Going to the Argentina’s Northwest region bordering Bolivia and Chile was pretty much a last-minute decision. We had initially planned on traveling straight to Córdoba and Mendoza from Iguazú and from there on to Chile. But a fellow BA-based Wolframian highly recommended going to the provinces of Salta and Jujuy at the onset of the Andes.
While having traveled on some surprisingly comfortable night buses so far, we wanted some greater flexibility and took a rental car for our week-long trip starting and ending in Salta.
Our first stop after half a day in Salta—spent at the main square’s Café del Regidor with breakfast, limonadas and our laptops—we headed North to Purmamarca in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow mountain valley that was also declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Driving through the valley, pictures of our visits to Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Death Valley at the beginning of our trip came to our minds. Still it’s distinctly different, and landscape here has so many different features, it’s hard to describe them. Sometimes, it looks like desert, then again like a juicy green meadow, alternating with sparse vegetation and wide empty riverbeds full of pebbles and rocks. Also, we never expected to see so many cactuses!
After an ascent to over 4,000 m on a road that climbed in picturesque meanders up and down the mountains, we got to the Salinas Grandes: large salt flats, located at a remarkable 3,450 m above sea level. Google Maps displays them like actual lakes (colored blue), but in fact the lakes’ whole surface is a thick white layer of crusted salt. Every now and then, shallow pools are cut out of the salt, whose water is surprisingyl cold and so salty that the skin on our hands dried out after touching it.
Speaking of skin: We ignored both the altitude and the fact that the white surface reflects sunlight and left with a major sunburn. Ouch!