Visit the Calchaquí Valleys in Salta, 3-day road trip

During the week in Salta, I was lucky enough to make a road trip through the Calchaquíes Valleys and enjoy the incredible landscapes that this area offers.

If you take our road trip, you will tour part of the northwest of Argentina, drive a stretch of Route 40 and Route 68, cross reddish canyons, yellow canyons, valleys full of vegetation, taste the wine of a craft winery, and take many photos.

It’s an amazing experience that has been forever etched into my memory.

calchachi valleys, quebrada de las flechas, vero
quebrada de las flechas

Road trip through the Calchaquí Valleys

What are The Calchaquíes Valleys?

The Calchaquíes Valleys are a geographical region with valleys (worth the redundancy) and mountains and where the Calchaquí River flows.

It is located in northwestern Argentina, covering about 500 km and passing through three provinces: Salta, Tucumán, and Catamarca.

You will find many colonial villages, and as you enter the Calchaquíes Valleys, it seems that you are going back in time.

You will be able to take the route of the artisans, where you will see how they work today, which is not that much different from how they once did.

calchachi valleys cardones
Los Cardones National Park.

The landscapes are spectacular; you pass from a green valley covered with vegetation to a lunar landscape like that of the “Quebrada de las Flechas.”

Without a doubt, Argentina offers a wide variety of visits that do not leave you indifferent. Salta is one of my favorite provinces, both for its beauty and for the warmth of its people (and let’s not forget its wines ;))

Calchaquíes Valleys, Salta, Road Trip Itinerary

Valles Calchaquies MAP

From Salta capital to Cachi

You probably started the journey in Capital Salta and headed for the Calchaquíes valleys; the first night, you should stay in Cachi.

Your first destination is the Cuesta del Obispo.

However, you’ll make several stops along the way to contemplate the landscape and see condors.

The tiny little thing in the pic below is a big Condor. Although we weren’t close enough to take a photo, and my zoom sucks… sorry.

calchachi valleys Salta

In this first section, the road runs through the green valleys that are full of vegetation. As you go up, you see how the landscape changes; it is wonderful.

You keep advancing to the millstone, which they say fell off the wagon that carried it and that because it weighed so much, they just left it there. And it’s guarded by the Chapel of St. Raphael.

At this point, you’re over 3400 meters above sea level!

calchachi valleys, Cuesta del Obispo, Salta

Our next stop is in the Cardones National Park, which we reached by the Tin Tin straight; the typical infinite straights that you can see on American roads, we see them in this part of Salta’s province.

On one side of the road, we see a mountain of colors, and on the other, as far as the eye can see, we see cactus of all sizes.

Did you know that they can reach the height of 15 meters tall?!!! And they are protected in this park because their wood is used a lot in this area.

You will see many crafts of cardon wood, but they are only made of the cardoons that have fallen and are already dead.

calchachi valleys cardones

It’s time to eat, and we’re going to the Sala Payogasta. Payogasta is a small village in the heart of the Calchaquíes Valleys.

We enjoyed a good meal, and then we got to know their hotel (with spa), its vineyards, and its wine cellar where they make the wines by hand.

Even better, they let us taste the grapes directly from the vineyard. They were exquisite; it seems almost natural that they have such rich wines!

This place is ideal for spending a few days and for disconnecting from the world.

Where do we sleep in Cachi, Salta?

After lunch, we went to Cachi and checked in. After that, we stayed at Hotel Pueblo Antiguo, a lot of charm and totally recommended.

Then we went for a walk around Cachi and visited a journalist who dedicates his life to ufology.

He is called Antonio Zuleta and is a rather curious character of Cachi, who has much material about UFOs. He tells us his adventures and sightings with an enthusiasm that you want to hear his stories.

He goes out with his video camera to hunt UFOs in the skies of the Calchaquí Valleys. There is even a film, At the Center of the Earth, which stars Antonio Zuleta himself, where his main plot is not focused on UFOs but a passion for something.

This has been a full day where I have known beautiful landscapes and villages; I have heard stories of UFOs, tasted wines and local food, and would definitely repeat without hesitation.

Cafayate Salta

Our second day started at around 8 am.  After breakfast, we set off for Cafayate, Salta, on Route 40. The journey was supposed to be about 3 and a half hours, but we made a few stops to contemplate landscapes and make some visits.

We made our first visit to the route of the artisans.  It is a small detour from Route 40, and we passed through many houses of textile artisans that sell a variety of shawls, tapestries, carpets, blankets, and handmade ponchos.

One of the houses we stopped by was the Terito.  It is a longstanding family of craftsmen who work the wool of “llama” and sheep, and we did a small interview that you can see in the video.

We continued to travel through the valleys and to see how the landscapes changed. Finally, we made a stop at Finca El Carmen.

This was the place where the village of Angastasco was founded. It is a very important village for the economy of the area.

Today the village is 8 km away from Route 40, but you can still see the Church of 1780. So you can either make routes or enjoy the quietness of the place.

Before we reached Cafayate and encountered a good storm, we crossed the Quebrada de las Flechas, a natural park that looks like you’re on the moon.

calchachi valleys quebrada de las flechas
quebrada de las flechas

This lunar landscape was formed by an ancient lake and the action of the wind.

From here, we headed straight for Cafayate, ate, and hoped that the torment would pass, which is normal during the rainy season…

Where do you sleep in Cafayate?

We stayed at the Boutique Hotel & Spa AltaLaLuna, in Tolombón, a village just a few miles from Cafayate.

The Hotel AltaLaLuna is beautiful. It is a colonial-style house with typical galleries. Our room, on one side, had views of the vineyards owned by the hotel, and on the other was the pool.

The spa (except massage service) uses the swimming pool, and all facilities are included in the room rate. In addition, you can stroll through the vineyards, taste their Tukma wines, have breakfast, and eat local food.

We had an amazing dinner. The local food and the service were excellent. It is ideal for enjoying with your family or as a couple, especially for lovers of good wines.

Cafayate – Salta Capital

On the third day, we visited Cafayate, the museum of vines and wine, and a few artisan markets.

I will tell you more details about my visit to Cafayate and its wineries in a separate post.

The return from Cafayate to Salta was made through route 68. We toured the Quebrada de las Conchas.

Do you know why it’s called “Las Conchas” (the shells)? Because the remains of seashells have been found all around the area! Unbelievable, isn’t it?

calchachi valleys, Quebrada de las Conchas, Argentina
Quebrada de las Conchas

Here the landscape is reddish, and the wind erodes the stone. We stopped at several places, but the highlights were Devil’s Gorge, the Amphitheatre, and Three Crosses.

calchachies valleys, quebrada de las cochas, salta, Argentina
The Amphitheatre

The landscapes were also spectacular; follow me on Instagram and Pinterest to see more photos; I cannot upload them all here!!!

As you can see, I have fallen in love with Salta and its diverse landscapes.

Where to sleep in the Calchaquí Valleys, Salta?

Here is a link to the two accommodations I used during my road trip through the Calchaquíes Valleys. You also have this generic to take a look at and choose the one you like the most.

Salta car rental

If you need to rent a car for your trip to Salta, here, you can get good prices.

Prepare Your Trip to Argentina

Let me know how you’re doing on your visit to Salta and what you think of his wonders!

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Last Updated on 7 July, 2021 by Veronica

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