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Puna & Salt Flats

Puna & Salt Flats

Also known as the “Trip to Altitude”.  This trip combines two excursions into one large trip: first, a journey to San Antonio de los Cobres.  Second, a visit to an small part of the “Quebrada de Humahuaca” (quebrada is a deep mountain valley or ravine), visiting the village of Purmamarca  and its “Mountain of 7 Colours”, after passing through the Great Salt Flats.

The trip starts from Salta (city)

The trip begins leaving the city of Salta towards Cerillos and La Merced. These countryside villages are considered the cradle of Salteño folk and handicraft. 
Later on we will pass Campo Quijano at 1520m above sea level onto the Quebrada del Toro. This canyon is a geographical collision situated between Campo Quijano and "Puerta Tastil".

Entering the Quebrada del Toro

The first change we notice leaving Quijano –one of the most fertile places in de Valle del Lerma- is that the vegetation becomes scarce and the land arid and mountainous. This is the sign that we are getting close to the Quebrada del Toro.
Atfer a short time on a dirt road, we reach the paved road to San Antonio de los Cobres, passing through Santa Rosa de Tastil and the "Abra de Muñano".

Tracks and the viaduct of the Tren de las Nubes (Train to the Clouds)

At the entrance of the canyon, we can enjoy the view of the “el Toro” viaduct, where the famous Tren de las Nubes (Train to the Clouds), belonging to the General Belgrano Railway, passes. 
It was the North-American engineer Richard Fontaine Maury, who designed and build the line C-14 and the impressive route on the high trails of the Quebrada del Toro.
Nowadays, the Tren de las Nubes is one of the biggest touristic attractions of the Salta Province and of the North of Argentina (unfortunately, the train is out of service for the time being).
We cross the canyon via the narrow Route 51, with on our left side the Toro river and on our right side, close to the road, the imposing mountains.

Typical vegetation for the North of Argentina: Cardon

Moving on, we see many plants typical for this mountainous region: Cardon. Actually in the region of Salta and Jujuy, it is a protected kind, that is, by law it is forbidden to cut these plants. This has everything to do with the difficulty and the time it takes this type of cactus to grow. It grows approximately 1 cm per year only. Without a doubt, the Cardon is one of the symbols of Salta and Jujuy region. (You may as well see this cactus while passing through the National Park Los Cardones, as part of the excursion to Cachi).

Santa Rosa de Tastil

Halfway through the morning and after having enjoyed the impressive formations of the canyon, we reach Santa Rosa de Tastil, located at 3110m above sea level. This is where we have a short break, and where you may visit some crafts shops and museums.
"Tastil" means sonorous rock. Taking a break here, you will notice how strong the sun is at this altitude, in contrast with the cold dry wind.
The Regional Museum of Tastil was founded in 1997, and is housed in a building more than 200yrs old, originally a horse stable. In here, the museum displays fabrics, pottery, masks, and other aspects of the mataca culture. You will also find a mummy of more than 700 years old.
After the visit to this small village of Tastil, we continue our journey towards San Antonio de los Cobres on the Route 51.
One of the most interesting parts is without a doubt the Abra de Muñano, 3953m high, where you can enjoy the tranquillity and the scenery of this region. While going up this hill, the cardones are disappearing according with the altitude.

San Antonio de los Cobres

From a panoramic viewpoint we overlook the entire village. Often, here we meet shepherds with their animals and it is possible to take souvenir picture.
This village owes its name to presence of big reserves of cupper in the surroundings.
In the outskirts of the village, symbol to the Puna Salteña, you find small adobe houses with little windows. The explanation of this architecture lies in the climate of San Antonio de los Cobres, which is consistent in its warm afternoons and its cold nights. The houses, being built in adobe, maintain fresh during the day, while in the night giving off the warmth, absorbed during the day. The windows measure approximately 50x50cm, designed in this intelligent way to keep out the strong winds, especially during the cold nights.
Arrival to the village is foreseen at 1pm, the time where will have lunch. Generally the group has lunch together in a place recommended by the guide. Nevertheless, some tourists bring their own lunchbox and use this half hour lunch break to explore the village.

The road to the Puna, wild animals like the Vicuña

Once finished the visit to San Antonio de los Cobres, we resume our journey to the Great Salt Flat on a dirt road in the middle of the desert.
At this phase, despite being one of the most inhospitable areas of our trip, we can observe one of the most typical animals of this region: the Vicuña.
Vicuñas are the smallest of the camel types in the North of Argentina, weighing between 40 and 50kg. These animals are very common in this area, whilst no other species can support the meteorological conditions of the Andean highlands.
We can see this animals freely wandering in the middle of this enormous highland plateau. One of the characteristics of these animals is the ability to cope with the climate of extremes in this huge high altitude desert called the Puna: warm and sunny afternoons, as opposed to freezing temperatures at night.

The Great Salt Flats: a salt lake shared between Salta and Jujuy

Somewhere around 4pm and 5pm we arrive to the magical salt desert at 3450m above sea level, known as the Great Salt Flats.
"This desert has a surface of 212km2 which makes it an ideal place to play with perspectives through the lens of your camera.”
You will also find the “house of salt”, as well as different sculptures out of salt. Craftsmen can be seen making art out of big bricks of this mineral.

The Hill or Cuesta of Lipan

Leaving the salt flats, on our way to Purmamarca, we take the Route 52. The winding road leads us, almost like a snake, up the mountain to Lipan, which is located in the district of Tumbaya, Jujuy at 4170m above sea level.
As we work our way up, the landscape is getting more and more spectacular and arid. Climbing to the highest point of our trip, we admire one of the most impressive things at this altitude, the zigzagging trail of the Route 52. Once arrived at this open space, we find craftsmen working with rocks and stones from the area.

Purmamarca and its Mountain of 7 Colours

After coming down the 1000 bends of the Hill of Lipan, we get at around 6pm to the Purmamarca, located next to the iconic “Cerro de los 7 Colores” (Mountain of 7 Colours). Purmamarca is one of the most important pieces of paradise at the beginning of the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

“It is a place to fall in love with because of its natural beauty, its architecture of precious houses and its narrow streets.”

In this village we make our last break of the trip, which allows you to buy handicrafts around the main plaza. After visiting the village, we return to Salta by highway.
Staying the night in Purmamarca is an option if you choose the Pack4, so the next day we pick you up for an excursion to Humahuaca.
  • DISTANCE: 600 Km. aprox.
  • DURATION: Full Day(12 hs aprox.)
  • TIMES: From 07:00 hs. to 20:30 hs. aprox .
  • INCLUDE: Transportation, guides and insurance.
  • NOT INCLUDE: Food and beberages.
  • PRICE PER PERSON: See the Tour Price List