decide to take a quick detour to check out the salinas which are quite impressive in their own right but still not as grand as the Salar de Uyuni. We continue on our way driving up and down another mountain pass reaching I think around 4,000m for the second time today and with the sun slowly setting and adding light to the already vibrant landscape it is extremely impressive.

We reach Purmamarca just as it is getting dark and find a place to stay (thankyou lonely planet). After sorting ourselves out we head into town and it is a pretty amazing setting surrounded by coloured hills which even in the dark seem impressive. We find somewhere to eat and enjoy a lovely meal (I have a quinoa salad, Gabriella has Quinoa burger and Eric a salad but have to say we would have all been happy with must the bread and spreads let alone the rest) before heading home to bed.

Day Four: Purmamarca - Uquia - Humahuaca
Today thankfully a more relaxed day as there is not much driving involved and what driving is involved is on a tarmac road. Eric is up relatively early to go see the last of sun rise and also to have his morning fix of coffee while Gabriella and I relax in bed.

Eventually we are on our way and head into town for a little while. As it is Sunday there is a market on today so we browse through the goods, having a break to chill and have a coca tea and some empanads (which due to her poor communication Gabriella misses out on).

We do need to somewhat start on our day though so we head back, pick up the car and slowly make our way north. It is a beautiful drive although it is all getting a feeling of same old by now for us after three days of amazing scenery. We decide to skip Tilcara and do that tomorrow and instead head to Uquia, famous for its church that has painting of the saints with guns. We arrive there a bit early though and the church is closed so will chill for a while and have some more empanadas and we also but some quinoa pops and introduce Eric to a snack similar to pop corn but better in my opinion that we discovered in Bolivia. The church is very beautiful and small so only takes a couple of minutes to look at, so we quickly find ourselves on the road again.

We arrive at Humahuaca in the early afternoon and have to say initially think we were all a little disappointed after Purmamarca but we do eventually get a feel for it. We first sort out somewhere to stay and find a cheap hotel which is a bit of treat for gabriella and I to have our room. We explore the town a bit though there not really much to it and more just relax and have a nice afternoon siesta. In the evening we go out for a lovely dinner where i have a nice health quinoa salad while Gabriella has Cazuela and then we share a couple of beautiful quinoa desserts. The restaurant seems to have some live music which is quickly drowned out by the festival that seems to have started outside. We go and watch (think it some sort of holy blessing day) but we are all tired and head home to bed after about 10 minutes or so.

Day Five: Humahuaca - Tilcara Jujuy - Salta
This morning we have chance to have a good sleep in as we are not in too much of a rush today besides trying to get back to Salta to drop the car off before 9:30pm but even thats not the end of the world if we dont as we dont actually have to dop it off until the next morning but we dont want to have to find parking.

We manage to start heading on our way at round 11am and head slowly back down towards Salta and more particularly our first stop of the day of the Tilcara. We stop along the way to take some photos of the beautiful surroundings and also at the marker for the Tropic of Capricorn to take the obligatory photo.

We get to Tilcara just before lunch and have it seems like the Lonely Planet has oversold it a little bit. We had originally intended to stay here the previous night however glad we choose Humahuaca over it, not that it is horrible or anything, just an ordinary town. Eric and I have a bit of a look around the square and at the church while Gabriella looks at the shops. We head off to the market and have lunch. We have chicken kebabsand chips and a couple of empanadas which are good and then finish up with an ice crea,.

We are on our way again south and soon find ourselves in Jujuy which is the capital of the region and was once upon a time one of the most important cities in this part of the world, now not so much. Through Gabriellas excellent navigation we manage to find ourselves in the old part of town by the main plaza and you can tell it was once quite grand. We take a little walk around and take a few photos but are soon on our way again.

After a small detour, going the wrong way towards Salta we are soon in the right direction. While we had all been expending a boring drive home after the amazing scenery we have seen over the last couple of days but we could not be more wrong. However instead of the dry deserty landscapes of the last few days we are instead rewarded with lush green landcapes. The only unfortunate part of the drive is the road is not really one you are able to stop on so we dont get a chance to take any photos, not the I beleive the photos would do justice to it anyway!

We arrive back to Salta in the early evening. After dropping our bags off at our hostel we take the car to be cleaned and then filled with petrol and put the hub cap back on the tire (it has not been on since we had the flat tire on the way to Cachi). We end up in a bit of a rush but need not have worried as we had another hour anyway.

All in all it has been a fabulous couple of days and we have both really enjoyed and so glad we decided to hire a car and left us both a bit disspointed we had not done the same around Bariloche - oh well next time I guess.

The Nitty Gritty

Car Hire There are numerous car rental agencies around Salta as this is what alot of people do when the come here. Its quite cheap to hire a car (the petrol will cost you more) but would suggest if your on your own finding some friends to do it with which will save you alot of money. Be careful when looking at the insurance situation as this will likely differ from where your from. The excess for general damages ranges is 5,000 and up (around 1,000USD at the official exchange rate) and around 10,000 (one quoted us 35,000) and up (around 2,000 USD at the offical exchange rate) for any damage from head on collosions and in some cases if you roll the car. Generally it seems paying more up front drops the rates. We hired a basic car but you probably would be better off hiring a 4 wheel drive given the roads 0 as think we were just lucky not to do any damage. We hired ours through europacar
Cost  Car cost 2,000 pesos for 5 days. Petrol for 5 days was around 700 pesos.

Ruta 40, Cafayate. a good hostel in central Cafayate, it is also HI if you have a card you will get a discount. 
Cost 70 pesos each, 65 pesos with HI card for 6 bed dorm

Hosteria beb villePurmamarca. Basic but good hostel about a block from the main square. breakfast not included.
Cost 175 pesos for a triple

Casa del empanadas, Cafayate: Awesome empandas which you can buy by the dozen, from a wide selections (around 15 or so)
Cost: 50 pesos for 12 empanadas

Heladeria Miranda, Cafayate: Famous for its wine flavoured ice cream. Its ok ice cream and the wines ones are quite strong
Cost: 25 pesos for a cone or cup with three flavours

Chatos wine bar, Cafayate: A great place to try a selection of wines if you dont have time to visit all the wineries. YOu can try from a selection of different tasting menus with 5 or 6 wines in each or buy many of them by the glass
Cost: We had two glasess which cost 50 pesos in total. hink most of the tasting menus were around the same price.

El Refugio,  Humahuaca: A nice place about two blocks from the main square. The quiona dishes including deserts are fabulous
Cost: 2 mains and two deserts cost 137 pesos.


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