One of our great unfinished business in our country was to visit the beautiful and well known north of our country. So one day we decided to take the ticket with two friends and fly to Jujuy. Here is our 10-day itinerary through the provinces of Salta and Jujuy. There are places that we didn't get to visit but we leave them for you to take into account when planning your travel route.
Best time to visit Jujuy and Salta
The best time to visit the north is during the dry season, as many roads are gravel and during the rainy season they crumble and it is not possible to reach all the places:
Dry season: April to November
Rainy season: December to March
Itinerary through Salta and Jujuy
The distances in the north of Argentina are a bit long, which is why we decided to travel by private car, as it gives you more freedom when it comes to travelling. For those who prefer to do it by excursion, it is also possible. However, our recommendation is to try to do it by private car.
We flew from Buenos Aires to San Salvador de Jujuy and rented a van at the airport.
- Day 1: San Salvador de Jujuy - Purmamarca
- Day 2: Purmamarca - Maimará - Tilcara
- Day 3: Uquía - Cerro de los 14 Colores (14 Colours Hill)
- Day 4: Iruya
- Day 5: Cusi Cusi
- Day 6: Cusi Cusi - Purmamarca
- Day 7: Salinas Grandes - Salta
- Day 8: Cuesta del Obispo - Cachi - Molinos
- Day 9: Acsibi Caves - Cafayate
- Day 10: Cafayate - Jujuy
Day 1. San Salvador de Jujuy - Purmamarca
We start the day visiting the Termas de Reyes viewpoint, 20 minutes from the capital of Jujuy. Then we follow the road through the Potrero de Yala Provincial Park, the core of the Yungas biosphere. The entrance to the park is free, and ideal for driving. It is a gravel road of approximately 30km (1 hour).
Admission is free but you are required to make a donation to get in.
What to see in Potreros de Yala Provincial Park?
Los Paredones de Yala: This is a small stretch of the Yala River where there are large reddish stone walls. It is not well signposted, in fact we couldn't find it when we went, so we recommend you to find out before you go.
The Yala Lagoon
There are also 3 trails that can be done:
- Corral Redondo Path. Almost 1 km long.
- Miradores Path. 2.5 km long.
- Montane Forest Trail. 1.6 km long
After a short walk through the national park we start our journey to Purmamarca where we will spend the night.
Day 2. Purmamarca - Maimará - Tilcara
Purmamarca is one of the most picturesque villages in our country and has a wide range of hotels.
We start the day admiring the Cerro de los 7 colores, famous for the different tones of its slope. A good place to see it is at the foot of Cerro Porito.
Then we did the Paseo de las Coloradas, a 3km trail that can be done on foot or by car, which starts at the foot of the Cerro Porito. The scenery of this trail is incredible, you can see the reddish and brownish colours.
Don't forget to walk around the town and visit the Plaza 9 de Julio where the fair is and in front of it the Santa Rosa de Lima Church.
After lunch we continue on our way to Maimará where we stop on the road to observe the famous Paleta del Pintor.
Then we continued on our way to Tilcara. We took advantage of the daylight to walk around the streets.
Things to do in Tilcara:
- Pucará de Tilcara: It is an archaeological site surrounded by the imposing nature of the area: cactus, cactus and prickly pears. At the top of the Pucará is the Monument, a stone pyramid built as a tribute to the archaeologists who worked on the restoration of the site.
- Garganta del Diablo: A natural waterfall located about 5 km from Tilcara, which can be reached by car, on foot or on horseback.
We slept in Tilcara
Day 3. Uquía - Hill of the 14 colours - Tilcara
We start the day on our way to Uquía to visit the Quebrada de las Señoritas.
They are a set of coloured rock formations that with the erosion of thousands of years formed cracks and mystical caverns. Legend has it that some young ladies of the Inca empire hid in the ravine with a shipment of gold coveted by the Spanish invaders. It is said that they hid it in the ravine and then offered their lives to Pachamama.
After a long walk through this incredible place we continue on our way to Humahuaca where we stop for lunch.
Personally we didn't like Humahuaca very much, we thought it was more picturesque to base ourselves in Purmamarca or Tilcara.
From Humahuaca we start the route to the Hornocal where theCerro de los 14 Colores is located, one of the most incredible places we saw on this trip.
It is located at 4761 metres above sea level and is reached by a gravel road that takes about 45 minutes / 1 hour by car. When we had the 14 coloured hill in front of our eyes, we got goose bumps, it is very impressive! It is really worth the trip.
The best time to visit is at sunset as they say that the colours are better, but, as it is not advisable to make the journey by car at night, we went around 4 in the afternoon to avoid the midday light, which is not always the best. Keep in mind that when you arrive and get out of the car you are at 4300 metres above sea level, so it is very important to do everything calmly and not to get agitated!
On the way back we were able to watch the sunset over a field of cactus, a real beauty.
Then we went back to sleep again in Tilcara.
Day 4. Tilcara - Iruya - Tilcara
A place that was highly recommended to us was Iruya, a small town in the middle of the mountains at 2780m above sea level. Cobblestone streets, incredible panoramic views, a beautiful church... a place to disconnect and admire its simplicity!
To get there it is necessary to take a gravel road of about 2.5 hours, which runs through small villages on the mountainside. The road alone is worth the trip to Iruya, it is truly enchanting.
Once in Iruya we sat down in a small restaurant to enjoy some delicious fried empanadas. Then we walked around the town and went to one of the viewpoints, the Mirador de la Cruz.
Many people also recommended us to visit San Isidro de Iruya and spend the night there, another small town that can only be reached on foot, it is a trek of about 6km and it is necessary to go with a guide. We couldn't do it as we didn't have enough time.
We then returned to spend the night in Tilcara.
Day 5. Tilcara - Cusi Cusi
Today we leave very early in the morning in the direction of Cusi Cusi, a small town in the north of the province of Jujuy where the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is located. A truly incredible and not so well known place that is worth a visit.
We are going to dedicate an exclusive post to this place so that you can find all the information you need to visit it.
We sleep in Cusi Cusi.
Day 6. Cusi Cusi - Purmamarca
We get up to watch the sunrise over the Valle de la Luna. After admiring this incredible place for long enough we decide that it is time to head back so we set off for Purmamarca.
We arrived around 4pm, and since we were up at dawn we decided to rest for the rest of the day.
Night in Purmamarca.
Day 7. Purmamarca - Salinas Grandes - Salta
Another iconic place in the north of our country is the Salinas Grandes, so beautiful and immense.
From Purmamarca it is a 1 hour drive, and to get there you pass through the famous Cuesta de Lipán.
You can only enter the salt flats with your own car, and only with a guide. The guide is hired at the entrance and costs $1000 ARS (May 2021) per car. The guide rides his motorbike and shows you the crystallization pools and the eyes of the salt flats and gives you a great explanation about the salt flats.
It is also possible to hire an excursion from Purmamarca, Tilcara, Salta or Jujuy.
The salt pans are located at an altitude of 3,300 metres above sea level and cover an area of 12,000 hectares.
Ten million years ago, water from a volcano covered this basin. Over the years, this liquid evaporated and gave rise to the salt flat, which has an average thickness of 30cm.
At the entrance of the salt flat there is a fair where they sell handicrafts made with salt, they also sell salt and you can't miss the famous stuffed tortillas.
We then set off on our journey to Salta.
Our idea was to sleep in Salta Capital but because of the pandemic it was confined (May 2021) so we continued to a town called Chicoana, really a very picturesque and charming place, we liked it very much!
Day 8. Chicoana - Cuesta del Obispo - Parque los Cardones -Cachi - Molinos
We start our journey to Cachi on route 33 which passes through the incredible landscapes of the Quebrada de Escoipe, the Cuesta del Obispo and the Recta de Tintin.
The Cuesta del Obispo is a winding and steep road of 20 kilometres that links the Valle de Lerma Valley with the Alto Valle Calchaquí. Although most of the road is gravel, it is possible to do it by car.
Its highest point reaches 3,400 metres above sea level and has a breathtaking view!
When we started the route we encountered several police controls because Cachi was confined by Covid (May 2021), so we were not allowed to continue our route.
When we reach the Recta de Tintin, instead of continuing along Route 33 towards Cachi, we turn off onto Route 42.
But as every cloud has a silver lining, the Los Cardones National Park and Los Colorados National Park are located on this route, a landscape from another planet!
Then we take Route 40 in the direction of Molinos. We have lunch at the Hacienda de Molinos and then continue our route to the Bodega Colomé, 30km away.
In the Bodega Colomé there is a museum of an American artist James Turrell, 100% recommended.
It is a work dedicated entirely to light and space. The best time to appreciate the work is at sunset, and the only ones who can access it at this time are the guests of the winery, which is why we decided to stay here. The visit to the museum also includes a wine tasting.
Here you can see a video that tells a little about the museum.
Day 9. Molinos - Acsibi Caves - Cafayate
We set off on our way to Seclántas to visit the amazing Acsibi Caves. These caves are privately owned and can only be visited on a tour organised by the family who own the estate.
Hidden among the Calchaquíes Valleys, the Acsibi Caves are caves formed between the immense walls of a great canyon. It is an excursion well worth doing.
The excursion starts from Seclántas (Salta), 3 hours by car from Cafayate. Once at the farm, a 1 hour drive in a 4×4 truck takes you to the starting point of the 8km trekking through a canyon (a dry riverbed between two ravines), which is guided and lasts approximately 6 hours. It includes a picnic lunch on the spot.
#Fact: It was part of the Inca Trail where a lot of merchandise was transported. That's why the locals are still hoping to find some treasure 😱.
After an hour and a half's drive we come to the Quebrada de las Flechas, a spectacular landscape on the road.
We continue our route until we reach Cafayate where we spend the night at the Patios de Cafayate Hotel.
Day 10. Cafayate - Quebrada de las Conchas - Jujuy
After breakfast and a tasting at the El Esteco winery, we headed back to Jujuy along Route 68, which crosses the incredible landscape of the Quebrada de las Conchas.
Stops at Quebradas de las Conchas
- La Yesera: To get there you have to walk for 30 minutes along the Sendero los Estratos (free entrance), which is very well signposted.
- The Amphitheatre
- The Devil's Throat
Well, that's it! We hope you liked it and hopefully it will help you plan your next trip.
If you have any questions, comments or other information about Norte Argentino leave us a comment below. We read them!
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