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Private Journeys

Trailblazer Argentina: Road to the Andes

15 days from £3,100pp

Argentina

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to a rural estancia on the Pampa.

Arriving at Buenos Aires airport, you’ll be taken by private transfer to the Estancia La Bandada. It’s little more than an hour to this elegant country house and estate in the Pampa, a region of vast plains renowned for its gaucho culture and very much part of Argentine identity itself.

Estancia La Bandada

Day 2

Relax and sample typical estancia life, with optional activities.

An estancia stay is a quintessentially Argentine experience of relaxed, hosted country living. The vibe is sociable, food plentiful and with just a handful of rooms there’s plenty of freedom to enjoy it. Walk in the surrounding parkland which brims with birdlife, relax by the pool or try your hand at cycling or horse riding on the property.

Estancia La Bandada

Day 3

Fly from Buenos Aires to Salta and overnight outside the city.

We’ll pick you up and take you to the airport for a 2-hour flight to Salta in the foothills of the Andes. Our representatives in Salta will be ready to meet you and assist with the collection of your rental car. It’s just a short drive to tonight’s hotel, Finca Valentina, in a rural setting within half-an-hour of the city.

Salta

Day 4

Self drive to the Humahuaca Canyon.

Today your Argentine road trip really begins. Self-drive is a thoroughly rewarding way to appreciate the colonial towns, hidden villages and exotic Andean culture of Salta and Jujuy, against a backdrop of incredibly varied, dramatic landscapes. Head north today along the highway towards Bolivia. Beyond the urban corridor between Salta and Jujuy (Route 9) the landscapes take on a more mountainous, Andean aspect as you approach the timeless small towns and villages of the dramatic Humahuaca gorge, a long canyon of intensely coloured rock dotted with outsized cacti. You’ll soon notice this corner of Argentina has flavours of its exotic Andean neighbour in its cuisine, architecture and colourful traditions. You have a couple of nights based in Purmamarca, where adobe and stone dwellings blend effortlessly with the arid mountain backdrop as they have done for centuries. The little town sits at the foot of the extraordinary palette of the Cerro de Siete Colores (hill of seven colours) where an almost psychedelic rainbow of colours from white to burgundy and gold to jade, stain the naked rock. Culturally the area is fascinating too: there are vestiges of pre-Columbian indigenous civilisations, and some colourful fiestas associated with the catholic calendar. (200km of driving on paved highway)

Purmamarca

Day 5

Day at leisure to explore towns and villages in the the Humahuaca Canyon.

You have a full day at leisure, based in Purmamarca. It’s well worth exploring the road further north, continuing along the Humahuaca gorge. The little town of Tilcara, with its adobe houses and crisp-white baroque church, is close to the partially reconstructed ruins of a pre-Inca “pucará” (fortress). Continuing north, and passing the villages of Huacalera and Uquía, you arrive at the high-altitude town of Humahuaca (3,000m asl). The ornate church here is stuffed with paintings from the colonial era. The town’s wild west aspect is reminiscent of settlements in Arizona or New Mexico, with narrow cobbled streets and adobe colonial buildings. It’s an hour’s drive back to Purmamarca from here all on paved road. (140km of driving on paved highway)

Tilcara

Day 6

Return to your rural hotel near Salta with option to explore the city if you wish.

If you’re feeling adventurous this morning and have a head for the altitude (3,500m asl) you might take on the tortuous switchbacks of the Cuesta de Lipán which climb all the way up to the Salinas Grandes salt flats of the Andean altiplano in around 2 hours (70km). It’s another world up there, a seemingly endless expanse of dazzling white salt against a deep blue sky. You’ll need to descend to Purmamarca via the same route.
Return to Salta at your leisure, and overnight once again at Finca Valentina. You’ll pass close to the centre of Salta which has a gracious colonial core with delightful pavement cafés and an excellent Andean museum (MAAM). It’s well worth a detour if you have time. (Alternatively we can organise for a city tour starting from your hotel).
(200km driving, paved road, or 340km with Salinas Grandes detour)

Salinas Grandes salt flats

Day 7

Self drive to the Cafayate wine region

Today’s winding drive to Cafayate is one of the most famously scenic in the north, taking 3-4 hrs with stops. The fabulous stretch through Las Conchas Gorge is a staggering 83km long. You’ll be treated to ever-more impressive panoramas across the deep-red, stratified canyons and the river valley below as the journey progresses. The early morning and late afternoon sunlight adds an extra special dimension to the drive. Your base for the next 3 nights is Viñas de Cafayate, perched above the vineyards in a tranquil setting on the edge of town. The hotel has its own small wine cellar (bodega) and you may enjoy a glass on the terrace. (200km driving, paved road).
NB It’s also possible to reach Cafayate via an alternative and much longer (300km) route from Salta via Molinos and the Quebrada de las Flechas gorge. This takes at least 8 hours on a very winding and partially unpaved road, but it’s undeniably spectacular. If planning to drive this way, please let us know as we would recommend upgrading your vehicle to a 4WD especially in the rainier Jan-Mar period.

Cafayate

Day 8-9

Explore and relax in and around Cafayate wine region.

Two full days to enjoy Cafayate, a lovely small town with a sunny climate and colonial feel, surrounded by vineyards and striking terracotta-colour mountains. This is one of Argentina’s foremost wine-producing regions, renowned for its rich Malbecs and fragrant Torrontes and the town is becoming well-known as a gourmet hub. Wander between alfajor shops, have lunch on the plaza – lined with mellow cafés and restaurants – and there are wineries galore on your doorstep. Many vineyards welcome visitors and offer guided tours, and some also have fine restaurants. Taxis are easy to arrange if needed. If you want to head out of town there are scenic viewpoints in the area and scope for strolls amidst the rock formations.

Cafayate

Day 10

Fly from Salta to the Iguazú Falls.

Drive to Salta airport (200km), for your afternoon flight to Puerto Iguazú in the subtropical northeast corner of Argentina (2 hrs). It’s just a short drive to the national park wherein flow the Iguazú Falls. The Iguazú Falls are unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú River crashes over a 1.5km wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot colourful toucans, blue morpho butterflies and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

Iguazu Falls

Day 11

Exploring the Iguazú Falls

Beginning with a drive from your hotel to the national park, there’s a guided excursion to the Argentine side of the falls, exploring both the upper and lower walkways. This sequence of causeways and passerelles links dozens of tiny, basalt islands at the top of the rock face. These walkways cross the myriad streams of the Río Iguazú as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. A succession of lookout points allows your gaze to follow the water, as it plunges onto the rocks below. You can then continue to the Lower Walk, which involves stairs, and gives you a totally different view of these falls. Climb back up to the train and continue to Devil’s Throat Station. From here, a kilometre-long walkway leads you across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, which offers a spectacular vantage point peering into the thundering vortex below. The tour lasts around 6hrs and there’s about 6km of walking.

Iguazú Falls

Day 12

Day of leisure

At leisure, with optional excursions available to the Brazilian side of the falls (border controls permitting). Brazil’s national park has fewer walkways and less infrastructure but is no less enjoyable. There’s a walkway alongside and over the swirling, frothing waters of the agitated river – stroll along it for about a kilometre, with panoramic viewpoints at strategic intervals – you get a view of the whole sweep of the cataracts – it’s an entirely different experience from the Argentine side. Towards the end of the walk you reach an observation tower right bang slap next to one of the most powerful drops of the falls, while a walkway at the bottom takes you out over the water for a closer and much wetter experience.

Iguazú Falls

Day 13

Fly to Buenos Aires and transfer to Puerto Madero

Fly to Buenos Aires and transfer (1hr) to Puerto Madero, a spacious, modern waterside neighbourhood on the edge of Buenos Aires and the River Plate. We’ve chosen Puerto Madero as you can enjoy the best of all worlds from here. Our hotel is just a short distance from the main places of interest in Buenos Aires for those who wish to visit, yet a calm, attractive and quiet area for those wanting to enjoy their final day before returning home.

Puerto Madero

Day 14

At leisure. Optional walking and cycling tours available.

At leisure in Puerto Madero. The regenerated port district is moments from the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur on the shores of the River Plate, where residents of Buenos Aires (Porteños) love to stroll and cycle at weekends. We can organise optional tours of the area, and show you around Buenos Aires’ varied and vibrant neighbourhoods: historic San Telmo, where you might catch an open-air tango display, colourful La Boca with the much-photographed Caminito, elegant Parisian-style Recoleta, villagey Palermo or a further afield to the Tigre Delta. Tours can be done on foot, by bicycle or vehicle. Today’s also your last chance to enjoy a juicy Argentine cut of bife and the city has no shortage of venues to make it happen.

Day 15

Transfer to the airport

Transfer to the airport (1hr) for your departure flight.

Inspired by this trip

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

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    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

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    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

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    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Ben Line
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    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

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