Curated Adventures in South America
We are based in North West Argentina: one of South America's true gems. This is a region rich in history and indigenous culture boasting some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. The Cafayate wine region lies to the south, while a short hop across the Andes lies the famous Chilean Atacama desert and the breathtakingly beautiful Salares of Uyuni in Bolivia.
We specialize in hiking and wine tours, but whatever your interests we can design a bespoke holiday in Argentina to suit your tastes: from history to horse-riding, music to mountain biking, indigenous life to nightlife.
Your holiday will start when we meet you at the airport and drop you off at one of our carefully selected boutique hotels, estancias, or bed and breakfasts in the charming colonial city of Salta.
You’ll discover all our holidays in Argentina have one thing in common: they avoid busloads of tourists in favour of small, personalized tailor-made tours that bring you into contact with the locals and won’t cost the earth.
Join us to explore the best of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile
Combine the highlights of the colourful Quebrada de Humahuaca with the other-wordly Salinas Grandes salt flats in the Argentina Altiplano.
Rich in indigenous culture and colonial history, the old trade route from Buenos Aires to Lima features the Seven Coloured Hill of Purmamarca, and Hornocal's lesser known Fourteen Colours.
A side-trip to appreciate the immensity of the Salinas Grandes salt flats makes this one of the most diverse two day trips available from Salta or San Salvador de Jujuy.
Salta City Tour
Salta is one of best-preserved colonial cities in South America: with excellent museums, bars, restaurants, and nightlife.
We can organise a walking tour of three or four hours which will cover the main highlights of this pretty, laid-back city, starting in the classically Spanish colonial main square.
We also offer a longer tour in a car over five or six hours taking in the environs of Salta.
Salt & Seven Colours
This trip combines the historic UNESCO site of the Quebrada de Humahuaca with the Salinas Grandes salt flats of the Altiplano mountain plateau.
We can often combine this trip with our Classic Wine route by taking the mountain pass of Abra el Acay, the highest road crossing in the world outside the Himalayas, at just under 5,000m altitude.
Footsteps of the Conquistadores
A high altitude 4x4 adventure along the old colonial mining route: bringing you into close contact with the Altiplano wildlife of vicuña, flamingoes, and rhea.
This tour combines the must-see highlights of the UNESCO-protected Quebrada de Humahuaca with little-explored sections of the Argentine mountain plateau, close to the border with Bolivia.
Wine and History: Mendoza to Salta
Take the long and winding road from Mendoza to Salta, visiting lesser known boutique wineries in San Juan, La Rioja, and Catamarca along the way.
This deep immersion into the wine and culture of Argentina is perfect for those who want to combine an exploration of the rich history of the region with some of its best off the beaten track wineries, through some breathtaking scenery close to the Andes.
Our journey begins in the hub of Argentine wine production, Mendoza, taking the iconic Route 40 north, through the emerging wine regions of La Rioja, Catamarca, and Tucuman.
Classic Wine Route
Explore the varied landscape of the Valles Calchaquies, and its excellent boutique wineries, in this Argentine wine tour par excellence.
Our Classic wine route combines Salta's superb boutique wineries in the highest altitude wine region in the world with the breathtaking landscape of north west Argentina.
Apart from the ubiquitous Malbec, this area is known for its fine Torrontes and Tannat.
Wine and History: Salta to Mendoza
Take the long and winding road from Salta to Mendoza, visiting lesser-known boutique wineries in Catamarca, La Rioja, and San Juan along the way.
This deep immersion into the wine and culture of Argentina is perfect for those who want to combine an exploration of the rich history of the region with some of its best off-the-beaten-track wineries, through some breathtaking scenery close to the Andes. Apart from Argentina’s classic red Malbec, we’ll be sampling lesser-known varieties like Tannat, and discovering the Argentine take on classics like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinot Grigio.
Our journey begins in the highest altitude wine region in the world, the Valles Calchaquies in Salta, famous for its production of Torrontes, a white grape variety that is unique to Argentina. From Salta’s principal wine town of Cafayate, we take the iconic Route 40 south, through the emerging wine regions of Tucuman, Catamarca, and La Rioja, before arriving in the provinces of San Juan and Mendoza, producers of 93% of the nation’s wine.
Colours of Vallecito
A voyage of discovery into the untouched landscape between the Valles Calchaquies and the Quebrada del Toro, only accessible on foot, horse, or donkey.
This challenging hike covers 48 km over 3 days, rising to 3,558m altitude.
It follows the old trade route between the fertile valleys of the Calchaquies and Lerma and the mountain plateau.
You won't forget the experience of being far from the hubbub of modern life, in touch with the inner tranquility of times past.
Mountain Trekking in Iruya
This high-altitude trek through the multi-coloured hills around Iruya takes us into the heart of local communities untouched by the modern world.
We visit small settlements in the mountains surrounding the tiny hill town of Iruya, close to the Bolivian border. Following trails used for centuries by the locals, we stay with local indigenous families in tiny hamlets only accessible on foot. This trip is combined with a visit to the essential sites of the UNESCO-protected Quebrada de Humahuaca.
Fourteen Colours & Cloud Forest
Hike Argentina’s Inca trail, linking two completely different eco-systems, the dry canyon of Humahuaca and the Cloud Forest of Calilegua.
We take a narrow mountain road which was only finally completed in October 2019, tracing the footsteps of Inca explorers of northwest Argentina from the 15th century.
This trip can be extended to include a visit to the gorgeous mountain town of Iruya and the historic settlement of Yavi on the Bolivian frontier.
Expedition to the Cloud Forest
Hiking verdant green trails in the sub-tropical Cloud Forest of the Yungas in Jujuy: an oasis of plants and birdlife.
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”.
Wine and Mountains
A 4WD safari tour of the heart of Argentina’s Andean mountain plateau, combined with the Valles Calchaquies wine region.
It’s combined with a tour of the Valles Calchaquies wine region, where the white grape of Torrontes finds its best expression, and apart from the classic Argentine Malbec, you can also sample Tannat, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Why choose us?
With a dedicated English speaking driver/guide, we’ll take you on a personalised private tour exploring the best of the north west. All our guides have an intimate knowledge of the scenery, people and places of iinterest: and by the end of the trip so will you. We guarantee to take you to the places where the tour buses don’t go!
Quality & Experience
When you're planning your trip to Argentina, wherever you’re going, do get in touch with Nick and Alicia at Poncho Tours. We have been organizing people’s tailor-made holidays for 14 years. Though based in Salta and specialists in the northwest, we have contacts all over the country, so can recommend the best things to do in Buenos Aires, the finest wineries in Mendoza, and the top places to visit in Patagonia.
During our Covid-enforced shutdown over 2020-21, Nick returned to his old job as a journalist and has been writing for the international blog Budget Travel Plans.
Here you will find links to his write-ups on Buenos Aires:
- Best time to Visit Buenos Aires
- Three Day Itinerary for Buenos Aires
- Twelve Things to do in Buenos Aires
- Ten Day trips in and around Buenos Aires
Of course, in Salta we are close to the borders of Bolivia and Chile, so can arrange your tours to the Atacama Desert and Uyuni or even the little-known wine region of Tupiza. Don't miss Nick's blog on the Salar de Uyuni Bolivia salt flats to help plan your trip.
And check our blog for lots more useful information about your holiday in South America.
Culture & Tradition
Your trip with Poncho Tours will give you an insight into Argentina's culture and tradition. Argentina is an ostensibly Catholic country but, particularly in the rural areas, Christianity is mixed with pre-hispanic beliefs in Mother Earth, Pachamama. When you visit Argentina, you will come across roadside shrines to more contemporary folk saints like Gauchito Gil and the Difunta Correa. In the North West, the coca leaf is also bound up with ancient traditions: it's still chewed daily by the locals and is ideal for combating altitude sickness.
Though some may quibble about its listing under culture, football is the glue that binds the nation, and it provides a great ice-breaker for foreign visitors. It was immigrant railway workers who staged the first ever football match in Argentina in 1867, and the Scotsman Alexander Hutton who founded the Asociación del Fútbol Argentino 26 years later. The Brits, of course, also brought rugby and polo (as well as cricket, which, mysteriously, never quite caught on).
Food & Drink
Nick and Alicia from Poncho Tours will be your guides to the Argentine kitchen, and we can organise special classes for those who are passionate about food (and drink!). The nation is a carnivore's paradise: the classic Asado is an unmissable barbecue that includes parts of the cow you never knew existed (or would perhaps prefer not to think about). In the northern province of Jujuy, the llama is a speciality: accompanied by Andean potatoes, of which there are hundreds of varieties of all shapes, sizes, and colours.
Salta is famous for its empanadas, small meat pies, normally filled with meat, chicken, or cheese. Salta's empanadas are the best in South America: in Bolivia and Chile, empanadas are known simply as salteñas. Other regional specialities include tamales (cornmeal and meat) and humitas (sweetcorn and cheese). Perhaps surprisingly, Argentina also offers a host of culinary treats for pescatarians and vegetarians: river fish abound, and thanks to the huge influx of immigrants from Italy, there are numerous pasta places. We also have the Italians to thank for the best ice cream parlours in South America.
Read our blog about Argentina's sweet tooth here.
Words from our customers
Poncho Tours is located in Salta, North West Argentina: one of South America's true gems. This is a region rich in history and indigenous culture boasting some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth.
We can take you deep into the mountain plateau in one of our 4x4s; explore the wine route from Salta to Mendoza; sample asados (traditional barbecues) and ride horses on working estancias; and on hiking trips into remote areas where you will stay with the locals and get an insight into their everyday life.
Frequently asked questions
North West Argentina is really an all-year round destination, but remember seasons are opposite from the northern hemisphere. It’s coldest in July and August (winter), and hottest from November to March (Spring into Summer).
Rainy season in northwest Argentina is January and February, but there can also be storms in December and March. We use 4x4 vehicles, but the weather can be unpredictable so we have to be flexible, and in extreme circumstances may be forced to make changes to the itinerary. Storms tend to come late afternoon or overnight, and are very dramatic but over pretty quickly, so hopefully it shouldn’t affect your holiday too much.
Yes, of course: all the trips outlined on our webpage are designed to whet your appetite and show what’s achievable in a certain time-frame. But as we are tailor-made specialists, what we like to do is design the perfect holiday to suit you. So get in touch and we’ll start the conversation!
It’s unlikely. Salta is 1,200m (3,937ft) above sea level, so you don’t even notice the altitude: but going north and south we soon rise to 2,500m (8,200ft): and west into the mountain plateau we can reach altitudes over 3,000m (9,840ft). The key is acclimatisation, so most of our trips are designed to rise gradually: and to follow our advice en route: avoid heavy food and alcohol, drink lots of water, and chew coca leaves or drink coca tea (we’ll provide both).
For cancellation 14 days or fewer before departure on the trip with Poncho Tours, we reserve the right to retain 100% of the deposit paid. For cancellations between 15 and 30 days before departure, it’s 50%, and between 31 and 60 days in advance, it’s 25%. If you cancel more than 61 days in advance, the deposit is fully refundable. See our full terms and conditions here.
If you’re unable to complete your holiday due to Covid-19 restrictions, we will keep your deposit for a future trip or, in extreme circumstances, we may agree to return it.
The great news is that no quarantine is required for fully vaccinated visitors. To enter Argentina, you need to have evidence of complete vaccination, hold travel insurance which covers Covid, show a negative PCR test 72 hours before travel, or antigens test 24 hours before. This is a useful interactive map: (https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/world.php).
Only in rare cases: from most countries you will simply get an entry stamp in your passport on arrival which allows you to stay here for three months.
The national airline Aerolineas Argentinas offers the most flights from Buenos Aires to Salta, in addition to thrice weekly connections from Salta to Iguazu, Mendoza, Cordoba and Rosario. Apart from Aerolineas Argentinas, JetSmart and FlyBondi also operate daily flights between BA and Salta. Jetsmart also has three connections a week to Neuquen in northern Patagonia and twice weekly Iguazu. Here are the links you can visit: