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  • Writer's pictureBianca

The Perfect 4-Day Road Trip Through Salta, Argentina

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When it comes to Argentina, everyone knows about Buenos Aires and Patagonia, but I want to dive into a couple of lesser known but absolutely stunning regions in the northwest of Argentina - Salta Province and Jujuy Province. The natural landscapes here might not necessarily rival Patagonia, but they certainly hold their own. I highly recommend exploring this region for a few days if you happen to wind up in Northwestern Argentina at some point in your South America trip.


I think the best way to check out this region is to take a 4- or 5-day tour of northwest Argentina so I'll be a little more conservative with the time available and break this up into a 4-day Salta road trip.


Day 1 - Salta City

Start your four day Salta road trip in the city of Salta (duh)! In the early morning, take a hike up Cerro San Bernardo for some spectacular views of the city from above. If you don't feel like taking the hike (which would take roughly an hour to an hour and a half), or if you're just running low on time, you can also opt to take the cable car up. There's plenty of parking at the base of Cerro San Bernardo btw! Which is a miracle because street parking in Salta is hard to come by.


Once you're done enjoying the views from the top of San Bernardo Hill, drive your rental car to Quebrada de San Lorenzo which is only about thirty minutes outside of Salty city. At this beautiful location, you'll be able to go on a scenic trek that isn't too physically demanding. Plus you might come across horses and sheep (at least I did when I went).


Day 2 - Purmamarca & Tilcara

The next day of your northern Argentina road trip, get up early and set off for Purmamarca. Located in the province of Jujuy, Purmamarca is a small village where you can indulge in traditional food and purchase any number of handcrafted goods. You'll find pottery, clothing, children's toys, and so much more - all completely handmade! While I'm not big on souvenirs, I still thoroughly enjoyed walking through the town. Plus it's a great spot for a lunch break after a long drive. Purmamarca is where I got to try llama for the first time in the form of llama cazuela (it was tasty!). But don't worry, there are plenty of non-llama options if that's not your cup of tea.


After your pit stop in Purmamarca, continue onward towards Tilcara which is only about a 30-minute drive. On arrival, you can check out Pucará de Tilcara which is a pre-Incan fort located a short walk (roughly 15 minutes) from the small town. Hit up the main square to do some more souvenir shopping - this is the spot to find smaller trinkets whereas Purmamarca has more things like home goods. Wrap up your long day of travel with a dinner in the town - Senador Tilcara is a great place to go for a nice dinner and it offers both traditional Argentinian cuisine and international cuisine. Just note that it gets super busy around 9/10pm so you might wanna make a reservation ahead of time.


Spend the night in Tilcara as this will be your starting point for tomorrow.


Day 3 - Tilcara & Salinas Grandes

Make the most of your last day in the little town of Tilcara by starting the morning at Garganta del Diablo. Like the multitude of other "Devil's Throats" located throughout South America, it ends in a waterfall. But manage expectations, the waterfall isn't large by any means and Garganta del Diablo is just a nice little trek from Tilcara. Take the morning to explore Tilcara before heading to Salinas Grandes for the afternoon. Make sure to try some of the most popular snacks in Argentina while you're here!


Salinas Grandes are giant salt flats (not nearly as large as Uyuni in Bolivia, but still the third largest in the world) located in San Salvador de Jujuy. It'll take you about an hour and a half to drive there from Tilcara. It's important to keep in mind what time of year you're going - it is rainy season during the summer months (January-March), and Salinas will typically be flooded while in the winter months they'll be dry. Personally, I love the reflectiveness of flooded salt flats, but you'll be more likely to experience road closures and the drive might be more dangerous. 


The best part about your self-drive tour is that you'll be able to get further out into the salt flats because you can drive onto it. All you have to do is pay a small fee of 8,000 ARS (roughly $8 USD at the time of writing) and a guide will lead the way on motorbike while you follow along behind in your car. The guide will also get the best, super creative photos of you so that's an added bonus!


Day 4 - Humahuaca Gorge & Hornocal

On the final day of your 4 day Salta and Jujuy road trip, make sure to get to Quebrada de Humahuaca, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The town of Humahuaca is relatively easy to get to, however I'd recommend hiring a driver for the remainder of the way to Hornocal because it is an extremely rocky winding road that could do some serious damage to your tires, especially if you're not rolling with a 4x4.


Humahuaca town itself doesn't have much to see as its pretty much in the middle of nowhere but it's a good place to grab a quick snack and find a driver before Hornocal. A driver should only charge 5,000 ARS for a roundtrip drive from Humahuaca to Hornocal.


Hornocal is absolutely stunning and a can't miss on your road trip through the north of Argentina! It is also known as Cerro de los Catorce Colores or the Hill of 14 Colors. And when you see it, it'll be abundantly clear why.

One super important thing to keep in mind when coming here is that Hornocal sits at a high altitude. At 4,760 meters above sea level, it will definitely take your breath away in more ways than one of you aren't used to high altitudes. Make sure to take your time climbing back up from the viewpoint if you aren't acclimatized yet and prone to altitude sickness.

 

Salta is an absolutely incredible region in the North of Argentina and even if you decide against a self-drive tour, don't deprive yourself of seeing these beautiful landscapes! It's also a good idea to book a tour through GetYourGuide - they offer day trips from Salta city to each of these locations for reasonable prices! Plus the tours will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, so you don't have to worry about navigation.

For example, they have this day trip from Salta to Purmamarca and Salinas Grandes for $47 USD. This tour will not only take you to both Purmamarca and Salinas Grandes, but also the Cerro de los Siete Colores aka the Hill of Seven Colours which is a smaller version (obviously) of the Hill of 14 Colors. 

Another option is this 10-hour tour of the Jujuy Province that covers Purmamarca, Tilcara, Maimara (which I didn't even get to myself!), Hornocal, and more - all for only around $62 USD.


It doesn't matter if you drive yourself or go on a private tour, everything here is so beautiful it really makes for one of the best road trips and you absolutely should do it if you get the chance!

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