Great North Argentina Road-Trip

Code: NOA02
15 Days and 14 Nights
  • Great North Argentina Road-Trip
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica
  • JC-150417-1656
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica
  • Best Road Trip South America
  • Best Road Trip SouthAmerica


Great North Argentina Road-Trip. Tucumán to the Puna.

The Best Road-trip in Northern Argentina, going from the green Yungas jungle to the high altitude dry deserted plateau, going across history, wineries and culture. The Great North Argentina Road-Trip.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Tucumán Airport / Jujuy Airport
DEPARTURE TIME Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.
Rented Standard Medium Size Vehicle with liability insurance.
Accomodation for 14 NIGHTS in mentioned boutique and/or rural hotels or similar category. Driving Map plus digital handbook full of info about what to see along the way. Local’s tips and recommendations for each visit, recipes and local music for the roadtrips.
National Park Entrance Fees
Meals, Tolls, Gratuities
PRICING Prices shown for a double room per person. If you are a group or need something different please consult.





Our itinerary begins in San Miguel de Tucumán, usually called simply Tucumán, the cradle of Argentine Independence, and the nation’s fifth-largest city (800,000). Two hours away from Buenos Aires by plane, as you arrive to this northern Argentina metrópoli, you will quickly feel that although you are a medium size city, it does have a “countryside small town feel”. With hot summers and chilly winters, Tucumán invites visitors to appreciate the different shades of greens and with wide avenues and multiple parks, it is known by Argentinians as the “Garden of the Republic”. Very close to the Tropic of Capricorn but also immersed in a dry valley, has a perfect climate for citrus agriculture.

The contrast of the small town ambience and the fancy buildings comes to be explained mainly by the sugar cain plantations and (world leading production) lemon ranches, that can be appreciated to the south of the City. With much history to be learned and tasty cuisine, your first stop would also be the best place to get equipped with all the gear you might want to have for the next few days, since from here on… all other places to be visited in the next week are small towns.

At Tucuman we will pick up our car and gear up for our upcoming adventure. We will arrive to Tucuman at noon which will give us the opportunity to stroll during the afternoon around town and check out the sights before hitting the road the next day.



From 430 meters above sea level we will start driving up towards Tafí Del Valle, a tiny town located 2000 meters above sea level which already can be imagined as a truly adventurous road trip. The landscape will change dramatically twice this day, starting in the Tucuman Jungle, going through the humid famous Yungas and arriving at the dry high altitude Puna. You will drive on provincial route number 307, which has been paved for just for s couple of decades and open as a road only for 60 years. A slow slope road becomes a winding cornice road with deep cliffs on its shore that end below, in the river that gives the place its name, Los Sosa Ravine.

This road shall take the average driver about 2 to 3 hours, although with some “photo stops”, local culinary experiences stops and small occasional but yearly consistent road work (due to the humid Yungas environment, landslides block roads and they are daily monitored to be cleared) some extra time. Anyhow, you are in no rush and eventually, before or after lunch time will arrive at Tafi Del Valle, a small town (population estimated at 5000) with modern infrastructure due to the tourist boom that has occurred in the last decade. It is not unusual for folks from Tucumán city to spend a weekend at this Andean village.

The town itself has plenty of interesting places to visit and local artisans shops to explore, but don’t try to get to do any of them after lunch since most of the stores and activities will be suspended for a siesta until 4 or 5, so this is a great moment to drive towards your next accommodation for two nights. There is archaeological data that goes 2000 years back with regards to human population and around 1600 when the spanish arrived to this area there was a royal ranch founded, later bought by the Jesuit Order. This is the origin of the town, and the ranch is the perfect place to spend the clear sky nights (since it’s out of the town’s noise and lights influence). Also during the day at the ranch many people come to see the production of a few local elements, like cheese (believe it or not, Tafi Del Valle is the National Cheese Capita, because of this over 300 years old establishment), vicuña’s wool and other agricultural products. 

Las Carreras Jesuit Estancia is nowadays a private business that keeps the tradition and even some of the local families that have worked here for generations and generations. It’s located 14 kilometers away from town, 20 minutes drive, in a higher valley that has access to many treks and offers the opportunity to go on horseback riding tours to explore The Valley.



A Day with no drive will allow you to get on the mood of the High Andes, visit the ranch, it’s cheese production, go for a hike, a horseback ride to the mountains, go into town to explore the small handicraft workshops or just sit back sipping a glass of wine overlooking the landscape.



After two nights at Tafi we will continue to drive north-west, to reach Amaicha del Valle, 60km away, we climb on road 307, you will reach the Infiernillo (little hell), the highest point on this road, at 3042 meters above sea level. Here, at the look out point, it’s worth getting off the car and looking back where you started, opening your lungs, catching the pure fresh air from the Andes…

You will cross over to the famous Calchaqui Valley, where some of the strongest battles between Incas and other etnias occured and also one of the few towns that the spanish conquerors left under autonomous control, Amaicha Del Valle. This cozy, simple town, has some of the most important museums in the region, worth stopping for a visit and why not, go for a walk around town as well to see high doors, colorful adobe homes and try some local culinary traditions.

Also, before arriving at Amaicha Del Valle (10 km away) you will drive next to one of the few astronomical observatories in the region, Ampimpa, at 2560 meters of altitude. Guided visits (they can and it’s better to arrange prior to arrival thru ASD or directly) are recommended to be done in the evening (5 to 10) and children are welcome. 

From Amaicha Del Valle we will continue towards mythical Route Number 40, the backbone of Argentina that connects North and South of the country for over 5000 km of road. Depending on weather, time of the day or just how you feel, we recommend either this afternoon or next morning to visit the Quilmes Fortress ruins. It’s an archaeological site which was the largest pre-Columbian settlement in the country, occupying about 30 hectares. The area dates back to 850 AD and was inhabited by the Quilmes people until the end of 1600 where they were captured and enslaved by the Spanish. It is believed that about 5,000 people lived here during its peak.

Among the many interesting facts about the Calchaqui Valley, this is home to many important Argentinian wines. For this reason tonight we recommend to stay at a Winery, located about 30 km away from this ruins, near National Road 40.



We have left the province of Tucuman and we have entered Salta which will be home to many wine related activities, although many more things can be done on the way. From the hotel we will drive only 60 km to Cafayate, a 20000 inhabitant medium size town, at 1600 meters above sea level, surrounded by multicolored mountains that change with every hour of the day as the sun shifts from east to west. The wines produced in the region benefit from the low-humidity mild weather of the valleys that receive 250 mm of rainfall per year. The most characteristic type of wine harvested in the area is Torrontés. Most wine-cellars around the town host free guided tours.



As lonely planet recommends, “It’s good-looking territory, with the green of the vines backed by soaring mountains beyond, and is one of northwest Argentina’s most seductive destinations”. We will spend two nights at Cafayate giving us enough time to explore not only the city, it’s wineries but also it’s fantastic surrounding nature. Taking a short road at sunset towards road 68 (paved) will approach us to the amazing landscape of what many trip advisor reviews stated as a “must do 5* road trip in northern argentina”. Some international journalists have rated this 100km long drive (completely paved)  “among the best road trips in south america”. Along the scenic road 68, driving through the Cafayate Valley or Conchas Valley where many signed stops are along the way with the most fantastic geoforms and colorful photo opportunities and since the tones go from yellow to red, we strongly recommend doing this drive on the afternoon, where the sun starts coming down. Some hiking trails are also on the way.



We will leave Cafayate on one of the world’s most famous and beautiful road trips, on National Route 40, going north. We will thru small towns, like Molinos, incredible landscapes like Angastaco Natural Monument with hundreds of open spaces for a good picnic, a hike and even a fresh feet dip into a river. We will go up on a gravel road towards Colome Winery, one of the highest vineyards of the world, over 3000 meters high, a special opportunity to try high altitude Malbec and spend the night at this magnificent and exclusive property.



Next day we will have another “gravel” day, which we can take slow since it is only 70 km that apart us from our final destination, one of the prettiest towns of the Calchaqui Valley. This will be the last section of the Road Number 40 we will drive, we will pass a few towns on the way and finally arrive at Cachi, a town as stated on Trip Advisor, “where time has stopped in the 1800’s”. Colonial Spanish style architecture with adobe homes painted white and built over bases of rock, sporting antique window grills forged of iron. Lonely Planet refers to it as “one of the most beautiful villages in the continent”.

In the surrounding area many farmers are to be discovered with ancient techniques and pretty fields that  harvest traditional high altitude products. After an overnight stay at a very special property, an old monastery turned into a boutique unique hotel. 



From the quiet peaceful town we will take one of the Northwest best road trips, the “Bishop Slope”, Road Number 33, but before that, 60km away from Cachi we have a mandatory stop at Los Cardones National Park where thousands of native Cactus await your creativity to try your best to capture the solitude, dryness and colors of the landscape flora. Who knows? Maybe even some fauna… Vicuñas, lamas, flying Condors and foxes are not rare in this region.

The Bishop slope will take you 2000 meters below to the metrópoli, the Provincial Capital, referred by Argentinians as “The Pretty Town”, Salta. After 170 km driven today we will stop for two nights at a cozy boutique hotel, giving us the opportunity to recover from the almost 1000 km driven till now. 



Salta offers very interesting and unique museums, big parks with huge monuments, colonial buildings but also modern infrastructure to acquire anything needed for the second leg of our adventure. And if you wish to step out of town and get to know San Lorenzo’s municipal Reserve of Yungas, you can also go there for hikes, picnics or just strolling by where people from the”big Metropoli” Salta go on weekends.  



After the second night at Salta we will go back on the road! Today we will drive 175km until we reach Purmamarca, as a northamerican journalist once said: a hidden gem, no more. We will now enter the province of Jujuy and as the New York Times Argentina correspondent once wrote: “the most singular aspect of Jujuy is its dramatic landscape: more than 20,000 square miles of salt deserts, untamed jungles and an endless maze of multicolored rocky mountains rising up to 16,000 feet, threaded by a scenic ravine called Quebrada de Humahuaca — a one time Inca trade route leading north to Bolivia, now a Unesco World Heritage site”.

On the way to the Quebrada de Humahuaca you have the option of taking two main ways. If you are a patient driver, and would like to see more of the Green Jungle of the Andes,  we would recommend you drive thru the Yungas, which means road number 9, it would be a peaceful drive, but as it is a cornice road, you will need to pay careful attention to the road. If you prefer the highway, taking road 66 will get you to the Humahuaca region in half the time (1.50 hours), you will find more traffic, less picturesque route, but at the end, the arrival will be spectacular on any of the options you would choose.

Welcome, you have reached the Puna, again… Colorful mountains, high altitude culture and cuisine, colorful blankets, llamas and vicuñas along the way and of course a way of life, vibe  and rhythm that takes no rush on doing anything. As some have said, the Village of Purmamarca is “Postcard-Pretty”, smaller than its neighbors we have chosen this town to be your host since the ambience seems taking out of a movie set and its only 30 minutes away from its larger, still small town, neighbor Tilcara, where more options on restaurants and shops may be found.



There are many things to be done in this area, from hiking Los Colorados hike, among other short and medium hikes, or driving up to Hornocal Mountains, visiting local museums and the Tilcara Pucará, a fortress from where the Omaguacas etnia overlooked the arrival of Incas.

If you wish to take a longer drive back and forth to Salinas Grandes, (120km away from Purmamarca on a paved road) one of the largest salt lakes in the region, you will reach 4000 meters high on Lipan pass, after many switchbacks and with a stunning view from the top.



After two nights at this colorful, famous town, we will go back on the road number 9,  towards the north, almost reaching the border with Bolivia. We pass Maimará, Tilcara, Humahuaca and other small towns on the way and once we have done 90km we will leave the paved road and go east towards Iruya, one of the less visited and most authentic towns in the north. The journey is worthwhile in itself, ascending to a 4000m pass, which winds down to a spectacular valley and eventually reach your last destination on our itinerary, Iruya, home to steep streets, adobe houses and breathtaking mountainscapes (with soaring condors). 



We will spend a second day at Iruya with the opportunity to visit more of the viewpoints from the top of the town, local market and also have a chance to hike to nearby town San Isidro on what is considered to be one of the most beautiful hikes in Argentina. 8km away, one from another, this would demand leaving early in the morning to enjoy the hike and the visit to San Isidro and arriving back to Iruya during the afternoon. It is also possible to do this trail on horseback. At Iruya we will have the opportunity to look back into all that we have driven, learned, experienced, during the last two weeks, an unforgettable trip, much worth the adventure.



Today we will leave the Humahuaca Gorge but we are in no rush, since we will drive 200 km to arrive to Salvador de Jujuy, the provincial capital where our flight will leave late in the afternoon. Take your time to get the last pictures from Iruya and from the small towns on the way to Jujuy where you will drop off your car and begin your trip home.

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