'Into the Calchaquíes Valleys' We will pick you up at your hotel early in the morning and we will drive up the mountain through Los Cardones National Park, visiting the Enchanted Valley where we will stop to begin the first hike of the trip. We will do a two hours’ walk with a beautiful view and then we will continue down into Calchaquí Valley and will see Seclantás village and finally Molinos village. We will stop in Molinos in order to visit an interesting vicunas farm and also a nice handicrafts market. Heading from Molinos, we will continue on Road 40 to a place named Quebrada de Las Flechas or Arrows Gorge. The name comes from the shape of white sandstones like arrows looking up the sky. It is a place like moon pictures; the contrast in this early part of the trip is amazing. Then, a couple of hours later, we will arrive in Cafayate city to relax at the hotel. After your check-in, you can have a nice dinner in one of the restaurants in front of the main square.
Summary: 2 hours’ hiking in Los Cardones National Park and 6 hours’ driving.
'Into the Puna' Leaving Cafayate after breakfast, we will continue driving into Quilmes ruins where we will stop to hike 1 1/2 hours on the path exploring the Indian ruins; then, we will be back in the truck and will continue driving south to Catamarca province, going across an important city called Santa María del Valle de Yocavil on the way. After crossing a few small villages paces our ascent above sea level. The landscape turns into more arid with every hour of the trip. Mountain roads with huge climbing sand dunes are the scenery on the way to the edge of the Puna region - the huge mountain plateau at 3500m above sea level. The road now is straight over the desert and the wild life (vicunas and foxes), showing us that we are in the middle of nowhere. After many hours driving, we will arrive at a village named Antofagasta de la Sierra, located in the area of a volcano-dominated landscape. To get there we will have travelled over an old lava flow of black stones, and many times you will wonder which planet you are in! It is not easy to explain how these landscapes appear to be from a different world. We will check in at the Antofagasta de la Sierra local lodge in double rooms with private bath.
Summary: 1 hour 30 minutes’ hiking in Quilmes ruins and 7 hours’ driving.
'Archeology and volcano trekking ' Leaving around 9:00 AM , we will drive to Antofagasta's Volcano, where we will do a short trek up the cone, for a total of about 2 1/2 hours, which will allow us to circumnavigate the crater. We will have a great view of the town and surroundings from the top. After our descent, we will visit a place beside the Antofagasta's Lagoon in a spectacular landscape. At midday, we will return to the village to have lunch and take a short nap or siesta until 3:00 PM when we will go by truck to see an area of rupestrian art, drawn by ancient nomadic groups with origins in the desert who were searching new places for hunting. These little-known incredible petroglyphs representing animals, hunters or shields are painted on volcanic red rocks inside caves. Then, on the way back to town we will stop by the lagoon to see flamingos before returning to the hotel.
Summary: 3 hours’ trekking to Volcano Antofagasta and cave paintings and only 1 hour driving.
'Over the Salt Flat' Leaving Antofagasta de la Sierra, we will continue to the west where we will see our first salt flat 'Antofalla'. 'Salt Flat' means a flat surface area with pure salt which occurs when the natural salt of the earth in the mountains is transported by rain to the lowest level of the landscape. After millions of years of this process and subsequent evaporation under strong solar radiation, the salt concentrates and we are left with these salt flats. 'Antofalla' is a good example (picture below) and we can see ‘islands’ of the lava flowing from the old Antofalla Volcano (snowcapped in the background). After crossing the salt flat, we will arrive at another small village of the same name where we will lunch in a family house sharing life with local people. Afterwards, we will continue and - returning to Salta Province - we will cross the biggest salt flat in Argentina; Salar de Arizaro. The path to cross it runs 85 km on pure salt! During the first part, the salt is white and then it turns into red. This means you can get a sensation of being on the Moon first and then landing on Mars, all in the same day and cheaper than a space tour! Our space trip will finish up in Tolar Grande, a small village with a train station. We will sleep in a hotel or a refuge, depending on availability.
Summary: No hiking activities day and 5 hours’ driving.
'Over the Altiplano to the end ' Leaving Tolar Grande, we will experience a highlight: the Valley of the Dreams. Red mountains of sandstone, strange rock formations and occasional salt flats will give a strong contrast of hues – it is hard to believe rocks can display these many colors. It is like a dream, yet we are in it. After the Valley area, we will cross another salt flat called Pocitos, and then we will drive upwards until getting at 4500 m above sea level, then back down to the village of San Antonio de Los Cobres (famous since the “Train to the Clouds” stops here). After having lunch in a restaurant we will continue with the trip but now crossing over the high desert until we get to the salt flat in Jujuy Province named Salinas Grandes, where we will observe the workers harvesting the salt and even local people making handicrafts with it! Afterwards, we descend along the impressive Cuesta de Lipan to the Quebrada de Humahuaca, firstly to the village of Purmamarca, well known due to its location at the feet of the Hill of the Seven Colors (where we will return next day to appreciate the colors by better light). After Purmamarca, and now driving on a paved road, we will reach the small village Tilcara, staying the night at a nice hotel.
Summary: No hiking activities day and 5 hours’ driving.
'Back to civilization...strong contrast ' Today we can wake up late in Tilcara! - a treat – then breakfast at the hotel around 09:00 AM, followed by check-out and a walk to the main square of the village to visit the historic Indian ruins of Pucará and the archaeological museum. Later, we will follow the Humahuaca Gorge until reaching Humahuaca City, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn Line! After having lunch, we will start our return to Salta city, and if we have time we will stop in Purmamarca to see the Seven Colors Hill with a different light. We will then begin our descent into the low valleys of Jujuy, coming first to Jujuy capital city, and then we will take a road over an area of subtropical forest with lush vegetation - a huge contrast with the journey over the high desert of Puna de Atacama region! Estimated arrival time in Salta city: 6:00 PM.
Summary: 45 minutes’ hiking in Purmamarca on your own and 4 hours’ driving.