Day 1: Mendoza - Vallecito - San Agustín del Valle Fértil
Accommodation: Finca la Media Luna
We start in the city of Mendoza and enter the province of San Juan following the famed Route 40. About 60 km east of San Juan city we visit the desert hamlet of Vallecito, where the shrine of the popular religious figure Difunta ("defunct") Correa draws more pilgrims than any other in the country. To signify their gratitude for favours granted the devotees leave an astonishing assortment of items, from model cars to bride dresses. Next we continue bordering lush hills and green valleys, the Valle Fértil NP, until we reach the refreshingly tranquil village of San Agustín del Valle Fértil, where we overnight in a local guesthouse.
Day 2: San Agustín - PP Ischigualasto | NP Talampaya - Villa Unión
Accommodation: Hotel Canos de Talampaya
In the morning we explore (by driving in a convoi) the Ischigualasto Provincial Park. This dazzling desert exhibits bizarre wind-eroded sandstone formations, reveals the evolution of vertebrate life, and represents with a complete sequence of continental sediments the entire Triassic Period. After reaching the neighbouring province of La Rioja, in the afternoon we visit (not on our own) the amazing Talampaya Park and its invaluable geological and archaeological treasures. Main marvels are the colossal 160m deep Talampaya Canyon and the up to 80m high terracotta hued cliff walls. Overnight accommodation in a comfortable hotel in Villa Unión.
Day 3: Villa Unión - Chilecito – Belén
Accommodation: Belen Lodge
From Villa Unión we again follow and stay on Route 40 practically until the end of the tour. After enjoying the snaky and beautiful Cuesta de Miranda driving through 500-meters-tall red rock walls dotted with towering cacti, we arrive in Chilecito, where Station 2 of the cableway La Mejicana is worth a stop. Constructed in 1903 by the German company Bleichert and Co. to transport gold and other metal extracted from a mine in Cerro Famatina at an altitude of 4,600 m, in its time it was the longest and highest cable railway of the world, stretching up for 34 km. Afterwards we enter the province of Catamarca passing by olive plantations and nut trees. Nearby Londres, the first town built (1558) in Catamarca, we explore the remarkable site of El Shincal. Set among exuberant vegetation and mountains, these ruins are one of the most amazing remains of the Inca occupation of Argentina. Further north we arrive in Belén (1,254 masl), well known for its great tradition in weaving and its handmade llama wool ponchos.
Day 4: Belén - Quilmes Ruins – Cafayate
Accommodation: Vinas de Cafayate Vineyard
Today Route 40 leads through the fertile valleys of Hualfín and Santa María, also traversing a wide barren plain. Time permitting in Santa María we can make a detour through Amaicha del Valle and stop over in the Pachamama (Mother Earth) Museum of Geology and Anthropology, also exhibiting stone sculptures in a courtyard. They all describe the former indigenous cultures of the Calchaquí Valley. Next visit are the pre-columbian ruins of Quilmes, superbly built into the side of a mountain. Considered the most extensive site of Argentina, the Quilmes were part of the Diaguita culture and resisted Spanish occupation during 130 years. 50 km further on we reach Cafayate (1,900 masl), encircled by world-class vineyards and well known for its aromatic torrontés white wine variety, which we could taste by visiting a winery.
Day 5: Cafayate - Calchaqui Valley - Cachi
Accommodation: La Merced de Alto
On this journey we travel along the sandy valley of the Calchaqui River, which is at its most attractive in autumn, when red peppers are laid out to dry on the fields. Enjoying stunning landscapes such as the Quebrada de las Flechas (Arrows Gorge), a labyrinth of serrated rocks stabbing upward like arrows, we also will follow the meandering river and visit picturesque villages, like Seclantás and Molinos, featuring adobe-houses and delightful churches. Upon arrival in Cachi (2,280 masl), a laidback, quiet town at the foot of the snow-covered Nevado de Cachi (6,380 masl), we wander around on cobbled streets and among adobe homes painted white. Overnight accommodation in a cosy posada.
Day 6: Cachi – Salta
Accommodation: Hotel de Dique
Heading eastwards the road reaches the heart of Los Cardones National Park, a vast desert crowded with hundreds of centenary candelabra cacti, and begins to descend the Cuesta del Obispo in scenic serpentines until gently entering the Quebrada del Escoipe, a verdant ravine enclosed by steep red cliffs. Continuing northwards and past the fertile Lerma Valley we arrive in Salta, "the Beautiful".
Day 7: Salta – No Drive Day
Located at an altitude of 1,200 m, in the heart of the Lerma valley, the city of Salta was a strategic stopping point for troops and carts traveling to the Potosí - Bolivia silver mines, more than 400 years ago. Today the colonial city of Salta has a population of over 1 million and is considered by many to be one of the most modern cities in Andean South America. In the evening, visit one of the many cafés in the main plaza to watch the world go by and enjoy the vibrant and authentic folkloric singers over a few wines.
Day 8: Salta – Jujuy – Purmamarca
Accommodation: Huaira Huasi
Head off along the Ruta 9 towards Jujuy. It’s 2 ½ hour drive along a narrow winding, but spectacularly beautiful, road. From Jujuy continue along the Ruta 9 towards Purmamarca, another 1 ½ hour drive (56km) along a smooth and easy road. You’ll pass through lush, tropical scenery before the green vegetation gradually makes way for a more arid, rocky landscape.
The last stretch passes through the spectacular Quebrada de Humahuaca. The canyon can be very windy, which is why we’ve selected accommodation for you just outside. The villages of Humahuaca, Tilacara or Maimara lie deep within the canyon and tend to be so dusty that it can feel like you’ve been caught in a giant sand storm. Purmamarca, the next stop on your Argentina self drive is just 3km outside the canyon, out of the wind and a lot more comfortable. You’ll be staying in a friendly ‘refugio’, a typical village hotel with 9 basic but clean rooms with private bathroom and solar-powered hot running water and heating (nights can get cold here!). The refugio has been built in local style using local building materials and is surrounded on all sides by rugged mountain scenery.
You can spend the rest of Day One of your Argentina drive exploring the village. Purmamarca is a peaceful village, made up of tiny clay houses nestled at the foot of the Seven-coloured hill (Cerro de los Siete Colores). The hill gets its rainbow-coloured appearance from the rich mineral content in the rocks and draws many travellers to the area. Most of the local population run a hotel or restaurant or sell traditional crafts and souvenirs. The main square in Purmamarca is a good place to grab a bit to eat and enjoy the laid-back village atmosphere. There’s also a small tourist office where you can get information about excursions and hiking trails in the area. There’s an interesting trail that begins at the back of the cemetery up the Cerro de los Siete Colores. It’s about an hours’ walk, but you can take your time to stop and admire the amazing colours. The hill is most beautiful early in the morning, so it’s best to do this walk early in the day.
Day 9: Purmamarca-San Antonio de los Cobres
Accommodation: Hotel de los Cielos
With an early start we drive westwards along El Toro canyon where impressive geological formations painted by diverse minerals exposed on wind-carved slopes explain why this area is a mecca for Nature photographers. We will look out for Andean Condor soaring high above, but our stops along the canyon and side trips to nearby lagoons should also produce good views of Andean and James's Flamingos. We will spend the day in this area at an altitude of around 9,000 ft. enjoying the solitude, grandeur and intensely clear atmosphere which are characteristics of Altiplano habitat, home of domesticated llamas, wild maize and potatoes. This mostly paved winding road climbs up the Cordillera to c. 4,000 mt. where flowering tobacco bushes attract the striking Red-tailed Comet and Giant Hummingbird. We plan to undertake short hikes in idyllic surroundings in search of Mountain Vizcacha “looks like a cross between a Squirrel and Kangaroo- and the secretive Highland Tucu-tuco, but we may also come across with one of their predators such as Andean Red Fox, Pampas Cat and/or Black-chested Buzzard Eagle. Beyond the mountain pass we start travelling towards the small mining town of San Antonio de los Cobres in search of perhaps the most attractive South American camelid, the elegant Vicuna, but also Puna Rhea is a possible sighting in the area. We stay tonight at the very nice Hosteria de las Nubes in San Antonio.
Day 10 San Antonio de Cobres to San Pedro de Atacama (Crossing the Argentine Chilean border)
Accommodation: Hotel Poblado Kimai
Camping Available in Valle de Luna
During this journey, you will cross the Andes thorough the "Paso de Jama" (one of the highest international passes in the world) to San Pedro de Atacama. The trip takes about 7 hours during which you enjoy stunning Altiplano scenery. It is important to point out that today you are leaving Argentina and crossing the international border. Please, keep your passport handy. San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the driest desert of the world. Little adobe houses, cozy restaurants are the base to explore one of Chile's most spectacular sceneries.
Day 11: Exploring the Atacama Desert
Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the best places on the planet to stargaze, thanks to its nearly cloudless skies, high altitude, and low light pollution.The small town of San Pedro de Atacama serves as your base.
Depart for Cejar Lagoon, located in the Atacama Salt Flat, amidst stunning landscapes, surrounded by salt crystals. The magical turquoise shades of the lagoon invite you to take a bath in its waters. The lagoon's flotation level is higher than that of the Dead Sea, due to the high concentration of salt and lithium. Nearby, you can visit Ojos del Salar, two natural, fresh water pools. Located nearby is Moon Valley. The Valley is located 19 km away from San Pedro, in the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range). Named Sanctuary of Nature and Natural Monument, it has been protected due to the uniqueness of its scenery. It is a depression surrounded by small hills, with impressive sharp ridges. The tour is an imaginary trip to a place that does not belong in this land, but in other planets. Here, you will visit Dinosaur and Death Valley, where you will get an overwhelming panoramic view. Then, you will continue your way through Moon Valley, finding geological formations caused by successive folding of the earth's crust. At sunset, you will see the dazzling artist's palette of golden and reds in the desert's sky.
Day 12: San Pedro de Atacama – Antofagasta
Accommodation: Hotel del Dieserto
Formerly part of Bolivia, Antofagasta was captured by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), and the transfer of sovereignty was finalized in the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two countries.
The city of Antofagasta is closely linked to mining activity, being a major mining area of the country. The last decade has been a steady growth in the areas of construction, retail, hotel accommodations, population growth, and remarkable skyline development.
Day 13: Antofagasta - Pan de Azucar National Park
Accommodation: Aqua Luna Lodge
Camping Available in Park
Today we drive south to Pan de Azúcar National Park. This is a magical place situated on a coastal bluff perched 800 meters above the beach and nourished by the dense fog called the camanchaca that rolls in from the sea. When evening falls, the fog brings moisture to the low-lying cacti and shrubs that flourish among the dark ochre rocks.
On the coast itself, you can enjoy rocky beaches with turquoise waters that are great for swimming, fishing and snorkeling. At Caleta Pan de Azúcar, you can hire a boat to take you to Isla Pan de Azúcar, or visit Playa Blanca and Playa Los Piqueros to fish, snorkel or observe the local flora and fauna.
The park is close to 40,000 hectares include Isla Pan de Azúcar, Las Chatas Islets and the Las Mariposas rock formations. You can visit the park’s archeological sites or get a close up view of animals such a foxes, vicuñas and Humboldt penguins, a colony of which inhabits the park. The park is also a great place for hiking and mountain biking.
North of the park, the National Forest Service (CONAF) has set up a lookout point from which you can see the surrounding landscape and the animals that live there. And at the mouth of El Castillo Ravine, you can find curious species of cacti and even, if you are lucky, some passing vicuñas.
Day 14: Pan De Azucar - National Reserve Pinguino de Humboldt.
413km, 4.05 hrs
Accommodation: Mar de Ensueno
Camping Available in Reserve
Driving south on route 5 we reach National Reserve Pinguino de Humboldt. This National Park is composed of three islands, and you can make a boat tour to see two of them where you have the chance to see "Bottle Nose" dolphins, who swim right next to your boat. On the Isla Damas you can see the particular flora of the reserva. On the Isla de Choros, you can observe three different kind of cormorans, as well as sea otters, sea lions, and off course the stars of the reserva: the Humboldt pinguins! It is possible to observe these animals at this latitude (between 25°S and 30°S), because of the Humboldt Stream, a very cold stream in the Pacific, along the shore of Chile and Peru.
Day 15 & 16: National Reserve Pinguino de Humboldt – Valpariso
Accommodation: Grand Hotel Gervasoni
Located on central Chile’s Pacific coast, the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso represents an extraordinary example of industrial-age heritage associated with the international sea trade of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city was the first and most important merchant port on the sea routes of the Pacific coast of South America that linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Strait of Magellan. It had a major commercial impact on its region from the 1880s until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. After this date its development slowed, allowing its harbor and distinctive urban fabric to survive as an exceptional testimony to the early phase of globalization.
Valparaíso’s historic quarter is located on the coastal plain and part way up the steep surrounding hills, where the city first developed. It is composed of five interlaced neighborhood’s: La Matriz Church and Santo Domingo Square, located between the hills and the plain and comprised of the church and late 19th-century buildings typical of the seaport architecture; Echaurren Square and Serrano Street, predominantly commercial in character and marked by the presence of the Port Market, commercial establishments and active street trade; Prat Pier and Sotomayor and Justicia squares, comprising the main transversal axis of the area and containing the largest public spaces; the Prat Street and Turri Square area around the foothill, featuring a number of examples of monumental architecture; and the two hills of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, a single neighbourhood planned and developed to a large extent by German and English immigrants, with squares, viewing points, promenades, alleyways, stairways and the top stations of some of Valparaíso’s distinctive funicular elevators
Day 17: Valpariso-Aconcagua National Park (Cross border via Andes mountain range)
Accommodation: El Suyuke Lodge
Camping Available in Park
Aconcagua takes its name from quechua word of “Ackon-Cauak”, which roughtly is translated as ‘Stone Sentinel’. The Andes mountain range draws all types of thrill seekers ranging in difficulty including hiking, climbing, skiing and etc. Besides it draws history lovers. This range plays an important place in the history of Latin America. In 1818 General Don Jose de San Martin crossed these mountains during war with the Spanish Empire eventually securing independence for Chile by his daring raid. The summit of the mountain Aconcague, the tallest mount in the Andes range, was considered unattainable for many years until January 14, 1897, then Matías Zurbriggen, a member of the Fitzgerald expedition finally reached it. Since then many climbers made the same ascent to the top. Needless to say it is a dangerous endeavor that requires stamina and experience. Some of the more visited attractions that draw tourists all year long besides Mount Aconcagua are Horcones Lagoon and Plaza de Mulas or Plaza Francia.
Day 18: Mendoza Vineyards
Accommodation: Club Tapiz Lodge & Vineyard
We make our way down the Andes ranges to arrive at Club Tapiz Lodge & Vineyard which is located amongst Mendoza’s famous vineyards. Club Tapiz has been developed for wine and food lovers that come to Mendoza for a real experience through participation in the vineyard activities,wine tasting and cooking classes. Activities include:
- Wine tasting every evening at 8 p.m. free of charge.
- Cooking lessons at Resto Terruno.
- Be part of the activities that are performed in the vineyards, depending on the time of the year such as harvesting grapes, sorting or pressing.
- Visit and tasting of olive oil in Tapiz oilve Oil Factory.
- Visit Tapiz Winery.
- Cycling to the surrounding wineries.
- Visit, horseback riding, trekking and canopy in the Andes.
- Rafting in the Mendoza Rivers.
Day 19: Mendoza
Free day at Club Tapiz Lodge & Vineyard
Day 20: Return vehicle
Fly to Buenos Aires.
Extend stay in Argentina with Experience Argentina or transfer to International Airport and flight home.
Farewell to Argentina. Hasta luego!
ROUTES & PLANNING:
|DISTANCE COVERED||4834 km (3001 miles)|
- Transfers as listed
- Transport as listed
- All accommodation as listed
- Tours & activities as listed
- Internal Flights Buenos Aires to Mendoza (Total cost US$339 per person). We book these on your behalf with your CC information.
- International Flights
- Travel Insurance
- Access to National Parks
Net cost per Person: US$2319 on a double basis
4x4 Hire Cost Toyota Hilux Double Cabin: Approximately US$5850 (unlimited mileage)