From the Grandes Salinas to the colourful markets in Purmamarca, the Andes in Argentina will steal your heart. The landscapes will relax your mind and the villages will make you feel as if you travelled back in time. The food is traditional and hearty and if you have a sweet tooth, the dulce de leche will undoubtedly satisfy your cravings.
Discover now the 10 tips that will make you wish to book a flight to Andes!
Argentina – Andes
1. Grandes Salinas
There are many salt flats in South America. The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is probably the most famous (one of our next targets!).
However, if you travel to Argentina and want to have a taste, Grandes Salinas is a fantastic spot to get to.
Fly to the beautiful Salta ‘la linda’ from Buenos Aires and embark there for your tour in the Andes.
Which includes the salt flats and much, much more.
Distances are huge and you will need to climb up to over 4,000 metres. Hence, if you only have a limited amount of time, I suggest contacting a local operator to arrange a mini tour for you. We did ours with Say Hueque: they have many packages available and can help with any personalised travel plans.
They can also help with flights, as Argentinian carriers apply a significantly different price to foreigners vs. nationals and unless you have a resident friend, tour operators can be convenient.
2. Road on the valley
From Salta and its colonial Spanish past, we embarked our bus early in the morning.
After a quick stop to get coca leaves to chew and help us with altitude sickness (must try!), we headed off to our 3 days Andes adventure.
And yes, it is as beautiful and deserted as you can imagine. The view on the quebrada is stunning and not easy to forget.
The whole region is full of natural spots that have been declared national heritage.
3. Tren a las nuebes
If you have a bit more time to plan you can have the chance to board the legendary tren a las nuebes, once you arrive at San Antonio de los Cobres and travelling up to the Viaducto La Polvolilla. You can come back with the train or move independently from there.
The official website “Tren a las nuebes” also arranges buses to and from San Antonio from Salta for those not having a private vehicle.
4. Purmamarca – Markets
This is for sure one of the most stunning places you can see whilst touring the North-west of Argentina. Typical tours of the country start from Buenos Aires and include the Iguazú Falls and Patagonia, but the Andean region is a real experience, touching the true heart of the Inca heritage.
The town is small and quick to tour around, but it is easy to get lost in the many colourful markets on the street.
5. Purmamarca – Monte del los 7 colores
I recommend you take your time to spend a night in Purmamarca. Get up early, grab a coffee with pastries and dulce de leche and go out for a stroll to enjoy the beauty of the 7 colours mountain (monte de los 7 colores).
There is an easy itinerary running behind the town and taking you back to the central square. Easy to find and walk, unless you are like Sara and also easy to get lost!
6. Paleta del pintor
Leaving Purmamarca is never easy, but… it gets sweeter if you are heading to the famous Quebrada de Humahuaca, UNESCO world heritage site.
On the way, you can stop to admire the ‘paleta del pintor’ (painter’s colours palette), and you can be sure it has that name for a reason.
7. Jujuy – 4,170
Did I already say Andes are very, very tall mountains? Well, you can be lucky like me and not suffer from altitude sickness at all, but trust me, many people have felt the dizziness as soon as getting off their cars or buses.
Hence… take it easy, don’t start running or jumping until you feel you are ok.
Get advantage of the coca leaves you can chew to combat the sickness.
A must try for real adventurers – even if they are not particularly tasty, I must say..
Even if coca leaves can be a bit disappointing from a taste perspective, I am a true mate lover. And so are all Argentinian.
Drinking mate is a tradition, is cultural, it’s a step for all kids growing up and being admitted to the table as adults.
Argentinean travel with their full kit to make their mate wherever they are and you will see them whilst travelling across the country. I simply love mate and the yerba.
The mate itself and the bombilla coming with it can be a nice souvenir to try and fight the blues once back in grey Europe (at least if you live in London like us!).
Once in Salta this local dish is a must! It consists of a wrap of corn-based dough filled with meat and cooked steamed in a banana leaf.
Be sure not to eat the banana leaf, though! They are delicious and perfect with a chilled Quilmes, the local national beer.
10. Dulce de Leche
After mate, dulce de leche (Try it on Amazon) is the second thing you will find everywhere in Argentina. It is a delicious cream made from condensed milk and if you have a sweet tooth you will easily become addicted to it. Even if it resembles it, this is not and does not taste like caramel, which is sweeter as made of sugar. You will find it on your table every day.
I still remember the amazing pastries I filled myself in the morning as part of my breakfast, but dulce de leche is also the perfect filling for alfajores (other must try!) (Try them on Amazon) as well as to accompany ice cream, bakeries and cheesecakes.