THE SOUTHERN INCA TRAIL
Deep inside the magical Argentine Northwest
A bike journey packed with highlights, through a region that can truly be called magical. You will climb above high mountain passes, reaching the very edge of the great Altiplano (the highest inhabited mountain plateau in the world, after the Tibetan highlands). The Calchaqui Valleys don´t cease to surprise, with amazing desert landscapes, wonderful colonial towns, and a people marked by an ancient indigenous culture mixed with colonial Spanish heritage.
A fantastic way to delve deeply into a region that is fast becoming a world-class destination. Come experience the magical Northwest with us!
Guests starting with us in Buenos Aires will depart in our van on Friday afternoon en route to Salta (flight to, and accommodations in Buenos Aires are not included in tour price). The shuttle from Buenos Aires to Salta takes 20 hours, arriving in Salta on Saturday.
If you choose to fly to Salta (which we recommend), we will meet you there on Saturday.
9 days, 8 nights
to be announced
Trip begins in: Salta, Argentina
Trip ends in: Tucuman, Argentina*
Flight-in city: Salta, Argentina
Flight-out city: Tucuman, Argentina*
Please ask us about prices for private groups.
Spaces are reserved in order of arrival. To reserve your place, please complete the contact form; if you'd like to speak with us, please send the contact form, and we will gladly telephone you.
DAY TO DAY ITINERARY
(Saturday): Welcome to Salta
The group will rendezvous in Salta this evening, transferring to the town of Chicoana. We´ll be lodged at the Estancia Peñaflor.
(Sunday): Down the Bishop´s Slope and into the Andean Plateau
After our detailed welcome and safety talk, we´ll start our tour with one of the trip´s highlights! Leaving on our comfortable van, we´ll cross the town of El Carril, and begin climbing the Quebrada de Escoipe, following a canyon sculpted by a river flowing down from the mountains. This beautiful place is surrounded by verdant vegetation and huge mountain chains. We keep climbing the famous Cuesta del Obispo (the Bishop´s Slope), an amazing climb that seems to never end. We´ll reach Piedra del Molino (the Millstone), which lies at 3,348 ms above seal level (10,980 ft). After being amazed by the views atop, we´ll get on our bikes and descend over the wonderful Camino de los Colorados (the Red Road), the name coming from the eroded slopes surrounding us, exposing all shades of red – a fantastic sight. We´ll also cycle through the Cardones National Park, named after the huge cactus that grows everywhere and that is protected here. We´ll arrive in Cachi tonight, sleeping in a cozy hosteria.
50 km (31 miles) of dirt roads, with 230 ms (755 ft) of uphill riding, and 1,390 ms (4,560 ft) of downhill.
(Monday): Colonial Cachi and the High Andes
We´ll awake in the beautiful Cachi, a remote town on the very edge of the Altiplano, originally founded by the Chicoano native indians, and an important outpost during Spanish colonial times. Its beautiful 18th century church, white-walled buildings and old adobe homes make for a picturesque, traditional town. After exploring Cachi, we´ll begin our riding, climbing steadily towards the Nevado de Cachi, a massive snow-capped mountain reaching 6,200 ms (20,340 ft). At Las Arcas, we´ll find an incredible lookout point, after which we´ll descend back to town, cycling on to Route 40. We´ll stop at La Paya, spending the night at the beautiful Hosteria La Paya, a wonderful restored colonial country home with comfortable rooms and plenty of local hospitality.
42 km (26 miles) of dirt roads, with 1,010 ms (3,133 ft) of uphill riding, and 910 ms (2,985 ft) of downhill.
(Tuesday): Cachi to Molinos
After a hearty breakfast, we´ll head to one of the most surprising places of the journey, landing in the middle of red, dry mountains, surrounded by the incredible cardón cactus (a relative of the saguaro). At Laguna Brealito we´ll have our lunch. This scenic and rocky path will offer a challenging ride, with plenty of climbing and descending. In the afternoon, we´ll ride over another isolated backroad, used only by the few locals existing in the region. We´ll arrive in Molinos, after 3 kms of loose sand, where we might have to do some walking. The enchanting landscapes we´ll cross are well worth the challenging ride. Tonight we´ll be lodged at the Hacienda de Molinos, a restored country manor set in a fantastic location.
47 km (29 miles) of dirt roads, with 970 ms (3,183 ft) of uphill riding, and 1448 ms (4,750 ft) of downhill.
(Wednesday): The Calchaqui Valleys
The small town of Molinos dates from the 17th century, and after a bit of exploring, we´ll begin pedaling on the famous Route 40, which stretches the length of Argentina along the spine of the Andes, from the border with Bolivia down to Ushuaia, on the southern edge of the continent. We´ll follow the Calchaquí River Valley, a fertile region settled since pre-historic times. We´ll pass few small towns, and arrive in Angastaco, with lively regional arquitecture and plenty of traditional culture. The silence of the Valley and the scenery surrounding us will keep us awed throughout the journey. Tonight we´ll rest at the Hosteria de Angacasto.
42 km (26 miles) on dirt roads, with 420 ms (1,378 ft) of uphill riding, and 1,480 ms (4,855 ft) of downhill.
(Thursday): Through the Quebrada de las Flechas into colonial Cafayate
Today we´ll enter the amazing Quebrada de las Flechas (The Canyon of Arrows), one of the most amazing sites in the Argentine Northwest. The eroded cliffs and slopes, with the high Andes off in the distance, create an almost surreal landscape, dazzling all that come through here. After 24 km of riding, we´ll stop for lunch, and load our bikes to drive into the town of San Carlos. From this town, we´ll again ride but over a paved road, eventually nearing the desert oasis of Cafayate, famous for it´s high altitude vineyards. The town of Cafayate is another trip highlight – you´ll be made to feel at home by its friendly inhabitants, who still live and breathe Northwest tradition and culture. We´ll be lodged at the Hosteria Sol del Valle.
53 km (33 miles) of dirt and paved roads, with 550 ms (1,804 ft) of uphill riding, and 560 ms (1,837 ft) of downhill.
(Friday): The Quebrada de las Conchas
We´ll depart in our van from Cafayate and cycle through the Quebrada de las Conchas, another magical canyon offering enchanting landscapes of strange rock formations and eroded slopes exposing innumerable bands of colors. Similar to the US Western deserts, there are many rock formations to discover, and the colors will change as the sun archs over and behind the canyon. To add to this wonder, the ride is entirely paved, allowing for a day of tranquil riding. We´ll return to Cafayate in the afternoon, a wonderful town for strolling and enjoying the evening.
50 km (31 miles) of cycling, with 310 ms (1,017 ft) of uphill riding, and 540 ms (1771 ft) of downhill.
(Saturday): The Ruins of Quilmes
After a scenic, short drive we´ll arrive in the amazing Quilmes Ruins, set on the slopes of the namesake Sierras. This indigenous fortress is truly surprising – the Quilmes Indians resisted the Inca and Spanish invaders here for many years. Only when their sources of food and water were cut off did they end their resistance. After exploring this amazing site, we´ll shuttle a bit further, to the top of the Cuesta del Infiernillo (the Hell´s Pass), at 3,200 ms, from where we´ll descend a wonderfu paved road. This is the mountain pass where the first Spanish conquistadores to arrive in Argentina came through. The views on the way down towards Tafi Valley are wonderful. After lunch in Tafi, we´ll load our bikes, and drive through the amazing sub-tropical rainforest set below the Altiplano – another highlight of our trip!
Our tour ends in the city of Tucuman, the oldest city in Argentina, where independence was first declared. Those travelling back to Buenos Aires with us will rest up before beginning an overnight drive.
25 km (15.5 miles) of dirt and paved roads, mostly downhill.
(Sunday): back in Buenos Aires
We´ll arrive in Buenos Aires at approx. 4pm.
Difficulty Level: advanced
Days: 7 days of cycling
Distance per day: 50 km (31 miles) or more
Support vehicle: Available throughout the trip, excepting the stage on day of arrival to Molinos (where the vehicle cannot circulate) – this stage can be skipped by those who are not interested.
An advanced bike tour allows our guests to cycle at their own pace, but there will be an established minimum of 50 km per day to be covered (31 miles). You will need to be in good physical shape and have had previous experience in a challenging bike trip. You should also possess technical mountain bike skills, as we will cycle over dirt roads and single track trails. There will be stages with altitudes of between 2,000 and 3,000 meters above sea level (6,560 – 9,840 ft), as well as elevation gains of between 500 to 1,000 ms per day (1,640-3,280 ft).
- 13- to 18-person van equipped with tv and video
- Support vehicle equipped with two-way communication radio (everyday, with on-board service, including granola bars, fruits when possible, and other snacks and drinks)
- Mountain bike transportation during the extent of the tour
- Spare bike available (in case your breaks down)
- Bilingual Tour Leaders, equipped with two-way radios, and local guides
- All breakfasts and lunches (dinners and meals while on transit not included)
- All accommodations included, using hotels, hosterias (inns), and cabins
- Entry fees to Quilmes Ruins
- Daily Trip Information Notes, with maps, routes and detail on the region
- Pre-trip information package with details on how to prepare, what to bring, and more detailed information
Read what past guests say about their Southern Inca Trail experience...
it really was beautiful, and everything went very, very well
“I really wanted to thank you for the service and the attention we had throughout the trip”
I had a great time!
“Just wanted to say thank you fo a great week cycling”