Road trip through the Calchaquí Valleys
During my week in Salta, I was lucky enough to be able 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.
What are The Calchaquíes Valleys?
Shall we? What are the Calchaquíes Valleys of Argentina? 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.
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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.
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 ;))
Itinerary through the Calchaquíes Valleys, Salta
Salta to Cachi stretch
We started the journey in Capital Salta and headed for the Calchaquíes valleys, the first night we would stay in Cachi.
Our route began in the morning and our first destination was the Cuesta del Obispo. We made several stops along the way to contemplate the landscape and see condors, although we weren’t close enough to take a photo in the foreground and I didn’t zoom in on it.
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.
We kept advancing to the mill stone, which they say fell off the wagon that carried it and that because it weighed so much, they just left it there. At this point we’re over 3400 meters above sea level! And it’s guarded by the Chapel of St. Raphael.
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 the province of Salta as well.
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 that are already dead.
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 to spend a few days and to disconnect from the world.
Where do we sleep in Cachi, Salta?
After lunch, we went to Cachi and checked in. We stayed at Hotel Pueblo Antiguo; a place with 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 a lot of material about UFOs and who tells us his adventures and sightings with an enthusiasm that you want to hear his stories.
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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 on a passion for something.
This has been a full day, where I have known beautiful landscapes and villages, I have heard stories of UFOs, I have tasted wines and local food, and which I would definitely repeat without hesitation.
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 there were a few stops that we made 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 a lot of 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. 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. 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.
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, that is normal during the rainy season…
Where do you sleep in Cafayate?
We stayed at the Boutique Hotel & Spa AltaLaLuna, in Tolombón, a village that is just a few miles from Cafayate.
The Hotel AltaLaLuna is beautiful. It is a colonial-style house with the 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), use of the swimming pool and all facilities is included in the room rate. 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 was very good. It is ideal to enjoy with your family or as a couple, especially for lovers of good wines.
Cafayate – Salta Capital
On the third day we visited the city of Cafayate, the museum of vines and wine and a few artisan markets. In a separate post I will tell you more details about my visit to Cafayate and its wineries.
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?
Here the landscape is reddish and the stone is eroded by the wind. We stopped at several places, but the highlights were Devil’s Gorge, the Amphitheatre and Three Crosses.
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 of 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.
- Hotel Pueblo Antiguo in Cachi.
- Boutique Hotel & Spa AltaLaLuna in Tolombón, a few kilometers from Cafayate.
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
- How to Prevent Altitude Sickness
- Best Travel Insurance for your trips
- Itinerary 1 week in Salta province
- What to see in 2 days in the city of Salta
- 1 day in the Train to the Clouds
- 1-Day in Cafayate, land of wines
Tell me how you’re doing on your visit to Salta and what you think of his wonders!
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