It is a circular circuit that crosses the Lerma Valley, the Calchaquí Valleys and deep gorges of great renown. In its most classical form, called "the Tour of the Valleys", the journey is completed around 500 kilometers.
In your own or rented vehicle, one of the best ways to do this circuit is done in 2 or 3 days at least. Of course, if you have more days, you will have the possibility of venturing through places outside the classic route. At the same time, there are daily excursions to the main destinations and others, more complete, that go all the way around.
It can be done both ways; starting with the Quebrada de las Conchas towards Cafayate, or by the Quebrada de Escoipe towards Cachi. It should be noted that in summer, usually during the afternoon, the Cuesta del Obispo, one of the outstanding road sections of the Argentine Northwest, is clouded thus depriving the visitor of its imposing landscape.
Times and Distances
See the table of times and distances between the main locations of the circuit.
During the high season (January-February and July) there are usually problems with the fuel supply. Inform yourself before embarking on the trip to the Calchaquí Valleys. In the guide you will find the telephone numbers of the service stations along the way.
In the descents, try to brake with the engine, circulating in 2nd gear (or 1st if it is very pronounced), to avoid burning the pads, which could result in the loss of the braking capacity.
During the rainy season (January-February) there may be interruptions in the routes. Check status in: Civil Defense 0387 000000.
Salta - Cafayate section
Salta - Cafayate
- Distance: 188 Km.
- Travel time: 3:00 hs.
- Maximum height: Cafayate - 1630 m.a.s.l.
During the rainy season (in summer) on rainy days: RN68 is usually flooded between Cerrillos and Germany; There are usually landslides and the flooding of the rivers can interrupt the transit between Germany and Cafayate.
From Salta to Cafayate, keep in mind that the last service station is in La Viña.
Alemania: It is a small semi-abandoned place, with the appearance of a ghost town, that lived a very different reality, of splendor and prosperity, during the 1910s. It was the last station of the C-13 branch, in disuse since 1971, that united it with the town of Cerrillos and that once had to unite the Valley of Lerma with the Calchaquí Valleys.
Quebrada de Las Conchas: One of the most memorable landscapes in Argentina, a deep canyon of multicolored sandstones eroded by wind and water for millions of years that exceeds 1,500 meters deep, where the Las Conchas River runs encased among the rocks . The Quebrada de Las Conchas separates the Calchaquí Valleys from the Lerma Valley, but also unites them as it is one of the two communication channels between them. For more information on its origin and geology see "La Quebrada de Las Conchas".
Near Puente Morales is the best fossil frog site in Argentina. It is a species that is among the oldest in the world.
Later the erosion carved the rocks of the ravine giving rise to curious formations, among which are:
- The devils throat.
- The amphitheater.
- The friar.
- The obelisk.
- The castles.
All of these are next to the route; the ones in bold are the most impressive and deserve a stop along the way. In the Garganta del Diablo and the Amphitheater it is common to find artisans selling their productions.
Diversion Cabra Corral and Río Juramento
The General Belgrano Reservoir, better known as the Cabra Corral dam, forms a water mirror of 127 square kilometers (12,700 hectares) in the form of "Y". It is the main water reserve of the Argentine Northwest and is the second largest reservoir in Argentina.
Today the tourist offer in the Cabra Corral dike is abundant. The majesty of the reservoir and the sublime natural environment that surrounds it harmoniously combine resulting in an exceptional framework for the performance of various sports, recreational and cultural activities, in which there is also a varied hotel and gastronomic offer.
For more information, see Cabra Corral Dam.
Guachipas Deviation, Painted Caves of Las Juntas
Guachipas is located 10 km from La Viña.
In the area of Las Juntas, a large group of eaves with cave paintings dating from 900 to 1400 of our era was discovered in 1965. It is a sacred and oratory site of the Guachipas tribes, known as Oma Sacopo (sine of the Pirguas del Sol). Among the 33 eaves discovered, the one that stands out the most for its conservation status is the Alero Ambrosetti, which is protected by a fence. The cave paintings of Las Juntas were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1999.
The Painted Caves of Las Juntas are located 31km from Guachipas. This takes approximately 45 minutes by car. The visitor has the possibility of touring the area and "discover" on their own the cultural and artistic legacy of the Guachipas, always taking care of their integrity and with the respect that a sacred place deserves.
Cafayate - Molinos
- Distance: 117 (30-87) Km.
- Travel time: 3:00 hs.
- Maximum height: Mills - 2,020 m.a.s.l.
During the rainy season (in summer) on rainy days: RN40 is usually flooded between Cafayate and Molinos.
Quebrada de Las Flechas: fantastic landscape formed by conglomerates and sandstones that suffered, over millions of years, the incessant effects of water and wind forming wonderful geological sites such as the cuts of "Las Flechas" and "El Ventisquero" that deserve Undoubtedly a stop along the way. If you travel in your own or rented vehicle, you can leave it at the side of the road and walk the area. There are marked paths that take you to elevated sites from where you have a privileged view.
Fossil plants were found near Angastaco, evidence that the Calchaquí Valleys were once covered with jungles.
Molinos - Cachi
Distance: 47 Km.
Travel time: 1:15 hs.
Maximum height: Cachi - 2,280 m.a.s.l.
Between Molinos and Seclantás, the RN40 goes high. Go up to the opening of the Clock and then descend to Seclantás. It has a privileged view of the Calchaquí River and the town of Seclantás from the top. The other option, the old RN40 that passes through El Churcal, travels along the Molinos River and then the Calchaquí between formidable farms with alpha pastures and plantations of peppers and onions, among others.
Road of the Artisans: It is a section of less than 10 km that begins in Seclantás and extends parallel to the route of the RN40, on the opposite bank of the river. Although, of course, artisans are not something exclusive to this place, it is there that one finds the most famous, whose works could be seen sheltering famous personalities and inspired the Salta poets who immortalized the essence of the place in their verses. "Pa 'mingar a nice poncho, go to Seclantás ..." Ernesto Cabeza and Juan Carlos Dávalos left us for sowing in "Poncho Seclanteño".
Desvío Laguna de Brealito
It is a natural water mirror, the result of a rock slide that formed a dike about 3,000 years ago. There are numerous stories and legends around the lagoon. Some talk about their origin. Others involve monsters and mermaids; and some speak even of an immeasurable depth, of a bottomless lagoon associated with a sea eye. According to studies, the maximum depth of the lagoon would be about 120 meters.
The lagoon is 22 km west of Seclantás. The road is passable for virtually any type of vehicle, but it has stretches of narrow and steep ledge that requires traveling at very low speed and with extreme caution.
Nearby there are cave paintings. In Seclantás it is possible to hire an excursion.
Alternativa Hacia Salta, Camino de Los Colorados
During the rainy season (January - February): Although it rains very little in this area, after a heavy rain the road can be very damaged or even cut.
It is one of the most picturesque roads in Salta. While one shortens in distance, it is not much what one shortens in time; The road through Cachi is longer but there is more asphalt and it runs faster. Both roads are in the Tin Tin Straight.
The attractiveness of the Camino de Los Colorados is the road itself, and the dazzling landscape it crosses. If you travel from Cachi to Salta and do not know this road, and have time, it is worth taking the RP42 and travel the first 15 kilometers. You can leave the vehicle on the side of the road and walk a little along the red hills.
Tramo Cachi - Salta
Distance: 152 (137-15) Km.
Travel time: 3:00 hs.
Maximum height: Piedra del Molino - 3,348 m.a.s.l.
During the rainy season (in summer) on rainy days: RN33 is usually flooded between Cachi and Salta; There are usually landslides and the flooding of rivers can disrupt traffic.
From Salta to Cachi, keep in mind that the last service station is in El Carril.
Los Cardones National Park: It was created in 1996 and has an area of 64,117 hectares. It has a clearly arid climate with great thermal amplitude and average temperatures of 11 ° C in winter (with lows below zero) and 18 ° C in summer (with maximums of 30 ° C). It receives annually no more than 200 mm of rainfall, concentrated between November and March, and exceptionally snowfall in the low areas.
The park retains a dense sample of cardón or pasacana, the typical species that comes to mind when the cardon is mentioned. In addition, it is the site with the greatest diversity of cacti in the country and one of the highest in the world. If you look carefully, and if you have a lot, you can see guanaco stumps.
Although there are several places that are worth knowing, the park completely lacks services for the attention of the visitor.
Tin Tin Straight: This is a straight section of the road, about 11 km, which crosses a slightly undulating plateau at almost 3,000 meters high, guarded by an army of thousands of cardons. It was part of the Inca Trail and it is said that the ancients used bonfires as a way to achieve the rectilinear layout.
Piedra del Molino: It is a mountain pass or step, where the climb ends and the descent begins. With its 3,348 meters above sea level it is the highest point of the circuit. Its name is due to the fact that a rock carved in granite, of several tons, of those that were used for milling in the old mills, was stranded there when the car was broken in which it was transported from the Calchaquí Valleys to the Lerma Valley. Its owners never came back for her and thus she was adopted by the landscape. In the place is the San Rafael chapel. It is a small chapel built with stone edged many years ago in the place where, it is said, the natives had raised an apacheta.
Valle Encantado: It is one of the natural wonders of Salta. Access is a car road, a few kilometers from Piedra del Molino, which is not always open. If it is not, one can leave the car on the side of the road (instead, with a handbrake, and with stones on the wheels) and go down to the Enchanted Valley walking.
Cuesta del Obispo: It is one of the most spectacular slopes of Argentina. They are 20 km between Piedra del Molino and the Pie de la Cuesta, in which the RP33 winds through the impressive immensity of the hills. Almost a thousand meters vertically separate these two points. The experience is different as one is going down or up; either in the morning or in the afternoon; and according to the season of the year. The name is due to the fact that in 1622 the then Bishop of Tucumán, Monsignor Dr. Julián de Cortázar, on his tour of the Calchaquí Valleys, had to spend the night in the place.
Quebrada de Escoipe: It constitutes, since pre-Hispanic times, one of the communication channels between the Lerma Valley and the Calchaquí Valleys. A section of the Inca Trail crossed the Enchanted Valley and descended to the creek at the height of El Maray to continue its journey to the valley.
Desvío La Poma, Puente del Diabo, Graneros Incaicos
The town of La Poma was semi destroyed by an earthquake on December 24, 1930. The earthquake, 6.4 degrees on the Richter scale, also caused numerous fatalities. One sector of the adobe village was rebuilt and another was built at a distance of one kilometer along the Peña River at its mouth on the Calchaquí.
An alley framed by two adobe pircas about 500 meters long protects the old town and gives it a particular charm.
Near the town is the Devil's Bridge, a structure built by nature. Here, the water of the Calchaquí River is encased in the mountains. In the line that connects Payogasta with the Poma is the so-called "Barn of the Inca", which consists of 24 mud and straw structures that served as deposits or silos.