It is Autumn in Salta now, and rainy season is over.
As in much of the country which has suffered severe drought, this year we’ve had less rain in both Jujuy and Salta provinces, along with higher average temperatures between October and April and lower minimum temperatures from August to November.
Rainy season in north west Argentina is mainly January and February, with some precipitation (up to 100mm) in December and March. Generally, if you’re on a tour to Salta or Jujuy, you can be sure that once Easter is over it is pretty much dry until Christmas.
It gets quieter now in terms of tours to Argentina, and the cooler weather makes this THE best time to explore the more sub-tropical areas of Salta and Jujuy.
Calilegua Cloud Forest is only a few hours northeast of Salta city, and as you’ll see from our Hiking page, we can visit on a three day trip walking trails which have hopefully now dried out after rainy season.
This is lush, sub-tropical vegetation, completely different to the arid, colourful Quebrada de Humahuaca to the west. It’s also called the Yungas which means “Warm Valley” in Quechua, the language of the Inca: Calilegua national park is home to 3,000 different varities of plant, 300 different types of birds and 100 different species of mammal.
The vegetation changes dramatically rising from Selva Pedemontana (lower mountain jungle) at 500m altitude to Bosque Montana (mountain forest 2at 1,500m above sea level.
With an extra day in the picturesque hill town of San Francisco, on your private guided tour we can visit the hot springs of Termas del Jordan, in the river of the same name: as you can see from the photos on our Facebook page, we even saw capuchin monkeys on that trip.
For the intrepid hikers among you, now is the best time of year to make a four day trek from the Quebrada de Humahuaca to Calilegua, following the old trade route of indigenous people who met in the Quebrada to do trueque (bartering in which no money changes hands) with other tribes crossing from the Salinas Grandes salt flats and Altiplano to the west.
There is now a new road connecting Calilegua Cloud Forest with the Quebrada de Humahuaca, after decades of lobbying by locals to complete the gap between Valle Colorado at the north end of the Yungas and Santa Ana, an old mining town in the pre-Puna: only 15km in distance, but with more than 1,300m rise in altitude!
This dramatic mountain pass opened in October 2019, and was then promptly shut by a landslide during the rainy season of summer 2020… and then came the Covid shutdown.
With plenty of time suddenly on my hand, I finally completed a recce with my wife Alicia and son Calixto in June 2020, taking photos of the extraordinary change in scenery as we descended into the Yungas.
For hikers, there is a stretch of the Camino Inca (Inca trail) here which is in excellent condition. Walking the Inca steps here, you’re immediately transported back to life before the Spanish arrived here 500 years ago.
Outside Peru, Argentina has the most identifiable remains of Inca trail in South America, with 119km.
I returned with guests in December of that year: John and Christa from Florida joining us for their third long trip with Poncho Tours.
On these tours, we stay in the rustic, homes of local families in San Francisco and Santa Ana which really adds to the authenticity of the experience.
As we’re in such remote locations with very little artificial light, we’re also rewarded with breath-taking views of the night sky.
San Francisco, incidentally, is where many of the original indigenous occupants of the Cloud Forest were moved to when it became a national park in 1979
When communications improved (well, there’s a bus from the nearby city of Libertador San Martin which takes about three hours), it was the go-to refuge for those people living in the steamy valleys of Jujuy’s sugar region seeking refuge from the punishing summer temperatures.
- Contact us now if you’d like to walk the Camino Inca and get off the beaten track in South America this year.
- Click here for our Cloud Forest map and here for our full 14 Colours & Cloud Forest circuit.