Chile & Argentina: The North

Car Rental Trip

18 days


Santiago de Chile | Chacras de Coria | Route 40 | Barreal | Talampaya | Ischigualasto | Cafayate | Valles Calchaquíes | Salta | Purmamarca | Salinas Grandes | Quebrada de Humahuaca | Atacama


Day 1: Arrival in the capital of Chile

Welcome to South America! You will already be expected at the airport in Santiago and brought to your hotel. In the afternoon you will get to know the capital city with your private guide.

Day 2: Across the Andes to Argentina

In the morning you will receive your rental car, with which you will explore Argentina and Chile in the next days. Across the Andes you will drive to Argentina. On the way you can enjoy impressive views of the mountain landscape. Breaks are especially worthwhile at the Laguna del Inca, the Provincial Park Aconcagua and the colorful Puente del Inca. Today you will overnight in Chacras de Coria, a cozy suburb of Mendoza, which is known for its excellent wineries.

Day 3: Free day for wine tasting in Chacras de Coria

Today is at your free disposal. Why not drive to Mendoza in the morning to explore the city a bit? At noon it is worth returning to Chacras de Coria to enjoy a delicious lunch in one of the many wineries. Afterwards you can visit other bodegas and taste the fine Mendocinian wines.

Day 4: El Leoncito National Park – Barreal

On today’s drive to Barreal you will pass the El Leoncito National Park, where you can visit the astronomical complex. Barreal, an idyllic place with its pastures and eucalyptus trees, offers excellent conditions for various outdoor activities such as rafting, hiking and the so-called Carrovelismo (go-kart with sails) on the windy plain.

Day 5: Valle de Calingasta and drive to Villa Union

You should leave Barreal early today, as a six-hour drive to Villa Union is waiting for you. To get there, follow the RP412 northbound. On the way you will pass the Valle de Calingasta in the colorful pre-Cordillera of the Andes, one of the most beautiful places in Mendoza and San Juan. You follow the route northwards until you reach the RN40. In the evening you will reach your accommodation in Villa Union.

Day 6: Talampaya National Park and Ischigualasto Provincial Park

Today you will have the opportunity to explore the Talampaya National Park and the Ischigualasto Provincial Park. Both parks can be easily combined within one day. Here you will discover unreal landscapes of red stone formations, spectacular cliffs and fossils. To visit both parks, you must register at the Visitor Centre. You will stay overnight in Villa Union again.

Day 7: Chilecito and Inca ruins on the way to Belen

Your journey today takes you via the Cuesta de Miranda to Belén in the province of Catamarca. The road winds its way up to Chilecito, a place that is reminiscent of the Wild West with its cacti and an abandoned material cable car that leads to a former mine. In its time the cable car was the longest in the world and it has a small informative museum. At the end of the day you will reach Belen, a small, peaceful place on the legendary Ruta 40.

Day 8: Drive to the Valles Calchaquies to Cafayate

Today you continue north on Ruta 40 to the Valles Calchaquies in Cafayate in the south of the province of Salta. If you leave early, you can make a detour to Tafi del Valle, a pleasant place surrounded by rolling green hills. Just before Cafayate it is worth stopping at the Quilmes ruins, the largest pre-Columbian settlement in Argentina. In the evening you will reach Cafayate where you will stay overnight.

Day 9: Colourful valleys between Cafayate and Molinos

Today we recommend first to visit the Quebrada de las Conchas (Shell Gorge), on the Ruta Nacional 68, where you will find some impressive rock formations with names like “Devil’s Throat” or “Amphitheatre”. Afterwards you drive to Molinos. On the way, you will cross the Quebrada de las Flechas (the Gorge of Arrows), a spectacular lunar landscape with great viewpoints.

Day 10: Through Los Cardones National Park to Salta

Today you follow the Ruta 40 further north. First you will reach Cachi, where you can stop and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. At Payogasta you turn right and follow the well-developed road through the Los Cardones National Park, a high plateau from which countless cacti protrude as if from a pin cushion. Today you will stay overnight in Salta.

Day 11: Free day in Salta

Today you have a relaxing day in Salta to explore the colonial city. Stroll through the historic centre with the Plaza 9 de Julio, the Cathedral, the Town Hall and the Basilica San Francisco or take a cable car up to the local mountain Cerro San Bernado, from where you have a great panoramic view of the city and the surrounding area.

Day 12: On the traces of the Tren a las Nubes to Purmamarca

Along the former railway line of the Tren a las Nubes, you will pass through Santa Rosa de Tastil and constantly changing landscapes of different colours and shapes until you reach San Antonio de los Cobres. From here you continue over a high plateau until the endless expanse of the shining white Salinas Grandes. Through the Cuesta de Lipan the road then leads down to Purmamarca. You will stay overnight in the small village at the foot of the mountain of the Seven Colours.

Day 13: Free day to discover the Quebrada de Humahuaca

Today you have several options to choose from. For example, you can explore the Quebrada de Humahuaca and its villages by car and even drive to the Serrania del Hornocal, a colourful jagged formation in the mountains. Alternatively, the nearby town of Tilcara and its surroundings are worth exploring on foot. If you feel like an authentic encounter with the local people, we invite you to stay with a family in the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

Day 14: Over the Jama Pass to San Pedro de Atacama

You leave Purmamarca and drive up the Cuesta de Lipan again. Even if you already know the route, you will certainly enjoy the views from a new perspective! On the other side, you will see the Salinas Grandes again, which are in the distance below you. Passing the Salinas, you will follow the Ruta 52 to the Jama Pass, where you will cross the border back to Chile at an altitude of 4,831 metres and continue to San Pedro de Atacama.

Day 15: Fantastic landscapes at the Salar de Atacama

We recommend exploring the Salar de Atacama south of San Pedro. The Salar is a huge underground salt lake buried under layers of volcanic material. On the way south it is worth stopping in the oasis villages of Toconaco and Socaire. About 31 km south of Socaire, in the middle of the wonderfully strange Altiplano landscape, at the foot of the volcanoes of the same name, the deep blue and dark green shimmering lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques await you.

Day 16: Visit of the Tatio Geysers

A special experience is without doubt, the visit of the Tatio geysers. To witness this spectacle you have to leave San Pedro de Atacama early in the morning. After about 2 hours, you will reach the geysers on a paved road, which is relatively tiring due to the curves. In the afternoon we recommend a trip to Valle de la Luna. Only 27 km away from San Pedro you will find the impressive mountain and valley formations, which will remind you of a moon landscape.

Day 17: Return flight to Santiago de Chile

Unfortunately, today you have to say goodbye to the spectacular landscapes of the Atacama Desert. In time, you will drive to Calama, where you will leave your rental car at the airport and fly back to Santiago de Chile.

Day 18: Flight home

At the right time you will be picked up from your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight home. We hope you had an unforgettable road trip through Argentina and Chile!