Northern Argentina's Less Traveled Paths

Pampas, Quebradas, a Train to the Clouds, and History

Cerro 7 Colores Salta Argentina

Christian Peters / Getty Images

Take time to explore northwestern Argentina's less-traveled paths and discover how much you'll enjoy your travels in Argentina!

Many visitors to Argentina tour Buenos Aires, Tierra del Fuego, Iguazu Falls, the great national park of Nahuel Huapi, and go home, thinking they've seen it all.​​​

Far from it! Easily reached by air from Buenos Aires, by bus from Argentine cities and from Bolivia and Peru, the Andean Northwest provinces of Jujuy and Salta have much to offer. Historically, the way through these provinces has been the route ancient Indian tribes, Spanish conquistadores and soldiers of the wars of independence used from the mountains to the sea.


This area witnessed the beginnings of permanent agricultural civilization in Argentina, by several tribes, including the Diaguita who successfully kept the Inca Empire from spreading over the Andes into the pampas of Argentina. Before the coastal areas were developed by the Spaniards, this was the most heavily populated region of what is now modern Argentina. The passes through the Andes were well used by local traders.

The area is still heavily Indian, with buildings, customs, and religion a mix of Indian and Catholic beliefs. The landscape is generally dry, scoured by earthquakes and the violent windstorms known as pamperos, but there are pockets of vegetation and fertile valleys.


Salta, the capital of the province of Salta, is a colonial city, and around the central plaza, well preserved colonial buildings, such as the Cabildo, or City Hall, now a museum, San Francisco Church and San Bernardo Convent are well worth a visit. Consult this list of hotels in Salta for availability, rates, amenities, location, activities and other specific information.

Attractions Around Salta

  • The Cathedral of Salta, with the 16th-century statues of the Virgin Mary and the Cristo del Milagro. Washed ashore in Peru after the ship from Spain sank, the statues were brought to Salta with the Franciscan monks. They are credited with stopping a 1692 earthquake in mid-tremor when they were carried through the streets.
  • Although it is no longer running, the El Tren a las Nubes, the Train to the Clouds, from Salta to San Antonio de los Cobres reminds us of the engineering skills it took to create the lkine. The railroad span crossing a desert canyon, the Viaducto La Polvorilla at 13000 feet (4000 m), is an engineering marvel. San Antonio was a stop on the old route for drovers and miners of Chile, now fading away as modern transportation supplanted pack animals.
  • Cafayate enjoys a good climate for vineyards and is the site of the Quebrada de Cafayate where forested land changes to barren sandstone canyon.
  • Parque Nacional de Calilegua is a surprise in the altiplano. Here subtropical cloud forest offers a wide variety of flora and fauna. Birding is popular and the higher you climb Cerro Hermoso, the better the views.
  • Once an Incan village perched high on the slopes of a steep mountain, Iruya clings to its past traditions even as it slowly creeps into the present. For those wanting a step back in time, wildly colorful scenery and a relaxing change from city life, Iruya is the place to go.

San Salvador de Jujuy

San Salvador de Jujuy, capital of the province of Jujuy, is north of Salta on the road to Bolivia. This area of Argentina has much in common with Bolivia, in indigenous language, customs, and traditions. Jujuy was a major stop on the commercial routes of the early colonial times, including the silver mines at Potosí, Bolivia. Like other colonial towns, life centered around the plaza, where the Cathedral, with a gold Baroque pulpit, and the Cabildo now housing the Museo Policial are attractions. The Museo Histórico Provincial and the Iglesia Santa Barbara house collections pertaining to colonial history.

Check out the Internacional Jujuy Hotel as a place to stay in Jujuy.

Attractions Around Jujuy

  • Uquaía is a small village whose Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula displays a painting of angels wearing 17th-century musketeer uniforms, known as the angeles arcabuceros.
  • Humahuaca is a small town almost on the Bolivian border, known for the Quebrada de Humahuaca, but the town's churches and museums show the colonial influences.
  • The canyon and the Cerro de los Siete Colores at Purmamarca are colorful expanses attracting artists but have historical significance as well. For centuries this canyon, and others like it, was the route between the mountains from one coast to the other.
  • Tilcara is a pre-Hispanic fortress, a pucará, and an artist colony. The museums throughout the area display local artists and archaeological artifacts.
  • Coctaca is the site of extensive pre-Columbian ruins. It is thought to be an agricultural center for the terraces.
  • Santa Rosa de Tastil is the site of pre-Colombian city thought to once have 3000 residents.

Check flights from your area to Buenos Aires and other locations in Argentina. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore and enjoy Northwestern Argentina!

Buen viaje!

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