This is an extraordinary off road trip by 4x4 and private guide that goes deep into the heart of Northwest Argentina.
Topped and tailed with a few nights in Buenos Aires this itinerary takes you from Salta to the Puna region through spectacular terrain. Experience dusty villages and ghost towns, striking oases in high altitude deserts, red mountains, pumice fields and some 19,000 pink flamingos. Visit authentic Puna villages home to ancient traditions and cultures and dine in the homes of local shepherds on shimmering salt flats. Even when back on paved roads the journey is no less exhilarating as the road to El Peñon follows a long yellow field of native grasses, white lagoons and narrow deserted canyons. Traverse the Quebrada de las Conchas Gorge; 55 kilometres of scenic sedimentary rock formations before returning to the green valleys and colonial town of Salta.
For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.
what is included
what is excluded
PLEASE NOTE THE ABOVE FLIGHT COST IS A SUGGESTED FROM PRICE. FLIGHT COSTS WILL BE CONFIRMED AT TIME OF BOOKING. ALL FLIGHTS ARE ATOL PROTECTED.
Fly London to Buenos Aires overnight
Day at leisure in Buenos Aires
Known as 'The Paris of Latin America', Buenos Aires is quite simply one of the world's greatest cosmopolitan cities. World class museums and leading restaurants jostle for space with boutique shops and antique markets, and the colonial architecture and cobbled streets of San Telmo contrast with the modern lines and waterfront designs of up and coming Puerto Madero. It is a city with a colourful and fascinating history, which has given rise to a variety of neighbourhoods from the uber trendy Palermo Soho to the bohemian charm of La Boca, the birth place of tango.
You will be staying at Legado Mitico, Bed & Breakfast
Half Day City TourA fascinating 4-hour tour of the elegant turn-of-the-century districts that earned Buenos Aires the sobriquet 'the Paris of South America'. Begin the tour on the charming cobbled alleyways of San Telmo with its colonial architecture, before moving on to the Plaza de Mayo that is dominated by the the government house Casa Rosada, the Nación Bank, the cathedral and the original parliament houses. Continue up the leafy Avenida de Mayo towards the imposing grandeur of the Palace of Congress, before ending your tour at the historically fascinating Recoleta Cemetery. Discover the facts, stories and anecdotes that make up the colourful tapestry that is Buenos Aires.
Fly Buenos Aires to Salta
In the heart of the dramatic province of Salta lies the city of Salta itself, a charismatic colonial gem situated in a beautiful, mountainous region that makes a comfortable base for exploration of the dramatic surrounding landscapes. Once you've explored the city's striking architecture, museums and handicrafts market, there are plenty of excursions to consider further afield.
You will be staying at Legado Mitico, Salta, Bed & Breakfast
Salta to Tolar Grande
Salta / Quebrada del Toro / San Antonio del los Cobres / Labyrinth Desert / Tolar Grande100 KM paved Road. 250 KM gravel road Altitude 4.500 MTS Above Sea Level (ASL). to 3.600 MTS ASLJust 30 kilometres from Salta, the Toro Gorge is a natural rise that connects the green valley of Lerma, rich in tobacco, with the Puna, an arid plateau at more than 3500 metres. Over a distance of less than 100 km this wild gorge rises from 1200 metres to the Abra Blanca Pass at 4000 metres above sea level and the gateway to the Puna. The pass was part of the Royal Inca Trail, a strategic trail of 5000km built to unite the Inca Empire from Quito in Ecuador to Mendoza in Argentina. San Antonio de los Cobres, the capital of the Puna, is a dusty village and the last contact with civilisation before reaching the desert. It is also one of the head stations of the Train to the Clouds. Abra Chorrilos is the highest point and there one can learn about the Apacheta and its cultural importance for the Andean culture. After crossing the salt lake of Pocitos, begin a 3-hour drive through wild and untouched nature. The Labyrinth Desert is a 10 million-year fossil dune desert formed by clay picks and gypsum crystals. Today it is possible to drive across this natural wonder, a must for photography enthusiasts. Arrive at the tiny village of Tolar Grande, one of the most remote places on earth. It lies at the edge of a giant depression, the Salar de Arizaro, one of the largest salt flats in the world, and from this tiny old railway village built in 1940 there is a unique view over the western ridge of the Cordillera, an infinite skyline of volcanoes that tower to heights above 6000 meters.
You will be staying at Casa Andina, All inclusive
Tolar Grande and the surrounding areaTolar Grande has some exceptional sights nearby and so is a great base for exploring the puna's dramatic landscape. Here are some of the highlights:- Located approx 20 minutes from Tolar Grande, Ojos del Mar (Eyes of the Sea) are vivid blue pools of water in the middle of a startling white salar. The waters reflect the surrounding mountains in the morning sunlight and are a gift to all photographers. Top tip - for the best photographs, ask your travelling companion to wear a brightly coloured top to stand out as a reflection.- Cono de Arita - like a mirage, the volcanic cone of Arita rises alone out of the salt flats- From Tolar Grande hike to a hidden sand dune in the middle of the desert for spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, such as the Sacred Macon Mountain and the Llullaillaco Volcano.- Drive to Caipe, the old railway station from where all the minerals being mined in this area were transported to Salta. The station has long been abandoned and so there is a ghost town feel to this site and the views from the station across the colossal Salar de Arizaro are other worldly.- Labyrinth Desert is a 10 million-year fossil dune desert formed by ancient sediment and clay picks. Like enormous earth coloured jelly moulds, the dunes have been shaped by the weather and provide a spectacular back drop for photography
Tolar Grande to El Peñon
Tolar Grande / El Penon. 60 KM Paved Road and 280 KM Gravel and Salt RoadAltitude 4.500 M to 3.400 M.The crossing of the Arizaro dry salt lake follows the ancient itinerary of the shepherds guiding caravans of animals to Chile. The name Arizaro means Vulture Cemetery and comes from a period when many animals (cows and horses) died during the crossing of the salt flats becoming food for the vultures. A secondary road, opened by miners in search of copper and gold, leads to Arita Cone, a pyramid that stands out on the white plains of Arizaro. Antofalla is an important and spectacular example of a Puna oasis. In the middle of a high altitude desert there is a green valley thanks to a natural pure water spring, where poplar and willow trees grow in abundance. Antofalla, together with Antofagasta and Santa Rosa were important stations for caravans of llamas connecting this part of the Andes with the oasis of Atacama. The oasis is located just on the edge of the longest salt flat in the world, between red mountains and stretches of lava. Antofalla is still inhabited by a tiny community of 60 shepherds. Lunch in one of their homes and then cross the blinding white mirror of the salt flats. The valley of Calalaste, just a few kilometres away from Vega Colorada is the best spot to find wild llama and vicuña (the Andean cousins of the camel). It is a big village with more than 2.000 people who maintain their ancient traditions and culture. The name Antofagasta means "place where the sun shines" and it is surrounded by numerous volcano peaks. Overnight in El Peñon, a small village perched at 3.400 metres, where mostly shepherds live and work. It is one of the last authentic Puna villages, where water and green grass allow the grazing of llamas, goats and sheep.
You will be staying at Hosteria El Penon, Full board
Excursions around El PenonThere are plenty of spectacular sites nearby to El Penon, making it the perfect base for exploration of the puna. Here are some of the highlights:- Campo de Piedra Pomez (Pumice stone fields). A volcanic explosion akin to that of a nuclear bomb gave rise to the pumice stone fields just outside El Penon. Like enormous pavlovas, these flat topped rocks have been whipped into shapes by a combination of wind, sand and sun and make for a remarkable sight on the harsh puna horizon. Find your own rock, climb it, sit quietly and enjoy the space and the serenity.- Laguna Grande is a saline lake that sits at an altitude of 4,150 mts and during the spring provides refuge for upto 20,000 flamingoes. Remote, rugged and very photogenic. - Antofagasta de la Sierra is the biggest oasis on the route connecting this side of the Andes with the Atacama in Chile and today is a village with a population of 2,000 people. Antofagasta means "place where the sun shines" and it is surrounded by a myriad volcanic peaks.- Duna Blanco - climb this mighty sand dune and take advantage of one of the best views in the puna.- Salar de Antofallita - vast salt flat dotted with black, volcanic cones and mini blue pools.
El Peñon to Salta
El Penon / Salta. 440 KM Paved Road, 50 KM Gravel Road. Altitude 4.500 M to 1.100 M.After three days of intense travelling on the high desert plateau of the Puna, the North West still has plenty of surprises. The paved road from El Peñón to Route 40 is a 150 km long yellow field of paja brava (native grasses) only broken by white lagoons and a narrow canyon filled with rich vegetation. At Santa Maria, enjoy a real Argentine asado, with a simple parrilla prepared by a local gaucho. After a quick stop in Cafayate, a pleasant town surrounded by green vineyards, and with the best light of the day traverse the Quebrada de las Conchas Gorge, 55 km of scenic sedimentary rock formations, dating from 40 to a hundred million years ago, with geological formations such as the Yacoraite or the Pirguas, arriving back in Salta and its green valley after 5 days of unique adventure.
You will be staying at Finca Valentina, Bed & Breakfast
Fly Salta to Buenos Aires
Drive from Buenos Aires to Pampas
Leave the city behind for the sprawling Pampas; flatlands home to vast estancias and a strong agricultural industry.
The sophisticated capital of Buenos Aires may be at Argentina's head, but the heart of the nation and the people is out in the countryside. It was here, in the fertile and limitless pampas that the proud, rebellious and passionate Argentinian character was forged and the country's fortunes made. The original gauchos (cowboys) of the pampas, who spent their lives on horseback roaming from ranch to ranch, may have disappeared, but the estancias themselves remain, many of which have now opened their doors to guests. A couple of days at an estancia is the perfect counterpoint to a stay in Buenos Aires, allowing you a unique and privileged insight into the old-world charms of pampas life and the chance to gallop around with modern day gauchos.
You will be staying at Estancia La Candelaria del Monte, Bed & Breakfast
Fly Buenos Aires to London overnight
Fly Buenos Aires to London
Phone: +44 (0)1285 885 333
Phone: +44(0) 1285 885 333
+44(0) 1285 885 333
+44 (0)1285 885 333
Tailor-Made Holiday Ideas
An Argentina Wildlife Holiday
10 days from £3,475pp
View Holiday Idea
Argentina - Fly Fishing, Riding & Brazilian Beach
18 days from £7,295pp
Argentina - Patagonia In Depth
19 days from £6,865pp
Buenos Aires and Uruguay
13 days from £4,295pp
Argentina - Highlights with Iguazu & Patagonia
13 days from £2,975pp
Culinary Holiday to Argentina
16 days from £8,595pp
10 days from £2,695pp
Holiday to Argentina, Chile & Antarctica
31 days from £12,750pp
Self Drive Holiday to North-West Argentina
16 days from £3,995pp
Argentina, Uruguay & Brazil Holiday
12 days from £2,995pp
A Honeymoon to Argentina
13 days from £4,595pp
Self-Drive Holiday to Argentina's Lake District
17 days from £5,495pp
Can’t find what you’re looking for?
Steppes Travel, 51 Castle St, Cirencester, GL7 1QD, United Kingdom