Itinerary - North Argentina
Rainforest, Ravines and Puna
Day 1: Arrive Salta
redspokes North Argentina tour begins in Salta. You will be met at Salta International Airport and transferred to our joining hotel. Once you have checked in we will have group introductions, a bike fitting, and a chat about the tour. The city is known as ‘the beautiful Salta’ for its colonial architecture, balmy weather and scenic natural surroundings, this evening we can enjoy a walking tour through our vibrant surroundings.
Day 2: Salta to Cafayate
After breakfast we transfer up to an abandoned railway station. Here we begin cycling along the valley of Las Conchas River. We continue riding along the stretch known as Quebrada de las Conchas (Gorge of Shells), an ancient ocean floor. We will be cycling through stunning sandstone and rock formations in a rich palette ranging from vibrant to muted reds that contrast with the greens of the valley floor. Argentinians have named the various formations to reflect their shapes: La Garganta del Diablo / Devil's Throat, El Anfiteatro/The Amphitheatre, La Yesera, etc) The area is rich in birdlife; you might even spot a nandu (rhea). The late afternoon sunlight throws an array of colour across the landscape as we reach our destination near the colonial town Cafayate, in an idyllic location surrounded by vineyards.
Cycle Distance: 85km (53miles)
Ascent Cycle: 877m (2,877ft)
Decent Cycle: 376m (1,234ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Cafayate Wine Resort (B/L)
Day 3: Cafayate area: Sacred Valley of The Quilmes
This morning we begin cycling southwards to the Sacred City of The Quilmes; an imposing archaeological site. The city was home to as many as 5000 indigenous Diaguitan people prior to the Incan and Spanish populations (dating back to the 9th Century). They survived the arrival of the Incas but the remaining 2000 inhabitants were deported by the Spanish in 1667. The site is an extensive network of roofless but restored low walled rooms comprising a terraced pukara. A walk up the hillside will give you a better perspective on the elaborate and expansive layout of the area. There is a museum on the site exhibiting ancient ceramics, tools and modern crafts. After a guided tour and lunch you can either cycle back to our Cafayate hotel or transfer by vehicle.
Cycle Distance: 56km (miles)
Ascent Cycle: 383m (1,256ft)
Descent Cycle: 219m (718.5ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Cafayate Wine Resort (B/L)
Day 4: Cafayete to Angastaco via The Arrows Ravine
We will have an early breakfast and then begin cycling north, heading for the unique scenery of "La Quebrada de las Flechas" (The Arrows Ravine) where 20m rock walls flank the winding road. Thousands of arrow shaped sandstone rocks point towards the sky. The shades of red in the rock change according to the position of the sun and quality of the light. The barren countryside and the tiny villages give a vast sense of scope to the landscape. We stay tonight just outside the small oasis town Angastaco in a landscape of vineyards and orchards. Vina patera, a sweet red or white wine is a local speciality produced in the traditional manner of treading the grapes. Angastaco intrigiuingly translates as ‘Eagle of the Carob Tree’
Cycle Distance: 82km (51 miles)
Ascent Cycle: 802m (2,631ft)
Descent Cycle: 585m (1,919ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Finca El Carmen (B,L)
Day 5: Angastaco - Colome - Molinos
Today we cycle a tough route mostly on unsealed undulating mountain roads; our efforts will be rewarded with stunning views. We visit the picturesque 18th century colonial village of Molinos, a place that seems lost in time. Cycling on for a further 18km we ride to Colomé. Bodega Colomé is the country's oldest winery and most of the local community are employed here. Located amongst the vineyards is a museum dedicated to the work of American artist James Turrell renowned for his work characterised by use of light and space. We will return to Molinos to our hotel.
Cycle Distance: 88 km
Day 6: Molinos to Cachi
As our Northern Argentina cycling tour continues, we leave wine country behind us and our surroundings change becoming noticeably more arid. You will see cacti growing alongside the road. We ride on gravel road to visit Seclantás. Three different communites known as Diaguitas traditionally lived in this mountain village which is right in the heart of the Calchaqui Valley. Known as the birthplace of the poncho, Seclantás is an artisan weaving town; you will see many workshops in the area. We ride through El Colte before reaching Cachi a remote colonial town with white houses and cobbled streets. We stay tonight in a traditional northern lodge.
Cycle Distance: 53kms (33miles) gravel road
Ascent Cycle: 1,170m (3,838ft)
Descent Cycle: 695m (2,280ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Boutique El Cortijo (B,L)
Day 7: Cachi to Salta
We depart from Cachi, cycling north for 10km passing through Payogasta village; from here we turn south and cycle a gentle climb riding the Recta de Tintin, a 11km stretch of perfectly straight road that was once an Inca trail. This takes us into Los Cardones National Park. We climb through the hills onto a barren plain continuing to cycle up the Piedra de Molino Pass. From here we have a cycle downhill zig zagging along the Cuesta del Obispo (Bishop Hill); a twisiting road through sculpted rocks. We will hopefully see one or more wild condors and are guaranteed to enjoy the vistas of the Enchanted Valley beneath us. Our ride for the day ends here and we transfer by vehicle to Salta.
Cycle Distance: 72km ( miles)
Ascent Cycle: 609m (1,998ft)
Descent Cycle: 1,850m (5,922ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)
Day 8: Rest Day in Salta
Today we have a day off the bikes on redspokes North Argentina tour. There is plenty to enjoy in Salta, from colonial architecture to beautiful natural landscapes. Moving in a clockwise direction around the 9th July Square you will find neo-classical Cathedral Basilica de Salta, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cabildo (former city town hall, now a museum) and the neoclassical Museum of High Mountain Archaeology, which houses Inca artefacts including 500 year old Incan Ice children. Within walking distance of the Square is Saint Francis Church and the city's three pedestrian streets: Alberdi, Florida and Caseros.
For those of you who enjoy horse riding or hiking you can explore an old Inca Trail. Salta has a cable car which offers splendid views of the city or you can climb over 1000 steps up San Bernardo Hill for spectacular views of the city and the entire valley.
The three blocks in Baclare Street to the train station are now the centre of night life in Salta, with restaurants, pubs and cafés on both sidewalks and concerts every night. You could spend the evening at a traditional Pena (folk concert). Regional music features guitars, sheepskin drums, violins, and of course local gauchos (cowboys) you can even participate, clapping along to the criolla music, a mix of Spanish and indigenous styles and a part of daily life here.
Accommodation: Hotel (B)
Day 9: Salta to Tilcara: Mountain Rainforest
After an early breakfast we have a short vehicle transfer (18 km) up to the small village La Caldera. This is the starting point of El Camino de la Cornisa (the Edge Route), heading north we cycle through rainforest along a paved single track road less than 4m wide with some sharp bends and dramatic views. After enjoying a picnic lunch we transfer by vehicle to Tilcara, our stopping point for the night, surrounded by picturesque hills. The village is named after the Tilcara people. Nearby overlooking the Rio Grande, are restored ruins of a pre-Incan fortification and a high altitude botanical garden. There is also an archaeological museum in the town.
Cycle Distance: 45km (28 miles)
Ascent Cycle: 332m (1,089ft)
Descent Cycle: 534m (1,751ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Elrefugiodelpintor (B,L)
Day 10: Tilcara to Purmamarca
This morning after breakfast we have a short vehicle transfer up to the outskirts of Juella. From here we will cycle through the beautiful UNESCO world heritage Quebrada de Humahuaca mountain valley and visit a few small indigenous villages. We return to Tilcara and have some time to explore the town. After lunch we will visit more picturesque local villages such as Sumai Pacha and San Pedrito where local farmers grow fruit and vegetables along the banks of the Rio Grande and Maimará set beneath the dramatic colours of Paleta del Pintor (Painter's Palette) hill. We will then ride to Purmamarca following a track that takes us to Cerro Siete Colores (Seven Colours Hill). This is an extraordinary mountain of contrasting coloured hues caused by many years of geological activity and erosion. Legend tells that in ancient times the local village children crept out of their beds at night to paint the mountain. It is also referred to as 'Hill of the Seven Skirts', reflecting the striped colour designs on traditional Andean women’s clothing. Purmamarca is a popular destination, the town’s white church dates from the 17th C and inside there are paintings from the Cuzco School. There is a lively daily market selling local handicrafts and many restaurants to choose from.
Cycle Distance: 37km (22 miles) 25km paved, 12 km gravel road
Ascent Cycle: 362m (1,188ft)
Descent Cycle: 555m (1,821ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Casadeadobe (B,L)
Day 11: Purmamarca: Salt flats and the Lipan Steep
After another early breakfast we transfer to the famous Salinas Grandes (The Big Salt Plain) a 12 hectare dried out saltwater lake on the Puna. We cycle through a seemingly infinite sea of salt framed by a strikingly contrasting blue sky. We will have a picnic lunch at the heart of the salt flat, then transfer by vehicle for a while before we begin a dramatic cycle down the Lipan Steep which drops from 4200m to 2200m over 30km to reach Purmamarca.
Cycle Distance: 48km (30 miles)
Ascent Cycle: 287m (941ft)
Descent Cycle: 1,775m (5,823ft)
Accommodation: Hotel Casadeadobe (B,L)
Day 12: Purmamarca to Termas de Reyes
We begin this morning with a vehicle transfer to avoid busy roads. From Yala we set off on the bikes cycling to the Yala Lagoon in the Yala National reserve area. The lagoons comprise six lakes which are habitat to many species of bird and other wildlife. We ride on to Termas de Reyes hot springs. They are known as 'Springs of Kings' because indigenous chiefs travelled here to bathe in the mineral rich waters which were believed to have magical properties.
Cycle Distance: 47km (25 miles) 26km gravel road, 21 km paved road
Ascent Gain: 940m (3,084ft)
Descent Cycle: 996m (3,268ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)
Day 13: San Salvador de Jujuy - Home
redspokes Northern Argentina tour ends today. You have a free morning with time for shopping or sightseeing in San Salvador de Jujuy before you transfer to the airport for your journey back home.
Note: distances in kilometers for cycling are approximate and are not mandatory as there will be a support vehicle with you at all times.
""It was a bicycling trip in Northern Argentina that took us into rainforest through extreamly high 13,700 passes and then into desert and salt plains. We rode through dramatic ravines, the Andean puna..."