Remarkable Drive and Hike – Salta to Cachi to Cafayate to Salta, Argentina – January, 2017

Since we had more time then we had anticipated in the Salta area because of a massive landslide, we decided to rent a car and follow the circular route from Salta to Cachi to Cafayate and back to Salta. If time permits this is a route that definitely should not be missed, the scenery along the entire drive is incredible! 

On the first day we drove from Salta to the village of Cachi. The road took us through the high mountain area of Cuesta del Obispo to an altitude of 3,457 meters. Here we spotted condors flying high above us but it was a little stormy so the views were clouded in and it was quite chilly. 

As we descended from the Piedra del Molino the landscape changed and became more arid. This area is known as The Tin Tin Straight Line. It’s a perfectly straight line that crosses Los Cardones National Park. Here we saw Guanacos or Vicunas (I don’t know how to tell the difference) and an area where the desert flowers were blooming. 

We arrived in Cachi and absolutely loved this little town. Cachi is what I imagined an Argentinian town would look like. We drove around, found a cute hotel, and spent the night. We enjoyed walking around the town and sampling the food – the street empanadas were delicious. 

The next morning after breakfast we hit the road to Cafayate. We knew the road wasn’t paved on this stretch but we had no idea how rough it was from the washboards and we had to drive ridiculously slow. The scenery certainly made up for the slow driving! The drive took us through the Calchaqui Valleys and Quebrada de los Flechas with multicoloured geographical formations. 

It was so hot and our car was over heating so we pulled in to a winery to take a break. Unfortunately they were closed but we stayed for a while, walked around a bit, and then continued on. 

Finally we arrived in Cafayate and we spent a few nights here so that we could explore the surrounding area. The town is pretty and it’s easy to walk everywhere. 

The following morning we drove to the ruins of Quilmes and passed by many wineries, we both agreed that we would stop for wine after the hike around the ruins. This archaeological site was the largest pre-columbian settlement in Argentina dating back to 850 AD. It’s best to visit early because it gets very hot and there’s little to no shade here. 

Cafayate is well renowed for producing some great wines, so on our way back from the ruins we visited the Finca Quara Winery for a tour and some tastings. Fun! 

Cafayate also makes incredible wine icecream, yes that’s right icecream made with WINE! I loved it!! 

After a few lovely days in Cafayate we made the scenic drive back to Salta. We had a map detailing all the scenic stops along the way and they were all awesome. 

My favourite stop was a hike we did to Los Estratos. This was absolutely incredible, it was like hiking in a painting. 

Sometimes being delayed isn’t a bad thing, we loved this little side trip! 

Where we stayed in Cachi: Casablanca Cachi Hosteria 👍

Where we stayed in Cafayate: Hotel Killa Cafayate 👍

Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel
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14 Responses to Remarkable Drive and Hike – Salta to Cachi to Cafayate to Salta, Argentina – January, 2017

  1. Mom says:

    That is such a beautiful scenic area you both look great. Luvs you

  2. Great post; thanks for all the info! My husband and I will be going in April and have a few questions if you don’t mind. Unfortunately we only have 3 days/2 nights to explore south of Salta. We could either spend 2 nights in Cafayate, checking out wineries and doing the direct route there/back from Salta with stops at the scenic points/hike OR do a circuit with 1 night in Cachi and1 night in Cafayate before returning to Salta. The circuit sounds beautiful but I’m worried we’d just be driving without any time to stop at places. We plan to continue on to Purmamarca, Tilcara and then do a Salar de Uyuni jeep tour. Would we be missing out if we didn’t do the Cachi route and just spent 2 days in Cafayete. How long is the Los Estratos hike? Is it accessed from the main highway? Thanks, Caroline

    • admin says:

      Hi Caroline, glad you enjoyed the post! I would be happy to answer your questions. If you can have an early morning start from Salta then I would lean towards doing the circuit with 1 night in Cachi and 1 night in Cafayate, simply because that drive was so beautiful and we thought the town of Cachi was really nice to see. If you are really into visiting wineries then you might prefer to just do the direct route. The hike to Los Estratos took us around 1.5 hours and most people would be in and out quicker, but because I love photography so much I tend to spend a lot of time snapping photos. The hike starts right from the main road. Check road conditions before you go as we had some slow going around either side of Cachi because of some heavy rains prior to our drive, and this section of road was gravel not paved. Enjoy your trip, it’s beautiful over there! Happy travels 😊

  3. Thanks so much for your reply. We are getting super excited. It all looks so beautiful. We tend to spend a lot of time snapping photos too so we always try to build in a little extra time. Happy travels to you too!

    • admin says:

      You are most welcome and I look forward to reading your blog post about your experience in Argentina! You have a wonderful blog by the way 😊
      Enjoy your trip!

  4. Rosemary Clapham says:

    Great trip report. We will be in that area in late October and will only have 3days/2 nights to do that loop. We also will be starting in Liberatador General San Martin which adds a couple of hours drive to the day. Just wondering who you rented a car from and which car you ended up renting? After reading several reports the road between Cachi and Cafayate sounds like it might be in bad condition depending on the weather. One of our guide books says not to drive it if it is raining! Both of us have driven on quite rough here but that was driving our own 4×4 car. Thanks for your input.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Rosemary, glad you enjoyed the post! We rented a midsize car with Hertz in Salta and they were good to deal with. It’s true that the road can be bad and it would be very slow going in the rain especially if you don’t have a four wheel drive. There were a lot of washboards and in some spots between Cachi and Cafayate we had to go quite slow since we were in a car but it was dry thankfully. Enjoy the drive it’s really beautiful!

  5. Doug says:

    We are planning our route for Oct. We are renting a car in Salta and we were hoping to do the Salta-Cachi-Cafayate-Salta route. I was a little concerned with the hwy33 to Cachi from Salta and I’ve read some concerning info on route40 from Cachi to Cafayate. One of your pics shows a bridge on a narrow road— would that be the pass on rte 33? Also, you mentioned washboard on rte 40, is it like that most of the way, or are there spots that are particularly worse? Is it just a case of taking your time? Thanks for your comments and pics- looks great!

    • admin says:

      Hi Doug, that’s great you enjoyed the post and I’ll try to answer all of your questions.
      The bridge in the photo is the pass on Hwy 33. We thought Hwy 33 was fine, it was narrow but we didn’t find it to be dangerous (we live in the mountains in western Canada and we are used to these kinds of roads). We had a lot of fog on the hwy 33 section though so that slowed us down somewhat.
      The washboards on route 40 were bad the entire way and it was very slow going from Cachi to Cafayate. Also it was really hot on that section and we had some overheating issues with the engine, we had to stop a few times to let it cool down. If you take your time it’s all good and it’s definitely a beautiful drive! It’s worth staying in Cachi for 1 night and it splits up the drive. Enjoy your time there, it’s a wonderful area to visit. Happy travels!

      • Doug says:

        Thanks for replying so quickly! We actually live in Vernon BC and we 4×4 fairly frequently in the mountains, so my greatest concern was the wear and tear on the rental car! We are still finalizing our route and will definitely be staying in Cafayate. We’ll visit as much as we can in the area and possibly see how rough the road towards Cachi is… We are also considering visiting Cachi from Salta from rte33, hopefully the weather will not be an issue in Oct. Thanks for your comments as it provides a degree of confidence in planning our routes— from someone who’s done it!

        • admin says:

          You’re very welcome and we’re happy we could help! You won’t have to worry too much about the rental car and we didn’t feel a four wheel drive was necessary as long as you take it easy. Since you live in Vernon and are quite familiar with mountain roads, you’ll have no problems at all! The drive is awesome 😊
          Enjoy your time in Argentina!

  6. isabelle druc says:

    Hello, thank you for this wonderful post. Well written and great photos!. Where is the hike Los Estratos? On which stretch? Where does it start?
    Thanks a lot in advance and enjoy your travels
    Isabelle

    • admin says:

      Hi Isabelle, sorry for the late reply – we’re currently on a cruise without wifi.
      Happy to hear you enjoyed the post and found it helpful!
      The hike is on route 68, approximately half way in-between Cafayate and Salta. The hike starts right from the parking area along the highway. You can pick up a road trip map from the tourist information and it will show you all the stops and at which ‘KM’ they are.
      Hope this helps you! Enjoy your travels there, it’s a beautiful area to see!

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