North Argentina: A Mind-Blowing, 9-Day Argentina Road Trip Itinerary

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Planning to visit north Argentina? This 9-day road trip itinerary is the perfect introduction to this stunning region.

One of the amazing things about travelling in Argentina is the varying landscapes. And one of the places that most surprised me was north Argentina.

In fact, after a road trip through the region, it’s now my favourite place to visit in Argentina, and I find myself constantly recommending anyone who’s travelling to Argentina to put the north of the country on their itinerary.

Hiring a car and tracing the windy roads of the provinces of Salta and Jujuy on an Argentina road trip is the best way to experience northwest Argentina. Along the way you’ll see surprising rock formations, taste incredible wines and experience a culture that is distinctly different to other areas of Argentina.

This part of Argentina is a little off the beaten path, so if this sort of trip is up your alley, I’ve put together the perfect 9-day North Argentina itinerary to help you experience the highlights of this region. This follows the route that my husband and our friends took, plus some advice for things I’d do differently next time.

Seriously, if you’re thinking about visiting Argentina, please consider the north of Argentina – it blew my mind and I know it will amaze you, too!

This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

North Argentina road trip logistics

Before we get into the details of the north Argentina road trip itinerary, here are a few logistics to consider.

You should also stop by and read my full guide to planning a trip to Argentina for some handy tips if it’s your first time visiting.

Scenic view of the arid landscape of North Argentina with sparse vegetation, cacti, and a mountain range in the background under a cloudy sky.

When to visit north Argentina

We travelled to north Argentina in early September and it was perfect. It wasn’t super hot during the day, but also not too cold at night (do I sound like Goldilocks?). We did wake up to frost some mornings. We needed jackets but they were often peeled off during the daytime.

The great thing about the timing of our trip was that it was low season, so it wasn’t very busy and the other tourists we saw were mostly Argentines.

Most people recommend April to November as the ideal time to visit north Argentina. Summer (December to February) can be too hot for most visitors.

No matter the time of year, do keep an eye on the weather, especially if rain is forecast. Heavy rains can cause roads to become impassable and it’s not uncommon for roads to wash away.

How to get to north Argentina

To do this trip, fly into Salta or Jujuy. We flew into Salta and did a sort-of figure eight loop beginning and ending there.

You could also mix up this itinerary to avoid looping back, and fly into Salta and out of Jujuy; simply alter the order of the itinerary.

Aerolíneas Argentinas flies daily to Salta and Jujuy, as does low-cost carrier FlyBondi.

A panoramic shot of a winding valley in North Argentina with a dry riverbed snaking through, surrounded by lush green slopes and distant mountains.

How to get around northern Argentina

The best way to experience north Argentina is to hire a car and drive it yourself.

This gives you time to experience the north, stop in small towns that pique your interest, and relax as you drive around this beautiful area. It means you’ll also have the smaller towns without the crowds in the evenings.

We hired a car through a company that I think has now gone bust, so book online with DiscoverCars instead. They can collate all the car rental companies in Salta so you can choose the right one for you.

We had a teeny-tiny car that was fine for the four of us but was a little hairy in some parts. A four-wheel drive would have nice but not necessary. 

I’ve got a full guide to renting a car in Argentina with my tips and tricks.

The thought of driving around north Argentina may be a little intimidating, so there are plenty of tours that can take you on multi-day trips or day trips to the highlights that I’ll be outlining in this blog post. A few that I’ve found online that come recommended are:

  • This day trip from Salta will have you exploring gorgeous Purmamarca and Salinas Grandes.
  • This 7-day tour hits the highlights of north Argentina with a side trip into the Atacama Desert in Chile.
  • Driving up to Iruya can be a little hairy, so consider this 2-day trip from Salta which visits Iruya and Purmamarca.
  • If you’re all about the wine, this day trip from Salta heads straight to Cafayate for all the vino.

But, if you can, I highly, highly recommend DIY-ing this one and renting a car for the ultimate Argentina road trip!

Tips for a north Argentina itinerary

So now, hopefully I’ve convinced you that a self-drive road trip is the best way to get around the north of the country. If you do go down this path, here’s some Argentina travel advice for a safe trip:

I don’t think a four-wheel drive is necessary, but it may give you piece of mind on the road to Iruya.

Check that your car has a spare tyre. We got a flat on our final day (ugh) and were thankful that we knew there was a spare in the boot/trunk. Having said that, make sure you actually know how to change a flat tyre! (The funniest part about our flat tyre is that it happened on the smoothest tarmac of our trip, not on the bumpy, rocky roads we’d traversed the days before!)

Fill up with fuel whenever you can. Distances can be long here and you don’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank.

It’s the law in Argentina to drive with your headlights on when on a highway – even during the daylight hours. If you don’t, expect a hefty fine. 

While most of the towns along the way do have ATMs, bring cash. Cards aren’t accepted in all restaurants and you will need cash to purchase souvenirs sold in the marketplaces. Anyway, cash is always king in Argentina.

Always get travel insurance when you travel, especially to more remote areas.

North Argentina road trip itinerary

Let’s get into it! First up, here’s a map of the northern Argentina itinerary so you can visualise the suggested route that follows.

Map of northwest Argentina

Day 1: Salta

Off we go! We’re starting the Argentina road trip in Salta. They call this city Salta la Linda, and it’s easy to see why, with its beautiful buildings and peaceful plazas.

Make sure to visit the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña. One of the top things to do in northern Argentina, here you’ll see the mummified bodies of the sacrificed Incan children discovered in 1999 on the top of Llullaillaco mountain.

Only one of the three children is displayed at a time, mesmerisingly frozen in time. It’s incredible to see the details in their faces still so well preserved after hundreds of years.

You can easily pass a day wandering the streets, people-watching in Plaza 9 de Julio and admiring the city’s colourful churches. Join a walking tour to see the best of the city.

A historic church in Salta, Argentina, illuminated at night, showcasing its intricate architecture, with warm lighting accentuating its features. The city of Salta is known as Salta La Linda for its beautiful plazas and churches. Exploring these areas is one of the best things to do in Salta.

Where to stay in Salta

On our first night in Salta, we stayed in Design Suites Salta, a modern hotel with spacious bedrooms. It’s located within walking distance of the main area of the city. | Book your stay at Design Suites Salta today on or Expedia

Another hotel that gets great reviews is Legado Mitico, a boutique hotel in the heart of the city. It’s a contemporary hotel with a old-world style and charm. | Check rates online

Where to eat in Salta

We ate steaks the size of our heads at El Charrúa (Caseros 221) – photo evidence below.

Also try Doña Salta (Córdoba 46) for empanadas and José Balcarce (Necochea 594) for traditional regional dishes.

A smiling woman - the author of this article - sitting at a restaurant table, holding a large plate with a grilled steak, typical Argentinian food. In Salta - like most of Argentina - you can eat steaks the size of your head!

Day 2: Iruya

Pick up your hire car in the morning and begin the 320-kilometre journey to Iruya, a tiny, cloud-shrouded town perched on the side of a mountain.

This town is waaaayyyyy north Argentina. It’s one of the more remote places to visit in Argentina, but worth it! The last 50 kilometres of the trip is on a bone-jarring dirt road that winds through, over and around mountains (so this is where a four-wheel drive might come in handy).

The journey will take you to 4,000 metres above sea level at the crossing between the Salta and Jujuy provinces, and comprises an array of stunning landscapes, from dusty flat towns to mountains rippled with layers of brown, red, green, purple and slate-grey earth.

A colorful signboard covered with various stickers at an elevation of 4000 meters above sea level in the province of Salta, North Argentina. Getting to Iruya is a challenge, but worth it.

In town, you can wander the cobblestoned streets or spend a few extra days hiking in the area. We stayed here only one night, but if you have the time, I’d recommend staying here for at least two nights, as the drive here is difficult.

Historic village in North Argentina with a church perched on a hillside, overlooking a steep road and houses, set against a backdrop of mountains and clouds. The town of Iruya is located on a cloud-shrouded mountain top in north Argentina.
A bright yellow church with a simple facade and a bell tower in a cobblestone plaza, set against a clear blue sky in North Argentina. The town of Iruya is one of the most interesting places to visit in Argentina.

If you haven’t already chowed down on them in Salta, you can try your first empanadas salteñas, crispy pastries filled with meat and vegetables. The empanadas in this region are different to those you’ll find elsewhere in Argentina.

My top tip: always ask for them fried (rather than baked). Not as healthy, of course, but so tasty.

There’s a small shop in the square opposite the church that sells stellar empanadas (unfortunately, I never wrote down the name of the shop!).

A single golden-brown empanada with a fluted edge is centered on a white plate, with a portion of a green glass visible in the upper left corner and set against a red background. You must try empanadas saltenas when you visit northern Argentina - they're delicious!

Note that this part of the trip is completely optional, because it is a tough drive. You could skip Iruya and spend an extra day in Humahuaca, Tilcara or Purmamarca instead.

Where to stay and eat in Iruya

Hotel Iruya is perched at the top of the hill (San Martín 641). The restaurant serves surprisingly good food. | Check the latest prices and book your stay at Hotel Iruya online with

Days 3 and 4: Humahuaca, Tilcara and Purmamarca

Get back in your car and return the same way you came, stopping along the way to have lunch in the photogenic town of Humahuaca. The restaurant Pachamanka (Buenos Aires 457) serves great tamales and traditional dishes.

You can pick up handcrafted goods here including blankets and rugs, pottery, clothing and ornaments. There’s certainly no lack of options for authentic souvenirs in north Argentina.

A colorful storefront with traditional textiles and handicrafts displayed outside. The sign above reads "Despensa Popular Marcos" in bold letters, indicating a general store. The store is in North Argentina. Humahuaca in the north of Argentina is famous for its handcrafted goods.

Continue south to Tilcara where you can visit the Pucará ruins, a pre-Inca fortification.

This site was strategically chosen, as it offered views across the valley and plenty of chances to see any enemies approaching. Wander through the cactus-filled ruins, but be aware that it can be windy at times.

Overlooking view of a semi-arid landscape with a stone wall in the foreground and towering cacti, with rugged mountains under a clear sky in the background. In Tilcara in the north of Argentina, visit the pre-Incan fort of Pucara.
A stone archway framing a picturesque view of eroded hills and a valley with sparse greenery under a blue sky in North Argentina. In Tilcara in the north of Argentina, visit the pre-Incan fort of Pucara.

You can stay the night in Humahuaca or Tilcara, but we chose to base ourselves in Purmamarca.

Looming over this tiny town is the stunning Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colours), one of the best places to see in Argentina.

Staying here overnight will allow you to visit the various viewpoints before and after the busloads of tourists that pour in for their photo opps of this Argentina tourist attraction have left.

A woman (the author of this article) stands with their back to the camera, overlooking a dramatic landscape of multicolored mountain slopes in shades of red, purple, and gray - this is the Cerro de Siete Colores (Hill of 7 Colours). A small village with terracotta rooftops is nestled at the mountain's base beneath a clear blue sky. The Cerro de Siete Colores in north Argentina is absolutely beautiful - base yourself in Purmamarca to see it before and after sunset when the colours are at their most rich.
A street view in a North Argentinian village with simple stucco buildings in the foreground and multi-colored mountains in the distance under a clear blue sky. Purmamarca is a lovely little town in northwest Argentina.
Twilight scene featuring layered mountain silhouettes with varying shades of blue and the last glows of sunset in the sky, viewed from North Argentina. The Cerro de Siete Colores in north Argentina is absolutely beautiful - base yourself in Purmamarca to see it before and after sunset when the colours are at their most rich.
A man and a woman - the author of this article and her husband - stand together posing for a photo in a desert landscape. Behind them are colorful mountains and a clear blue sky. Both are dressed in casual outdoor attire and are smiling towards the camera. The Cerro de Siete Colores in north Argentina is absolutely beautiful - base yourself in Purmamarca to see it before and after sunset when the colours are at their most rich.

On day four, take a day trip along the winding road to the Salinas Grandes. This is the second largest salt pan in the world. This is one of those Argentina destinations that few people know exist.

Guides will take you out to the flats (for a reasonable price, negotiate first). One of the most fun things to do in Argentina is practice your forced perspective photos in the Salinas Grandes (or fail to do so, as we did!).

A perspective of salt flats in North Argentina, showing a grid of shallow rectangular pools filled with clear blue brine water, with a vast white salt crust extending to the horizon. Visit the Salinas Grandes in northwest Argentina - the second-largest salt pan in the world.
Four people - the author of this article, her husband and two friends - mid-jump on a salt flat, casting long shadows on the white ground, with a clear blue sky overhead in North Argentina. Visit the Salinas Grandes in northwest Argentina - the second-largest salt pan in the world.

Back in Purmamarca, do the easy hike around the base of Cerro de los Siete Colores to see its layered colours from all angles.

Where to stay and eat in Purmamarca

El Manantial del Silencio (Ruta Nacional 52, Km 3.5) is built to look like an old estancia. We stayed here and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has a good restaurant serving local fish and meat. | Book online with or Expedia

If you prefer to stay in Humahuaca or Tilcara, there are plenty of accommodation options. I recommend comparing prices on and Expedia.

Days 5 and 6: Cachi

Get back on the road for more stunning north Argentina scenery, passing back through Salta.

Cachi is a charming village where you can take a few days to relax and wander the streets. It’s one of the best places to visit in Argentina to chill out. But if you’re after something more adventurous, local companies offer hiking and biking trips; ask around.

Head out to Miraluna (7 kilometres from Cachi in the small village of La Aguada) for a tour of the bodega. It’s one of the highest wineries in the world. Take a bottle (or two) of their great Malbec back to your hotel to enjoy with a picada plate (Argentina’s version of charcuterie).

A winding road stretches into the distance through a desert landscape under a dramatic sky with layers of mountains visible in the background in North Argentina. As you travel around northern Argentina, you'll be blown away by the scenery.
A cozy street corner in North Argentina featuring a wooden doorway opening to a garden, a lantern on the wall, and a couple of chairs with a table on the cobblestone sidewalk. Cachi is a charming village in north Argentina that's worth a day or two.
A simple, traditional church with a bell tower and three bells visible against a clear sky in a cobbled square, with a couple of people walking out of the doorway in North Argentina. Cachi is a charming village in north Argentina that's worth a day or two.

Where to stay in Cachi

La Merced del Alto (Fuerte Alto 4417) is a white-washed adobe building with ceramic-tiled floors. The service is detailed and attentive. | Book your stay at La Merced del Alto online

A white colonial-style building with a bell tower surrounded by agave plants, against a backdrop of mountains under a clear blue sky in North Argentina. Cachi is a charming village in north Argentina that's worth a day or two.

Where to eat in Cachi

El Antigal for cheap and delicious food. There’s no written menu, so the staff will simply verbally reel off a list of what they have available that day.

Days 7 and 8: Cafayate

More driving ahead of you. Stop by Colomé (18 kilometres west of the town of Molinos) for lunch and a tour of the mind-blowing James Turrell Museum. The museum displays Turrell’s works of light and perception. I’m completely unable to describe it in words so you need to see it for yourself!

Follow up lunch with a tasting of their famous wines. Advance bookings are essential. The road to Colomé is rutted and bumpy so carefully pack any bottles of wine you’ve bought as you leave!

After lunch, continue on to Cafayate. The journey will take you through the Quebrada de las Flechas, a lunar-like place with leaning limestone structures that resemble quivers of arrows.

Rugged, sharply eroded mountain terrain with sparse vegetation under a bright blue sky in the arid landscape of North Argentina. The Quebrada de las Flechas is one of the most out-of-this-world landscapes you'll see on a north Argentina road trip - it resembles quivers of arrows.

In Cafayate, hit as many wineries as you can possibly handle in two days. Start with San Pedro de Yacochuya (Ruta Provincial No 2, Km 6), Piattelli (Ruta Provincial No 2, Km 3) and El Porvenir (Córdoba 32).

I’ve written a guide to the best wineries in Cafayate, so check it out and plan your visit to Cafayate accordingly.

Try the Malbec and Torrontes-flavoured ice creams at one of the many stores around Plaza San Martín and pick up a box of alfajores at one of the stores nearby. Finish the day off at Chato’s Wine Bar (Nuestra Señora del Rosario 132) with a degustation of (more) wines and a picada plate.

Vintage sign reading "Hotel Gran Alfajores" hanging over a street, with colorful buildings and a clear sky in the background in North Argentina. Stop in Cafayate in northern Argentina for the wine, alfajores, empanadas and wine-flavoured ice cream.

Where to stay in Cafayate

Splash out for a room at Grace Cafayate (Ruta Nacional 40, Km 4340). It’s located in a winery and has comfortable rooms. Ours had a huge bathtub. | Book your stay at Grace Cafayate online with

Where to eat in Cafayate

Grab a table at Pacha Cocina de Autor (Avenida General Güemes Sur 143). Casa de las Empanadas (Mitre 24) serves cheap and delicious empanadas.

Want tips on how to plan a trip like this north Argentina road trip? Check out my 15 easy steps on how to plan a trip from start to finish!

Day 9: Back to Salta

Heading back to Salta, you’ll pass through the astonishing Quebrada de Cafayate. It’s one of Argentina’s most amazing drives. You’ll see colours of all tones in the rock formations that have been carved out by the Río de las Conchas.

Along the way, stop at El Anfitreatro. Here, you’ll most likely come across a musician using the natural amphitheatre to entertain visitors. Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) is a huge cavern a little further along.

A large cave opening in a red rock mountain face with a small figure standing at the entrance for scale, under a clear blue sky in North Argentina. The final day of the north Argentina road trip will see you driving past amazing rock formations and landscapes.
A person in a yellow shirt playing a flute in a rocky desert setting with a woven basket in the foreground and red rock cliffs in the background in North Argentina. The Quebrada de las Conchas is home to the Garganta del Diablo, a huge cavern where performers often play.

End your north Argentina road trip back in Salta. You can either fly out that same day or stay another night to prolong your time in Argentina.

Wrap up: North Argentina road trip

You’ve probably picked up by now that North Argentina is my absolute favourite part of the country. I loved how different it was to other regions, particularly the south, and the ever-changing landscapes.

This is, in my opinion, one of the best road trips in Argentina.

While it’s not as visited as other regions, I can guarantee this region will capture your heart and you’ll leave Argentina wanting to come back!

Did you find this article helpful? Consider buying me a coffee as a way to say thanks!

Have you been on a road trip through north Argentina? What was your favourite part? Leave your tips, advice and thoughts in the comments below.

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Before you go… you might also like these Argentina travel articles:



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I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

18 thoughts on “North Argentina: A Mind-Blowing, 9-Day Argentina Road Trip Itinerary”

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    I have really enjoyed reading your posts about Northern Argentina. It has proved to be a great source of inspiration. We are travelling to Argentina in June for a month, flying to Bueno Aires, planning to take the bus to Iguazu falls then fly to Salta. We really want to do the 9 day road trip from Salta. But I have a concern about altitude sickness. My husband has a heart condition and we were advised by the doctor not to travel to Peru to view Inca trails so opted for Argentina. Could we be liable to altitude sickness in Salta? After Salta we want to fly to Mendosa for a week then fly to Sydney from Santiago . Any advice would be gratefully received. Many thanks

    • Thanks so much Debbie for the great feedback! It’s a stunning part of the country and well worth the visit. Salta is around 1,152m high (Machu Picchu is 2,430m high in comparison) so depending on your husband’s condition, he might experience some altitude sickness. Some parts of the area are higher so you would have to check each area and avoid the higher parts. It’s probably worth checking with his doctor just to make sure! Mendoza is much lower, about 740m. Your trip sounds fantastic, hope it’s great! Feel free to get in touch if you have more questions.

  2. Amazing itinerary! I am considering doing this trip, but I will be solo as a 22 year old female. Do you think I will be safe- driving and otherwise? Any tips for doing this drive alone will be very helpful! Thank you so much 🙂

    • I felt really safe in the north. I’d take all the usual precautions and plan to stay in populated areas, make sure you always have a working phone etc. If you’re confident travelling solo, I think you will have a great time.

  3. Thank you for all your thoughtful and informative posts. My wife, son and I are considering booking a last minute vacation to Argentina in late July/early Aug for two weeks. We are circling around 5 days in BA and 2 days in Ignatz Falls area. The other week, we were thinking of both some days in the North, as you explain above, and/or taking the ferry from BA to Montevideo to explore Uruguay while we are down in that area. We loved your article above, but feel a lot of the scenery is very reminiscent of the Southwest part of the US (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, etc.) which we have loved visiting and exploring multiple times. If we are looking to get the most out of our time when the amazing part of South America, would love your thoughts on where you might steer us for that additional week. Thanks in advance for your further thoughts and insight.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for the message! I also love the Southwest of USA and can see your point about the landscape being similar – but I can promise you, it’s so different! Throw in the different cultures and food and it’s a very different experience to travelling in that part of the country. I would definitely recommend going there! But if you do want to try somewhere else, heading over to Uruguay is fun, and you could hire a car if you have a week and spend some time exploring around Colonia, Montevideo and so on. Another option if you like wildlife is Ibera Wetlands. It might be a bit cooler in July/August and it is low season but I believe there’s still some good animal spotting to be had! Enjoy your trip!

  4. Thanks for your itinerary! It’s really helpful! Just one question, did you drive to Salinas Grandes or join a tour? I’m a little confused as you said you had a guide to bring you out to the flats.

    • Hey! We drove to Salinas Grandes, but then you pick up a guide when you get there. There are several people at the “entrance” who will jump in your car. Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

    • I think the north gets overlooked in favour of Buenos Aires, Patagonia and Mendoza. Which is good because it means the north is quieter 🙂 It’s so beautiful that way, I hope you get there!

  5. My goodness, I can’t get over this post! Such a beautiful road trip – Iruya looks so cute, and Cerro de los Siete Colores must be Argentina’s equivalent to Peru’s Rainbow Mountain – love the striation of colors. Just stunning! We were talking about possibly doing Argentina/Chile next year (possibly March), and this will be my go-to guide! Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures!

    • Yes, yes, yes you guys have to go!! Let me know if you have any questions. There are soooo many different places to visit.

  6. Hello Rebecca,
    You are getting too good at this photography business. (I check in from time to time).
    Best wishes,
    Richard Dellman


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