lakes in landscape panoramic of North Argentina

North Argentina Itinerary: Two Weeks On An Epic Road Trip

The north of Argentina is a hidden gem well worth your time. This two week north Argentina itinerary has everything you need to explore the region by bus or by car!

Contents

How To Get Around North Argentina

You have two options for taking on this north Argentina itinerary:

 

  • Public bus 
  • Renting a car 

I will always recommend car rental to explore this part of Argentina.  

 

First of all, it’s perfectly set up for road trips and there’s so many sights where you’ll want to stop off at. You don’t get this option with a bus.

 

Secondly, the cost roughly works out the same. Taking buses to each of these towns and then paying for tours always adds up.

 

With a car, you explore the region on your own terms, visit popular sights like Rainbow Mountain and Salinas Grandes without a time limit and overall, enjoy a much greater sense of adventure.

Renting A Car In North Argentina

The biggest hub for renting a car is from Salta, but you will also be able to find companies in Jujuy.

 

I always use Discover Cars to find the best rental prices when travelling Argentina.

 

For $40 a day (see below), it’s well worth it. If you are in a group of 4, then that’s $10 a day for transport and you’ll save money by not having to pay for tours too.

Renting a Car In Salta (Comparison using Discover Cars)

Buses In North Argentina

Taking public buses is another great option for this itinerary. 

 

They are cheap and reliable, perfect for budget travellers. 

 

I always used Busbud to check times and book in advance. But you can always book directly at bus stations on the day of travel.

 

Prices will vary depending on time of year and distance, but the most expensive ticket won’t be more than $20 (see below). 

picture showing bus timetables in North Argentina

Two-Week North Argentina Itinerary

Here is a breakdown of this north Argentina itinerary:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Salta
  • Day 3-4 – Humahuaca 
  • Day 5-6 – Tilcara
  • Day 7-8 – Purmamarca
  • Day 9-10 – Jujuy 
  • Day 11– Salta
  • Day 12 – Cachi
  • Day 13-14 – Cafayate 

Day 1-2 - Salta

The best place to start your north Argentina itinerary is in Salta.

 

This is a great city and the perfect base to start exploring the north. The beautiful countryside paired with high-quality wines and delicious regional foods makes for a great experience.  

 

With your two days here, I recommend getting to know the city first:

 

  • Walking TourSalta Free Tour offer the best walking tour in town.
  • Museum of High-Altitude Archaeology (MAAM) – this museum on the main square contains a perfectly preserved mummified corpse of an Andean child, thought to be sacrificed by her tribe hundreds of ago.
  • Teleferico Cable Car – this will take you the top of San Bernardo hill for great views of the city 

For more on Salta, including other great things to do and the best places to stay, eat and check out, head to the post below:

 

 

How To Get To Salta

Most adventures in the north of Argentina will start from Buenos Aires.

 

The best way to get to Salta from there is to fly but you can also overnight bus it:

  • Bus – This journey will be an overnight bus taking between 20-24 hours. Check Busbud for the prices and times.
  • Flight – a flight from Salta to BA takes 2 hours. I use Way Away Plus to book my flights whilst travelling as they give me cashback everytime! Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport is around 30 minutes by taxi to the city centre.
Views from San Bernardo Hill, Salta (Argentina)

Day 3-4 - Humahuaca

I recommend doing the longest journey first here and heading north along Route 9 to Humahuaca.

 

Don’t stop along the way as you’ll visit all the awesome places like Salinas Grandes on the way back.

 

Here you can find Argentina’s very own Rainbow Mountain (and depending on who you ask, better than the more famous one in Peru).

 

El Hornocal or the 14 Coloured Mountain, is just outside the town of Humahuaca, a 30-minute drive away.

 

It’s a great little day trip. You can find a cheap tour in town or drive there yourself if you have a car. If you can,  turn up just in the late afternoon to experience the colourful mountain illuminated at sunset.

Everything else you need to know about Humahuaca from our favourite hostels to the best restaurants is here in our guide to the town:

 

 

How To Get To Humahuaca

  • Car – the drive should take 3-4 hours. Just follow Route 9 north from Salta
  • Bus – the bus takes a bit longer due to the stops (5h 15m). You may also need to change buses in Jujuy.
El Hornocal hills - Joe from Shall We Go Home Travel

Day 5-6 - Tilcara

After your time in Humahuaca, turn around and start heading south again along route 9.

 

Tilcara is the second town you’ll come.

 

It has the same laidback vibe of Humahuaca and is filled with artisan cafes, shops, and restaurants.

 

In the summer, it gets livelier with Argentinian tourists escaping the big cities and filling up the peñas (communal gatherings with traditional music from the region) and bars.

 

You also have some great options for outdoor adventure here.

 

You can trek to El Garganta Del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat Waterfall) or the historical site of Pucara Del Tilcara, a pre-Inca fortification built in the 12th century.  

 

Mountain biking is also a popular activity worth checking out!

How To Get To Tilcara

  • Car – this is a 40 minute drive from Humahuaca. Just follow Route 9 back south from where you came from.
  • Bus – the bus takes the same time and shouldn’t cost more than $3. Best to book it directly at the bus station in Tilcara 
Amazing views of Tilcara, North Argentina

Day 7-8 - Purmamarca

Another short journey south is the third town on Route 9 – Purmamarca.

 

2 days here is a great amount of time to do the two best things:

 

 

  • Hill of 7 Colours – Whilst it doesn’t sound as impressive as the 14 Coloured Mountain, the hill is just as colourful, and you don’t need to take a tour to see this one. You can see it from anywhere in town but the best way is to walk along the Paseo de los Colorados, a 1.5 mile (3 km) easy trail for great views of this multi-coloured hill.

 

  • Salinas Grandes – Purmamarca is also a good base for a trip to Salinas Grandes – Argentina’s spectacular salt flat. You can visit by yourself if you have a car or book a tour and you will have lots of opportunities to get the famous perspective shots and marvel and the unique white landscape that stretches on for miles.

Check our comparison guide of the two mountains:

 

 

How To Get To Purmamarca

  • Car – this is a 30 minute drive. Just follow Route 9 back south.
  • Bus – the bus takes the same time and starts a $3. Book directly at the bus station in Tilcara
Rainbow Mountain, Purmamarca (Argentina)

Day 9-10 - Jujuy

Jujuy (pronounced who-who-e) is one of the larger cities in the province. 

 

I think you can skip over it to be honest as most people use it as a base to visit the three towns on Route 9.

 

However, if you do decide to stay, there some fun things do here:

 

  • Hiking in Yungas Jungle in Calilegua National Park
  • Climb ‘Cerro Las Señoritas’, which takes you through deep red rock canyons and rewards you with panoramic views of Jujuy.
  • Hot Springs – One of the best things to do is visit the natural hot springs at Termas de Reyes or even stay here instead. Check out ‘Hotel Termas De Reyes’ if you want to enjoy the springs for a day or two.

Are you struggling to work out how many days you need in Argentina overall? Head to the post below to see a selection of itineraries that can help you:

 

 

WATER IN THE DESERT OF SALTA

Day 11 - Salta

Return to Salta for one night to break up the next long journey. 

Day 12 - Cachi & Route 33

Cachi is a small town perfect for a nights stop.  There isn’t a lot to do here apart from eat good food, visit a bodega to try some regional wines and marvel at the beautiful countryside.

 

If you didn’t rent a car to explore Route 9 then now is the time to do it.

 

You will want your own transport for this next part of the journey as Route 33 is perfect for a road trip.

 

Route 33 from Salta to Cachi will take you past two popular sights:

 

  • Cuesta del Obispo, or Bishop’s Slope, is a long winding road ending at the top of a hill at La Piedra del Molino (the Millstone) nearly 11,000 feet above sea level. The mountain offers a perfect viewpoint overlooking the Enchanted Valley, and you will get great shots of the road carved out of the mountainside.

 

  • The Tin Tin Straight Line is a 20km almost perfectly straight road that follows an ancient route built by the Inca. Unfortunately, Tin-Tin’s name comes from a nearby river and mountain and has nothing to do with the Belgian detective comic. Hop out of the car for incredible views and a road that doesn’t seem to end.

 

I stayed at Hosteria Cachi. They have a swimming pool, buffet breakfast and the grounds are set up on a hill giving you panoramic views of the Andes Mountains and the Calchaquí river.

Travelling along the wine route in Argentina is one of the many reasons why backpacking South America is well worth it. For more great reasons, head to the post below:

 

 

North Argentina Itinerary: Cuesta Del Obispo, Salta (Argentina)

Day 12-13 - Cafayate

Cafayate is a wine-producing region in the northwest of Argentina, located within the Calchaqui Valley .

 

The combination of high-elevation, great year-round weather and fertile soil produce incredible malbecs and torrontés.

 

After leaving the town of Cachi, you will be driving along Route 40.

 

This road is Argentina’s most famous highway that stretches the entire length of the country from the north to south.

 

It’s consistently rated as one of the best routes to road trip in the world.

 

Along this road, there are multiple photo opportunities as you follow the Rio Calchaqui south. The most unique stop is Quebrada de las Flechas – or Canyon of Arrows (see below)

Joe and friend sitting on a car in Cafayate, Argentina

Once you are settled in Cafayate it’s time for wine tasting.

 

There are three bodegas in town that are easy to visit – Nani, Domingo Hermanos and El Transito – and you can pay a small price for a tasting.

 

After that, you should visit Piatelli Vineyard for a full tour and another tasting!

 

Whilst I love adventure travel, I enjoyed this part of Argentina a lot.

 

After some time on the road, it was great to relax, enjoy the beautiful weather, and drink wine all day.

 

I suggest you do the same.

Vineyards of Cafayate (Argentina)

Where To Go Next?

Your north Argentina adventure is now over.

 

From Cafayate, you need to decide what to do next. Here are three suggestions:

 

  • After Cafayate, me and my friends decided to drop off the car in San Miguel de Tucuman and from here we took an overnight bus to Mendoza (we had a flight to Chile to catch otherwise we would have carried on road-tripping along Route 40).
  • You could head to Cordoba and drop the car off there (9 hour drive)
  • You could loop back up from Cafayate to Salta along Route 68 which is another incredible road with lots of beautiful stops along the way or you could carry on south on Route 40. It’s always cheaper to drop the car off in the city you go it from!

The north of Argentina is such a beautiful region; you won’t struggle to find other towns to explore and places to enjoy. 

To see an alternative three-week or one-month itinerary for Argentina that includes a trip to Patagonia, head to one of the posts below:

 

 

Ruta Del Vino Sign, Salta (North Argentina)

Is North Argentina Worth Visiting?

The north of Argentina is well worth a trip, especially for those who love their wine, and those who like to feel like less of a tourist and more like a local.

 

You have cheap prices, minimal tourists and a host of beautiful sights, tours and activities to choose from. Here are some of the best things to see in this region:

 

  • Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain
  • Salinas Grandes Salt Flat
  • The vineyards of Cafayate.

The area pairs well with extended trips to Bolivia or Chile as well as you are just a short border crossing away from being in a new country.

Road tripping through the north is one of 10 great reasons why I think you should visit Argentina. For the other 9, head to the post below:

 

 

How Many Days Is Enough In North Argentina?

I recommend a minimum of 10 days to complete the itinerary I’ve outlined above. But you can always cut out some stops.

 

Here are some alternative suggestions for shorter itineraries:

North Argentina Itinerary 5 Days

With only 5 days in the north, I would stay in Salta and use it as a base. 

 

It’s up to you if you want to explore north or south from here. It depends on what you enjoy.

 

If you like mountains and nature go north:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Salta
  • Day 3 – Humahuaca (Rainbow Mountain)
  • Day 4 – Purmamarca (Salinas Grandes)
  • Day 5 – Salta 

Or if you like wine, go south:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Salta
  • Day 3 – Cachi
  • Day 4-5 – Cafayate

North Argentina Itinerary 7 Days

7 days is a good amount of time to see the north of Argentina. However, you may be a bit rushed if you want to fit every stop in on this list.

 

Here’s a full on itinerary:

 

  • Day 1 – Salta
  • Day 2 – Humahuaca
  • Day 3 – Tilcara
  • Day 4 – Purmamarca
  • Day 5 – Salta 
  • Day 6 – Cachi
  • Day 7 – Cafayate

 

Or a slower paced itinerary:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Salta
  • Day 2 – Humahuaca
  • Day 3-4 – Purmamarca
  • Day 5 – Salta 
  • Day 6-7 – Cafayate

You can skip Tilcara and Cachi as the are the smallest towns with the least going on.

North Argentina Itinerary 10 Days

I would skip over Jujuy and Tilcara with only 10 days in the north.

 

Here’s how I would do it:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Salta
  • Day 3-4 – Humahuaca
  • Day 5-6– Purmamarca
  • Day 7 – Salta
  • Day 8 – Cachi
  • Day 9-10 – Cafayate
Humahuaca's Rainbow Mountain (Argentina)

When Should You Visit North Argentina?

The weather is sunny and dry for most of the year in North Argentina.

 

You can experience temperatures of 35°C (95°F) and above in the summer.

 

Here are some recommendations for when to visit:

 

  • Summer – the summer in Argentina is from December to February. This is also rainy season (I know…it can get confusing!). Essentially, it will be hot and humid in the north with the odd downpour. I visited in February and wasn’t that bothered, but for some it may be an issue.

 

  • Shoulder Seasons – October and November (spring) and March and April (Autumn) and the shoulder seasons. You’ll get cooler temperatures and less crowds. I always think visiting places in shoulder seasons is the best way to travel

 

  • Winter – June to August is the winter in Argentina. You’ll get highs of around 20°C (68°F). This may be preferable if you don’t enjoy the heat.

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