On the desert tracks - From Mendoza to Salta

Trip description

Live a real adventure on the roads of the Argentine Northwest. You explore its beautiful Andean landscapes between colorful mountains and small picturesque villages. You visit the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja and discover the famous national parks of Talampaya and Ischigualasto (Moon's Valley). You cross lunar landscapes, deserts with ochre colors, but also the tropical valleys of Tafi del Valle. Contrasts and change of scenery are guaranteed! From Mendoza to Salta, you discover regions that are not very visited and yet rich in landscapes and emotions.


Agency photo

Discover the agency :

15 days

From : €2,155*


I am Elsa, travel designer at Terra Argentina. The northwest of Argentina is a region that I am particularly fond of, not only for the beauty and grandeur of its landscapes but also for its Andean culture and the kindness of its inhabitants. It is a real pleasure for me to share with you my passion and my enthusiasm for this beautiful country. 

Day 1: International Airport Ezeiza - City Tour Buenos Aires

Day 2: Buenos Aires - Mendoza

Day 3: Mendoza - Inca's Bridge - Barreal

Day 4: Barreal - Villa Unión

Day 5: Villa Unión - Talampaya and Ischigualasto Parks

Day 6: Villa Unión - Belén

Day 7: Belén - Quilmes - Cafayate

Day 8: Cafayate - Quebrada de las Conchas - Cafayate

Day 9: Cafayate - Molinos - Cachi

Day 10: Cachi - Quebrada de Escoipe - Salta

Day 11: Salta - San Salvador de Jujuy - Salinas Grandes - Purmamarca

Day 12: Purmamarca - Tilcara - Humahuaca - Cerro Hornocal - Tilcara

Day 13: Tilcara - Salta

Day 14: Salta - Buenos Aires

Day 15: Buenos Aires - International Airport Ezeiza

Day 1 : International Airport Ezeiza - City Tour Buenos Aires

©Milosz Maslanka - Shutterstock.com

Meet your driver at Ezeiza International Airport - transfer to Buenos Aires in a private vehicle. Transfer with an English-speaking guide.

Visit Buenos Aires (half day, walking tour).

First you visit the 9 de Julio Avenue dominated by the Obelisk, a symbol of the capital. You will pass the Colon Theatre, one of the jewels of the Argentine architecture. Then you arrive to the famous Plaza de Mayo, surrounding by the Casa Rosada, the Cabildo and the Cathedral.

You continue through the neighborhood of San Telmo, one of the oldest in the capital: many antique dealers, a covered market and antique cafes ...

You end your visit with the picturesque and famous neighborhood of La Boca, with its tipical and colored houses. Envoy your time at El Caminito, the spot for painters and tango dancers.

An English-speaking guide will accompagny you during the visit.


Night at the La Querencia Buenos Aires in standard room.

Day 2 : Buenos Aires - Mendoza

©T photography - Shutterstock.com

Transfer from your hotel to Buenos Aires Domestic Airport in a private vehicle.

Domestic flight Buenos Aires - Mendoza.

Car rental: Category such as Renault Duster or similar. Unlimited mileage included. GPS included. Pick up the vehicle at the airport.

Suggested itinerary:

Located at the foot of the Andes, close to the border with Chile, Mendoza is a pleasant city known for its quiet and peaceful pace of life. You can discover its 5 main squares: Plaza España with its ceramics, Plaza Italia, Plaza Chile, Plaza San Martin and finally Plaza Independencia, the most animated central square of the city. Then, go to the huge General San Martin Park. With its 900 hectares, 500 of which are wooded, this park, a real oasis in the middle of the city, is the pride of the inhabitants. You go up to the traditional Mount of Glory where the imposing status of General San Martin, hero of independence, stands.

Night at the Posada Verde Oliva in standard room.

Day 3 : Mendoza - Inca's Bridge - Barreal

©Maxime DRAY

Suggested itinerary

Morning departure towards the Andes. on international road No.7. You arrive to Uspallata, this charming "oasis" still preserves vestiges of the Inca Road where there were Control Posts called "Tamberías" to develop the trade between the local tribes and the Inca tribes of the North of the country.

You continue the road until Puente del Inca. In 1965, an avalanche destroyed almost entirely the spa hotel of this small hamlet, except for its chapel and the thermal rooms. Today the ruins offer a unique landscape! Then, you continue towards the Aconcagua Provincial Park. Enjoy the view of the Aconcagua (6 962 m of altitude).

You go back down to Uspallata to go to Barreal, in the north, a small village living of agriculture. Barreal also has 2 astronomical observatories.

05h30 drive, 380km.

Night at the Posada Paso de los Patos in standard room.

Day 4 : Barreal - Villa Unión

©Sylvie LIGON

Suggested itinerary

After the breakfast you continue your way north towards Villa Unión.

You can stop in the town of Iglesia and have lunch in a trout farm. Then, you continue to the lake formed by the dam "Cuesta del Viento".

In the afternoon you arrive at Villa Unión, where the culinary specialty is the roasted goat called in Spanish "chivito".

400km, 5h30


Night at the Cañon de Talampaya hotel in standard room.

Day 5 : Villa Unión - Talampaya and Ischigualasto Parks

©DFLC Prints - Shutterstock.com

Suggested itinerary:

Early morning departure to reach the beautiful Talampaya National Park. This park was created in 1975 to safeguard the archaeological and paleontological resources presented in this beautiful environment. The Talampaya River Canyon, with its gigantic walls which shelter condors nests, is one of the most beautiful Argentina’s natural wonders.

In the afternoon, you return to the vehicle, towards the Ischigualasto National Park, better known as “Valle de la Luna” or “Moon Valley”. 225 million years ago, this valley was a luscious green paradise with huge ferns and colossal vertebrates. Under the blue sky, lie such natural sculptures as “the mushroom” or “the sphinx” and many reptile fossils that figure among the countless treasures located in this region.

You go back to Villa Union.

Night at the Cañon de Talampaya hotel in standard room.

Day 6 : Villa Unión - Belén

©Maxence Gorréguès

Suggested itinerary:

Early departure to Belén, pretty small village and capital of the poncho. You will be able to visit the workshop of Elinda Finguerosa to discover the handicraft work of her superb weavings, very famous in Argentina.

Before reaching Belen, you will cross the archaeological reserve El Shincal, located at the foot of the Quimivil mountain. It is assumed that this site was occupied by the Incas between 1471 and 1536. Some 20 kilometers further, you arrive at the village of Londres. It was the second village founded in Argentine territory (the first was Santiago del Estero). This village is home to 2600 souls who live mainly from weaving.

You arrive at the end of the day in Belen.


Night at El Belen hotel in standard room

Day 7 : Belén - Quilmes - Cafayate

©Eduardo Liuzzo - Shutterstock.com

Suggested itinerary:

You leave this morning from Belen to reach the archeological site of Quilmes, ancient fortress of the Inca period. This fortress housed up to 3000 people, resisting the Spanish evangelization and military conquest. The city, with its labyrinthine structure, was built in stages on the sides of a hill. Visit of the site.

Then you continue to Cafayate. This village, located in the heart of the Calchaquies Valley in the province of Salta, is internationally known for the quality of its wines, the mildness of its climate, the kindness of its inhabitants and the beauty of its landscapes. Discover its small streets and the central square of the village.

250kms, about 4 hours of travel.


Night in the Vieja Posada Hotel in a Superior room.

Day 8 : Cafayate - Quebrada de las Conchas - Cafayate

©Alamer - Iconotec

Suggested itinerary:

During this day you will cross the "Quebrada de las Conchas" also known as the "Quebrada de Cafayate" which offers the most grandiose landscapes of the Argentine Northwest: imposing and semi-desert mountains with multicolored rocks and sculpted by erosion. A spectacle that nature has prepared for centuries and that will surprise you!

Return trip to Cafayate.

Note: 3h30 - 170 kms.


Night in the Vieja Posada Hotel in a Superior room.

Day 9 : Cafayate - Molinos - Cachi

©Kseniya Ragozina - iStockphoto

Suggested itinerary:

You leave this morning from Cafayate and continue through the vineyards of the Calchaquies valleys. Little by little, we leave behind the green landscapes for a more desert-like panorama. You then cross the "Quebrada de las Flechas", a geological formation representing rock spires that rise towards the sky.

Then you arrive at Molinos, a small colonial village dating back to 1659, with a majestic church and the elegant farmhouse of Isasmendi, the last governor of the city of Salta. You continue your trail to reach the small colonial village of Cachi located at 2200m of altitude. Cachi is a peaceful Indian village with low whitewashed houses, where the church of San Jose dating from the eighteenth century with its roof carved in cactus wood. You can visit the small archaeological museum that presents beautiful collections of ceramics from the pre-Inca and Inca periods and more particularly from the Santa Maria culture.

The wine lovers will be able to visit the cellars of the Bodegas Puna, Mira Luna and Isasmendi which propose tastings of wine of altitude.

165km, approximately 5 hours of journey of which 138 km of track.


Night at the Casa de Campo La Paya in standard room.

Day 10 : Cachi - Quebrada de Escoipe - Salta

©Sylvie LIGON

Suggested itinerary:

Departure in the direction of the city of Salta at about 145km. You cross spectacular landscapes in the Regional Park of Los Cardones, arid lands bristling with candelabra cactus and also known for its long straight line called ¨recta del tin tin¨. You then reach the Piedra del Molino pass at 3350m, and cross the "Quebrada de Escoipe", a great deep gorge where the green forests contrast with the ochre color of the earth, the rugged mountains of the Cuesta del Obispo.

You arrive in Salta in the early afternoon.

155kms, about 4 hours of travel.


Night at Delvino hotel in superior room.

Day 11 : Salta - San Salvador de Jujuy - Salinas Grandes - Purmamarca

©H.Fougère - Iconotec

Suggested itinerary:

Departure by vehicle from Salta. After 180 kms of road, you will cross Purmamarca, which means village of the Holy Land in Aymara language. This place is known for its 7 colors mountain "Cerro de los siete colores" a kind of mineral rainbow.

You continue then on the road 52 to visit the Salinas Grandes. You pass the Lipan pass located at 4170m and arrive at a vast white expanse that contrasts strongly with the pure blue sky. You are in the middle of one of the largest salt deserts in Argentina (12,000 hectares). In this unusual environment, you may have the chance to observe herds of vicuñas.

Return to Purmamarca.

5h40 - 385 kms - Asphalt


Night at Los Colorados Cabanas Boutique in Superior Bungalow.

Day 12 : Purmamarca - Tilcara - Humahuaca - Cerro Hornocal - Tilcara


Suggested itinerary:

Depart from Purmamarca and arrive after about 20 kilometers to Pucará de Tilcara, a pre-Hispanic Omaguaca village dating back more than 900 years. You can visit the site and the amazing collection of the museum. This one has notably mortuary vases, jewels and other objects coming from the archaeological sites of the Argentine Northwest. Then stop at the village of Humahuaca located at 2940m, which was one of the most important centers of Inca trade.

You can continue on the winding trail to Hornocal where you will have a magnificent panoramic view of the mountain with 14 colors.

At the end of the afternoon, return to Tilcara to spend the night.

190 kms (of which 50 kms of tracks to Mirador Hornocal) for 3h30 of journey


Night in the hotel Canto el Viento in a superior room.

Day 13 : Tilcara - Salta

©Sylvie LIGON

Free morning to enjoy the village and its surroundings.

Suggested trek:

You can take advantage of this morning to go hiking to the Garganta del Diablo, a high rock formation located about 7 kilometers from the town of Tilcara. It was named after a ditch that the Huassamayo River bed dug between the rocks to make way for its course. This deep groove dug by the water on the living rock, constitutes an impressive natural phenomenon. From this formation, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Quebrada de Humahuaca and the Nevado del Chañi

14 kms approximately - 3h30 round trip - easy level.

We leave Tilcara to take the road back to Salta via San Salvador de Jujuy.  Drop off your vehicle. 

Note: 210 km - 3h10 - Asphalt.


Night at Delvino hotel in superior room.

Day 14 : Salta - Buenos Aires

©Maxime DRAY

Transfer from your hotel to Salta's airport in a private vehicle.

Domestic flight Salta - Buenos Aires

Transfer from Buenos Aires domestic airport to your hotel in a private vehicle.


Night at the La Querencia Buenos Aires in standard room.

Day 15 : Buenos Aires - International Airport Ezeiza

©R.M. Nunes - Shutterstock.com

Transfer from the hotel to Ezeiza International Airport in a private vehicle.

Describe us your travel plan : your wishes and your needs

We send your request to local agencies

Receive freely up to 4 tailor-made quotes

Choose the agency that fits your needs