The reason most international travelers don’t visit Argentina’s northern interior isn’t because there’s not much to see here. It’s just that in a country so vast, they never make it this far. This spectacular eleven-day Argentina tour makes that journey easy. You’ll visit a dramatic, photogenic landscape of colorful canyons and unique stone formations sculpted by the wind. These Argentina tours include a stay in Salta, the country’s best-preserved colonial city, a visit to one of the country’s most famous archeological sites, the pre-Columbian city of Quilmes, and wine-tastings in the northwest wine region. Plus you’ll explore the two adjacent parks containing the world’s only known complete and undisturbed paleontological record of the Triassic Period when both dinosaurs and mammals originated. All this and two days in fabulous Buenos Aires make for an unforgettable Argentina vacation.
On arrival in Buenos Aires, you will be transferred from the international airport to your lodgings in the center of the city. To get acquainted with the surroundings, you’ll be escorted on a short walking tour to nearby sights including the always-interesting pedestrian promenade, Avenida Florida, a popular locale for shopping, dining and watching street tango. The rest of the day and evening are yours to explore this fascinating city on your own. Overnight at your comfortable downtown hotel.
After breakfast, you will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the domestic airport for your flight to San Juan to begin your northwestern Argentina travel. Located in the middle of a prominent wine region, modern San Juan is a city with wide tree-lined boulevards, a fertile oasis surrounded by the Andes. On arrival, you will tour the city before heading into the countryside. One memorable stop is the unusual shrine of Difunta Correa, a popular Argentine saint, and the churches nearby. In the late afternoon you’ll arrive at San Agustin del Valle Fertil, a pleasant town located 160 miles northeast of San Juan. Tonight’s lodgings are nearby, at Hosteria Valle Fertil. (B)
Today’s destinations are Talampaya National Park and the equally fascinating Ischigualasto Provincial Park nearby. The parks together have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are rarely visited by international travelers on Argentina tours. You’ll head out after an early breakfast to capture the morning’s most dramatic light conditions for photographing Talampaya’s red variegated cliffs and strange rock formations. The 525-ft canyon walls here contain imprints of the region’s first inhabitants. This is the only area in the world known to contain a complete sequence of continental sediments with abundant fossil flora and fauna of the Triassic Period, offering the prospect of resolving one of paleontology’s greatest enigmas: the dinosaurs’ rise to dominance and the suppression of mammalian evolution during 150 million years. In the afternoon, you’ll hike in Ischigualasto Provincial Park where Late Triassic deposits of the Ischigualasto Formation contain some of the oldest known dinosaur remains as well as fossils of early synapses and freshwater fish. Formed by millions of years of wind erosion, this bizarre rugged terrain of sandstone and mudstone has given the park the popular name "Valley of the Moon." Trails through the park offer an encyclopedic view of the 45-million year Triassic Period. At the end of today’s Argentina tours, you will travel to Villa Union to enjoy a free evening. Overnight at Pircas Negras (B,L)
Today you travel one of the most memorable landscapes in Argentina and perhaps the world to visit Laguna Brava, a unique spot in the Andean Highlands. This huge provincial reserve is the realm of flamingoes and camelids in a pristine area of stark beauty and breathtaking views. After exploring the environs you’ll return to Villa Union and enjoy a second night at Pircas Negras. (B,L)
Today’s leisurely itinerary begins after breakfast with a late morning departure for Chilecito, a quaint mining village surrounded by vineyards and farms in a landscape of scenic valleys and mountains. You’ll travel through the colorful Cuesta de Miranda (Miranda Slope), a picturesque area of red canyon walls that lie in stark contrast to the area’s green vegetation. You’ll visit the Museum de la Mejicana which showcases what was the longest cable car lift in Latin America that reached 14,500 feet above sea level in the Amatina range and was built in the early 1900s. After lunch in Chilecito you’ll travel to Tinogasta, gateway to the adobe route in Argentina that borders the Famatina Valley, an area rich in nut tree and fruit plantations. After dinner on your own, you’ll spend the night at Casa Grande, a quiet, comfortable lodgings in Tinogasta. (B)
Today’s long drive transitions from canyon lands to the Calchaqui valleys mostly on gravel road along famed, remote route 40 (the longest in Argentina) heading north. You will pass through small Andean villages to reach the famed hillside settlement of Quilmes, 75-acre site of the spectacular fortifications and town built by the indigenous Quilmes civilization that lived in the region as early as 1000 AD. The route also includes the ancient town of Belen, the Belen River Canyon and Amaicha del Valle, hometown of the artist, Hector Cruz who has built in his own private house a very interesting Cultural Museum (Centro Cultural Pachamama). At Quilmes, you will hike the Ruins on its ancient trails and passage ways. The Quilmes were known for their ferocity in fighting first against the Incas and then the Spaniards. Exploring the ruins allows one to appreciate the Quillmes’ level of expertise and knowledge. The city overlooks the valley but its location is hidden in the mountains and cannot be seen from afar. The day ends in the small city of Cafayate at this evening’s comfortable lodgings, Cafayate Wine Resort. (B)
Before departing for the ancient village of Cachi, you will tour Cafayate and visit a winery that produces the white Argentine varietal Torrontés. The trip continues to the heart of the Calchaqui Valley, driving past Molinos, a charming little village with an interesting Church that was the residence of the last Spanish Governor. On arrival in Cachi, you will be taken to your lodgings, El Cortijo Hotel Boutique in Cachi. (B)
After touring Cachi’s old chapel, and archaeology museum, one of the best of its kind in Argentina, you will head towards Salta; through the Enchanted Valley that climbs to a high plateau called TIN-TIN, the native terrain of the giant cardon. It is because the cardon is endemic here that Cardones National Park has been created in this location. You’ll climb the impressive Cuesta del Obispo (Obispo Pass) where condors, eagles and guanacos are a frequent sight. Arriving in Salta in the afternoon, you will tour the city before being taken to Hotel Aldaba, where you will be staying for the next two days. (B)
Enjoy Salta on your own today. Salta is one of Argentina’s oldest colonial cities, a highlight for photographers and history buffs on Argentina tours. The main points of interest here are the Cabildo (Town Hall), the Archbishop’s Palace and Cathedral on the main square (9 de Julio), San Francisco´s Church, San Bernardo´s Church and Convent, and the crafts market. Accommodations at Hotel Aldaba. (B)
This day of sightseeing in the Andes starts early, stopping first at SANTA ROSA de TASTIL, the largest and best-preserved pre-Hispanic ruins in Argentina, before crossing the tracks of the highest railroad in South America. Built in the 1930s, the famed TRAIN TO THE CLOUDS joins the city of Salta with the indigenous town of San Antonio de los Cobres, climbing to 13,123 ft above sea level along the way. After visiting San Antonio de los Cobres, you cross a plateau at 12,139 ft to reach SALINAS GRANDES, the most imposing Salt Bed in the region. Here it is possible to purchase souvenirs from the local mine workers who supplement their limited income by carving small crafts. You will pass by Abra Potrerillo at 13,681 ft and drive down the LIPAN SLOPE. You’ll spend the night in pleasant lodgings in the arty town of Tilcara. Accommodations at Posada Don Juan. (B,L)
The morning begins with a stop in Purmamarca (7,546 ft) at the foot of the Seven Colors Mountain, to driving through the colorful Humahuaca canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visiting numerous indigenous villages on the way including impressive pre-Hispanic fortress: the Pucará, and finally reaching the colonial town of Humahuaca (9,000 ft). You will be returned to Salta and transferred to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. On arrival, you will be taken to your hotel. (B)
After breakfast, you’ll enjoy one last day of leisure in fascinating Buenos Aires before being transferred to the International airport for your trip home, concluding your Argentina tours with Southern Explorations. (B)
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