Insurance and documents
Travel insurance is essential.
Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance
Domestic flights are by scheduled jet. The vehicle used from Salta to Purmamarca and up into the Puna is a Toyota Hilux or similar, a 4WD pick-up which can accommodate 4 guests and a driver but we recommend that three is the maximum number for a comfortable trip. For other (paved) roads and transfers, normal 2WD cars are used.
Accommodation in the Puna is simple, the two small inns in Tolar Grande and El Peñon are cosy and comfortable considering their remoteness. Occasionally it may be necessary to use alternative, very basic accommodation. Food is simple throughout the Puna region. In Buenos Aires, Salta and Cafayate accommodation is in mid-range or upper-mid range hotels.
Breakfast daily, lunch day 5, 10, full board days 6-9.
We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.
Your experienced, qualified driver-guide on the Puna expedition is also a great source of information relating to the history, geology and geography of the area. There are only a small handful of guides equipped to take on this expedition with visitors.
• Guided walking tour in Buenos Aires.
• Guided walking tour of Salta.
• Full day exploration of the Humahuaca gorge.
• Excursions on the Puna expedition.
• Optional Quilmes archaeological site (entrance fee not included, you pay at the gate).
Summary of nights
13 days, 12 nights: Buenos Aires 2; Salta 2; Purmamarca 1; Tolar Grande 2; El Penon 2; Cafayate 2; Buenos Aires 1.
Included in the journey price
• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.
Not included in the journey price
• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.
The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso.
The Puna expedition is full board, on days 6-9 your only living expenses should be drinks. Elsewhere, a budget of around US$50-70 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants in cities and you will pay considerably more.
How to take it
Credit/debit cards are useful for day-to-day expenses eg restaurant bills, hotel extras etc. However it is not a good idea to rely solely on plastic in Argentina: you will need Pesos cash too. Getting Pesos from ATMs in Argentina can be frustrating: many are faulty, have low daily withdrawal limits or high handling fees. A reliable way is to take part of your funds in US Dollars cash for exchange into Pesos at a bank or casa de cambio locally (please note denominations below US$50 are not widely accepted). Queues in banks can be long but it is at least a safeguard against unreliable ATMs. Sterling is sometimes accepted by banks but rates may be poor. Be mindful of your insurance limit for carrying cash and avoid having lots of Pesos left over: these are accepted at the duty-free shop in Buenos Aires airport but once outside of Argentina it’s hard to exchange unwanted Pesos.
NB When using an ATM with a debit card you may be offered a choice of account type from which to make your withdrawal. Select ‘credit card’ (not ‘checking account’ or ‘savings account’ options).
Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.
Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.
Your driver-guide on the Puna expedition is also a great source of information relating to the history, geology and geography of the area. There are only a handful of suitably qualified driver/guides sufficiently competent and experienced to undertake this journey and you will no doubt take this into account when you come to showing your appreciation at the end of the trip.
If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.
This holiday incorporates is an expedition in the true meaning of the word. You are setting off into a virtually uninhabited wilderness with unmade roads and little or no infrastructure. This is one of South America’s epic road journeys. You will be travelling with an experienced English-speaking guide, well acquainted with the conditions and the route, and able to entertain you with anecdotes and acquaint you with the region’s history, geography and geology.
Owing to the unpredictability of the conditions, or bearing in mind your preferences, the itinerary is for guidance only, and changes may have to be made without notice. The expeditionary nature of this journey is part of its appeal, and a flexible attitude will help you fully to enjoy the experience.
Travel here is far from monotonous – the views change frequently and there’s almost no-one else around. Without mobile phone or internet access, you feel an exhilarating sense of isolation from the outside world. You'll spend four full days exploring the Puna, travelling for several hours a day (with many stops for views, photos, and strolls).
Altitude combined with remoteness, lack of medical facilities and simple accommodation makes the Puna suitable for resilient travellers. The start point Salta is 1,200m and end point Cafayate 1,650m. However, almost all travel in-between is at altitudes of 3,000m – 4,500m. Sleeping altitude in Tolar Grande, Antofagasta de la Sierra and El Peñon is 3,500m.
In Buenos Aires, October to November and March to April see temperatures between 15 and 25°C and a good deal of sunshine. January to February is hot, with temperatures over 30°C. Winter (June-August) sees daytime temperatures dip to 10-12°C.
Salta has plenty of sun throughout the year but it can be cool in winter, but it is drier with little rain falling Apr-Oct. Jan-Feb is the wettest period.
Much of the journey will be at altitudes of over 4,000m; the climate is equally extreme. There are sharp differences in temperature between night-and day-time, sun and cloud. Very cold nights are most likely in the height of the dry season (July-August) with sub-zero temperatures, but days can still be mild and sunny. The Puna can be visited year round but there are rare occasions when extreme weather can cause disruption due to floods or snow. This is mostly in the peak of the Andean summer rains (January-March) and the middle of winter (July-August). The best time to visit overall is September to December and April to June.
A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. You need to take things easy on the first day travelling from Purmamarca to Tolar Grande and resist the temptation to jump out of the vehicle every 5 minutes to take pictures. The conventional advice is to avoid drinking alcohol and eat sparingly the first day over 3,000m, fortunately meals on this trip are not overly rich.
Clothing and special equipment
In the southern hemisphere summer (Dec-Mar) it will be hot in both the cities - Buenos Aires and Salta – and the countryside, so take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort.
If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you might bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).
With regular changes in altitude and weather coming from the Andes, you need to come prepared for all seasons at all times of the year. In the Puna you may experience anything from a day of snow flurries and bitterly cold gale-force winds and a spectacular still day of warm sunshine in the low 20s. Nights are always cold with sub-zero temperatures possible. Layers are essential – a thermal long sleeved base layer won’t go amiss – in any case bring a warm jacket, hat, gloves. Sunscreen and sunglasses are essential.
Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.
Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: polio; tetanus; typhoid. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.
You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health
Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.
APIS and ESTA - important flight information:
ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online
This costs $14 per person. This must be applied for by you personally.
Passports must also be digital e-passports with an embedded chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.
APIS - many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.