Karen Chapman hails the otherworldly beauty of this under-the-radar region

 

Ask anyone what they believe to be the highlights of Argentina and they will likely mention the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, the wilds of Patagonia and the mighty Iguazú Falls. Northwest Argentina is largely overlooked by visitors to the country, especially those going for the first time. And yet it has so much to offer and provides a wonderful contrast to the other regions of this magnificent country.

Top five highlights of northwest Argentina

Jaw-dropping scenery

Hike, bike or horse ride through the canyons and gorges and you will find yourself amongst scenery and landscapes that are both completely out-of-this-world and an incredible contrast to the rest of Argentina. Formed over the years by wind, water, ice and time, the area is home to amazing rock formations, rainbow-coloured mountains and towering giant cacti. This is also a great destination for a self-drive journey, and you will be amazed at how few other vehicles you will pass on the roads.

Cafayate vineyards

The small colonial town of Cafayate sits at 1,700 metres above sea level. Here you can visit some of the highest vineyards in the world, ranging from the ultra-modern Piatelli estate, producing a variety of wines including its signature Torontes, which us typical of this region, to more boutique vineyards, such as the family-run Burbujas de Altura, where sparkling wines are a speciality. We can arrange wonderful excursions to these vineyards, where you can learn all about wine production, enjoy wine tasting and relax with a picnic amongst the vines, surrounded by some of the country’s most stunning scenery.

Salta

The city of Salta is home to one of the most striking cathedrals in Argentina, some great restaurants, arguably the county’s best empanadas (the typical Latin American pastry turnover filled with savoury ingredients, known here as salteñas) and the fascinating MAAM High Altitude Archaeological Museum. It’s at the latter that you can see the three Llullaillaco child mummies who were found in the peaks of the Andes, together with extraordinarily preserved ritual offerings. Around Salta you will also find some lovely hotels, such as the estancia-style House of Jasmines and the homely Finca Valentina.

The Puna Plateau

The arid high Puna Plateau is the place to go for intrepid travellers looking to get even more off the beaten track. The area is almost uninhabited, and together with our local partners, we can arrange a 4×4 journey to take you into the real wilds of the desert landscapes, where you will experience true remote life and stay at simple, cosy properties along the way. The Puna extends into the north of Chile, and for those with time, we recommend continuing overland to visit the stunning Atacama Desert, another destination not to be missed.

Quebrada de Humahuaca

The incredible Humahuaca Gorge, in the province of Jujuy, was named a World Heritage Site in 2003 and is known for its incredible rock formations, amongst them the renowned Hill of Seven Colours. Visitors to the valley will also find small indigenous settlements and towns where local artisans and craftspeople specialise in producing beautiful textiles, ceramics and other handicrafts, reminiscent of those found in Peru and Bolivia.

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Seren Winn-Darley
Flora Sweeting
Charlotte Winter

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