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A Complete Road Trip Guide to Salta, Argentina: Itinerary & Driving Tips

This Salta road trip itinerary is a sample of the many amazing experiences to be had in Salta province in Northwest Argentina, which include dramatic landscapes, deep colorful canyons and wine producing valleys.

Even though I visited the neighbor province of Jujuy many times (I’m from Buenos Aires but my father is jujeño), I had never had a chance to visit Salta. I was naturally intrigued to see what “Salta La Linda” (Salta the beautiful one) as they call it, was all about.

After deciding on a 8 day road trip through Salta, I gathered as much information as possible but struggled to understand what were the best driving routes to take and how to split our time. On this guide, I thought I’d to share our day-by-day itinerary and all the tips we learned along the way to hopefully help you plan your own adventure.

Take a look at our Salta road trip itinerary and see why it has become one of our favorite experiences in Argentina.

A Complete Road Trip Guide to Salta, Argentina: Itinerary & Driving Tips

What to know before visiting Salta

– Salta can refer to both Salta Province and Salta City, its capital. Confusing, I know!

– In Salta province, around 70% of the roads that connect the different tourist landmarks are paved and in good condition.

– Salta has good sunny weather practically all year round, making it the perfect destination to add to your travel itinerary no matter what time of the year you visit Argentina.

Our Salta 8-day Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 & Day 2: Explore Salta City

Day 3: Salta to Cafayate through Quebrada de las Conchas

Day 4 & 5: La Yesera, Los Medanos (Quebrada de las Conchas) & Cafayate

Day 6: Explore Cafayate and the wineries nearby

Day 7: Cafayate to Cachi via Quebrada de las Flechas

Day 8: Drive from Cachi back to Salta City

Day 1 & Day 2: Explore Salta City

Before we embarked on the road trip to explore the natural wonders in Salta province, we decided to spend 2 full days in the capital city.

I didn’t have high expectations about Salta city because I thought it was just another concrete-jungle, but how wrong I was! Salta has a different feel to most cities in Argentina and has plenty to offer – from stunning colonial architecture to interesting museums and a vibrant night life. The best thing is that most attractions are concentrated in the city center so it’s very easy to go everywhere on foot. 

I highly encourage you to spend at least 2 full days in Salta city either at the beginning or at the end of your road trip. You won’t regret it!

Best things to do in Salta City

– Check out the colonial architecture

– See the chilling Inca child mummies at MAAM (Museum of High Altitude Archaeology)

– Enjoy the panoramic views from San Bernardo Hill 

– Discover Salta’s nightlife in Balcarce Street 

– Indulge in Salta’s signature empanadas

– Visit San Bernardo Convent 

Things to do in Salta, Northwest Argentina, Colonial Architecture
San Francisco Church, Salta City.

Where to stay in Salta City

We stayed at this Airbnb located in a quiet and safe area of the city. The apartment was cozy, clean and with lots of natural light. We enjoyed the balcony views of Cerro San Bernardo in the morning. If you stay here, don’t leave without having breakfast at Cafe Frenesí next door: the coffee & croissant breakfast set is simply amazing.

New to Airbnb? Here’s $40 free credit to get you started! 

Day 3: Salta to Cafayate through Quebrada de las Conchas

On day 3, we picked up our rental car from Activa Rent Car. We chose this local Argentinian car rental company because they provided the most competitive prices and their customer service was great (they also have English-speaking staff, which was a bonus).

The whole rental process was really smooth: we had emailed them a few weeks in advance to book the car and once we arrived to Salta city, we sent them a Whatsapp message to coordinate the pick-up. 

  • Scroll down to the end of this blog post for tips & advice on driving a rental car in Salta!

By 10am we were on Ruta 68 towards Cafayate. The route from Salta to Cafayate is probably one of the most stunning roads in the world. It can be completed within 3 hours but it’s worth taking the time to fully appreciate in the landscape – believe me, you’ll want to stop every 5 minutes to take photographs!

The road takes you through the Rio de las Conchas (Conchas River), Quebrada de las Conchas (Shells Ravine) and Quebrada de Cafayate where you’ll see intensely colored rock formations, wild landscapes of multicolored sandstone and majestic mountains dotted with lush green cacti.

Quebrada de las Conchas, Salta, Argentina
The stunning views in Quebrada de las Conchas

Suggested stops along Route 68 from Salta to Cafayate

Alemania |  “Ghost town” where you can still see the old train station and train depot from early 20th century. Good place to stop for 5 minutes and stretch your legs.

Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) |  One of the most famous rock formations on Route 68. We only stopped for pictures but heard that it is also possible to climb to the top.

El Anfiteatro (The Amphitheater) | Vast natural amphitheater with great acoustics. There’s always a musician playing quena (Andean flute) which really adds to the atmosphere!

Mirador Tres Cruces |  Must stop for breathtaking views of Quebrada de las Conchas. Allow 10-15 minutes to walk up and take some pictures.

La Yesera/Los Estratos | If you have the time and energy, you may include this 1hr hike into your itinerary. We chose to return here the next day from Cafayate (more on that below)

Other rock formations worth checking out: El Obelisco, Las Ventanas (the Windows) & Los Castillos (the Castle)

Garganta del Diablo, Quebrada de las Conchas, Salta, Argentina
Garganta del Diablo
Quebrada de las Conchas
Quebrada de las Conchas

Where to stay in Cafayate

We booked 3 nights at Hospedaje Los Cardones, a former colonial house turned hostel. Excellent location (just 1 block from the main plaza). We loved that it had free parking space and a little patio where we could relax after a long day. The rooms were comfortable although a bit outdated. Check reviews and book here.

Day 4 & 5: La Yesera, Los Medanos (Quebrada de las Conchas) & Cafayate

After a good night sleep in Cafayate, we went again to Quebrada de las Conchas (Ruta 68) to visit La Yesera (also known as “Los Estratos”), a valley of impressive multicolored hills that can be accessed through a short trail (20-30min walk). Words can’t describe the beauty of this place!

Los Estratos is probably my favorite spot of the whole road trip. We were so glad we dedicated a whole morning to enjoy the hike. We took lots of pictures and even flew our drone.

We returned to Cafayate in the afternoon just in time for a lovely dinner at El Rancho and Torrontes flavored gelato at Il Cavallino.

On Day 5, we drove again to Ruta 68 to check out Los Medanos (Sand Dunes). It is just a 15min drive from Cafayate so we figured it would be a nice way to start the day. In hindsight, I wish we had visited at sunset as the sun rays in the morning were brutal and there was no shade at all. 

Los Estratos Hike, Salta, Argentina
Los Estratos – a geological wonder that you shouldn’t miss in Salta
Los Medanos, Quebrada de las Conchas, Salta, Argentina
Los Medanos Sand Dunes

Day 6: Explore Cafayate and the wineries nearby

Day 6 was dedicated to exploring Cafayate and some wineries. Cafayate is not as internationally famous as Mendoza but it is an equally prominent wine region. The signature grape in this region is called Torrontés – a white grape variety that produces a fresh and aromatic wine. It has a subtle sweetness to it that makes it really easy to drink. I personally love it!

Best Wineries to Visit around Cafayate

Bodega Piatelli | This is probably the fanciest winery around Cafayate. If you are thinking of splurging in one nice lunch and wine pairing in a beautiful setting, I wouldn’t hesitate to go for this one. It reminded us a lot of the wineries you’d see in Napa Valley, California.

Bodega Vasija Secreta | A traditional and understated winery that offers free wine tasting. If you’re after tasty yet affordable wine, this is the place to go. We saw many tourists getting out of the winery with boxes of wine!

Bodega Nanni | We only passed by this winery but the setting looked quite nice. The restaurant looks over a garden and heard good things about the food. Winery is certified organic. Great alternative if you want to visit a winery walking distance from Cafayate downtown.

Bodega El Porvenir | Another winery close to downtown that has a great reputation for their informative overview of the wine making process by a professional enologist.

Finca Las Nubes | We read good things about this bodega, especially for the beautiful and relaxed atmosphere overlooking the vineyards. Advanced booking is highly recommended.

Best Winery in Cafayate, Salta Bodega Piatelli
Bodega Piatelli

Best Things to Do in Cafayate (besides bodegas)

– Visit the main plaza and church 

– Check out the artisan market

– Try the local empanadas at Casa de las Empanadas

– Explore the town by bike

– Indulge in local wine-flavored gelato

– Venture out to the Rio Colorado waterfalls

Day 7: Cafayate to Cachi via Quebrada de las Flechas

After a few days drinking wine and relaxing in Cafayate, it was time to continue our road trip towards Cachi. We set off early morning on Ruta 40 and our first stop was Quebrada de las Flechas. The landscape here is out of this world and makes you feel like you’re driving on Mars! Make sure you stop at Ventisquero (Wind Tunnel) view point and hike to the top.

Tip | The road from Cafayate to Quebrada de las Flechas is mostly unpaved so manage your time accordingly to arrive in Cachi before sundown.

Quebrada de las Flechas, Salta, Argentina
Quebrada de las Flechas or another planet?!

Continuing on Ruta 40 for about 20min or so, you’ll stumble across Finca El Carmen which makes a great lunch or coffee spot. The views from this country estate are very beautiful: you can see an old church, a ranch, vineyards and the Calchaquí river.

Finca el Carmen in Salta, Argentina
Enjoying a cortadito at Finca El Carmen

Just next to Finca El Carmen is Bodega El Cese which offers casual free tastings. Their wines are delicious and very affordable – we couldn’t resist buying a bottle (well, two!)

El Tapao del Cese Wine, Salta, Argentina

A few hours later at around 5pm, we finally made it to Cachi! We drove straight to our guest house, freshened up and headed out to explore the town before it got dark. Cachi is a small town where time stands still (it reminded us of Jujuy towns). Not many landmarks stood out for us, it was more about walking the little streets and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. We stopped by Resto Bar Oliver for a late merienda as the sun went down.

Where to stay in Cachi

Casa Pueblo | This guest house was the perfect place to rest after a long day. The rooms were stylish, cosy and most importantly very quiet! Breakfast was included which was great for us since we only stayed in Cachi for one night. Highly recommended. Check reviews and book here.

Day 8: Drive from Cachi back to Salta City

On the last day, we challenged ourselves to drive back to Salta via Cuesta del Obispo (Bishop’s Slope). Before that, we made a quick stop at Parque Nacional Los Cardones, which offers a great drive through countless cacti and a stunning backdrop of rock formations. Watch out for wildlife – we spotted guanacos, condors and donkeys.

Parque Nacional Los Cardones
Countless cacti in Parque Nacional Los Cardones

By 11am, we were on our way to the much anticipated Cuesta del Obispo. We were hesitant to take that route because we had read that it is one of the most challenging roads to drive on: it’s narrow, twisty and unpaved. But we also read that as long as you drive slowly and carefully it’s well worth it. I’m glad we went for it, the views were incredibly beautiful!

Things to do in Salta. Cuesta del Obispo, Salta, Argentina
Cuesta del Obispo

Salta Driving Tips

– We hired a 4×2 manual Renault Laguna from Activa Rent Car and had no issues on the road.

– Have your passport, driving license and vehicle registration at hand for police checks (they happen quite often!)

– You must have your headlights on highways at all times, by law.

Make sure to have the tank filled at 75% for some of the open ended journeys.

– Paved roads are in pretty good condition but be ready for the gravel road between Cafayate and Cachi.

For navigation, we used a combination of Google Maps and MapsMe.

Map of the Salta-Cafayate-Cachi Clockwise Loop (Self-guided Drive)

This Salta road trip was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had in South America and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to discover a different side of Argentina.

Hope that you found this self-guided itinerary helpful and as always, if you have any questions please leave me a comment down below.

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