Wherever you go in North West Argentina, you don’t have to go far to get off the tourist trail into a great natural landscape and isolated villages where life goes on untroubled by the modern world.
A word on the accommodation
All our trips in North West of Argentina are designed and timed to avoid the crowds: and because we travel at a gentle pace we can incorporate hikes of a couple of hours a day into most of our trips. We can also hire mountain bikes and arrange horseriding expeditions with local specialists.
But if you really want to get away from the pressure of modern life, we can take you hiking into the hills, where you’ll discover a world largely untouched by modern progress. Below is just a selection of our hikes: we’re developing more all the time: so please visit our Facebook page and blog for latest walks.
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Colours of Vallecito
SUITABLE ONLY FOR EXPERIENCED HIKERS
We travel south from Salta through the Parque Nacional de los Cardones into the Valles Calchaquies. We will have time for a short walk along the way, before overnight and acclimatisation in Cachi. (2,200m).
On our first day of full hiking, we follow a riverbed upsteam, hitting the 3,000m altitude mark before a picnic lunch. Then it’s a tough climb to a peak of 3,558m, our highest altitude along the whole walk, to be rewarded by some stunning views of the snow-topped mountains of Cachi, Palermo and San Miguel: and the multi-coloured canyon of Vallecito. We arrive at Patahuasi for our overnight stop in the adobe brick home of Juan and Nilda. They will cook us dinner before the night’s entertainment: marvelling at the stunning starscape in this corner of wilderness.
distance 16km: hiking time 6 to 8 hrs: highest altitude 3,558m: overnight altitude 3,531m
The following day we descend gently into Vallecito canyon: a little-visited spot of great natural beauty between the Valles Calchaquies and the gorge of the Quebrada del Toro. We can visit the primary school where a teacher and a cook live most of the year dedicated to a handful of pupils. The landscape over the next few kilometres, as we continue our descent along the river bed, was transformed by a mudslide during the rainy season of summer 2016. A 10 metre deep channel was gouged out in the course of a few hours: an example of the dramatic erosion which constantly changes the landscape in this area. Overnight in the adobe home of Beto and Elda.
distance 14km: hiking time 4 to 5 hrs: highest altitude 3,531m (start): overnight altitude 2,690m
An early morning start to walk out of the valley, climbing to a peak of 3,276m, with great views of snow-topped mountains and the Parque Nacional de los Cardones. We get a birds’ eye view of Payogasta valley before descending for lunch: empanadas and cold Salta beer. From here we can return to Salta, continue south into the Valles Calchaquies wine region or north towards La Poma and the Altiplano mountain plateau.
distance 18km: hiking time 6 to 8 hrs: highest altitude 3,276m
overall distance: 48 km over 3 days
highest altitude: 3,558m
maximum distance per day: 18km
grade of difficulty: 4/5
This trip can be combined with the CLASSIC WINE ROUTE
Mountain trekking in Iruyamin 5 days: hiking days: 2.5
SUITABLE ONLY FOR EXPERIENCED HIKERS
Our expedition begins with a night of acclimatisation in Tilcara, at 2,500m: and a chance to explore the highlights of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, famous for its Seven Coloured Hill at Purmamarca and the Painter’s Palette of Maimara. This is also an opportunity to sample the nightlife at one of Tilcara’s famous music peñas before heading off into the rural tranquility of the mountains.
We head north from the Quebrada de Humahuaca into the mountain plateau, and then take an unmade road across rivers and up a mountainside, rising to a peak of 4,000m at Abra del Condor. Our base for the hike is Iruya, a remote, predominantly indigenous town perched picturesquely in the cleft of a canyon at 2,800m.
Next day, we head off into the hills: climbing a steep zigzagging path to the plain of Panti Pampa at 3,168m altitude: along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to stop for a breather and sample the outstanding views of the valley. After a picnic lunch, we follow a narrow mountain track to San Juan: here we stay with a local family, cooking dinner for us in their traditional adobe home.
distance 10km: hiking time 5 to 6 hours: highest altitude 3,168m: overnight altitude 2,900m
On day 2, we walk up the valley, home to a few hardy campesino families, to where the river San Juan emerges from its underground source. Then we climb the hillside, scattered with lava rock from long-ago volcanic eruptions. We scale to an altitude of 3,505m above sea level. If we’re lucky, we’ll see condors at this mountain viewpoint before we descend to San Isidro past the traditionally irrigated crop fields.
distance 8km: hiking time 4 to 5 hours: highest altitude 3,505m: overnight altitude 2,850m
Day 3: After scaling the mountains, we will enjoy the gentle relief of descent along the river-bed, where you can see the spectacular rock formations of the gorge. We reach the point where we started, close to the vertiginous climb to Panti Pampa, and make the final return to Iruya tired, but hopefully transformed by the natural wonder of this remote part of north west Argentina. From here we can return to Salta or continue north towards the Bolivian border.
distance 5km: hiking time 2.5 hours: highest altitude 2,903m
overall distance: 23 km over two and a half days
highest altitude: 3,505m
maximum distance per day: 10km
grade of difficulty: 3/5
This trip can be combined with FOOTSTEPS OF THE CONQUISTADORES
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min 3 days: hiking days: 2
Expedition to the Cloud Forest
SUITABLE FOR ALL
We visit Calilegua national park, a taste of the sub-tropical Cloud Forest in the sugar-growing region of Jujuy. This is part of the UNESCO region of the Yungas, which contains 300 different species of birds and 100 different types of mammal. Yungas is a word from the Inca language Quechua, meaning “Warm Valleys”. This is humid, low-lying country in the sugar-growing region of North West Argentina where temperatures can top 40ºC during the summer.
Calilegua was dedicated as a national park in 1979 to protect the biodiversity of the Cloud Forest: it’s home to 3,000 different plant species and 200 different types of tree, with the vegetation changing as we rise from Selva Pedemontana (lower mountain jungle) at 500m above sea level to Bosque Montano (mountain forest) at 1,500m.
We go hiking along established trails in the national park where among the wildlife we’ll find the ruins of an old pirka dry stone wall built by the San Francisco tribe that inhabited these forests 2,000 years ago. We will spend the night in the picturesque hill town of the same name, now home to many of the former sugar workers and small farmers moved here to make way for the national park.
After a full day’s walking in the Cloud Forest, a second night can be spent in the relative luxury of a hotel with a swimming pool in the steamy sugar city of Libertador Gen San Martin, close to the entrance of Calilegua.
grade of difficulty: 1/5
available April to December
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