The road to the Moon

Away from the tango dancers of the capital, the glaciers of Perito Moreno and striking granite peaks of El Chaltén, sits Argentina’s least visited area – Salta

The lunar landscape of Quebrada de Las Flechas, locally referred to as ‘Moon Valley’

This vast northwestern region might lack the fame of its southern neighbours but it packs in some of the country’s most spectacular and varied landscapes. A Salta road trip will take you through some of the oldest towns in the country, as well as past colourful mountains, the surreal lunar landscapes of the appropriately named ‘Moon Valley’, cactus-dotted deserts and Mars-like red rock formations.

Photo essay by Kav Dadfar

Above: The multicoloured mountains behind the town of Purmamarca.

Clockwise from top left: The road to Salinas Grandes winds through the mountains; Salinas Grandes is the third largest salt flat in the world and sits at a lung-busting altitude of 11,318ft above sea level; Driving through Los Colorados near Purmamarca in Jujuy province; My guide, Mauricio Rios; surveying the Mars-like landscape of Los Cardones National Park

Clockwise from top: The road through Los Cardones National Park is susceptible to flash flooding during the rainy season; The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Cafayate; Los Cardones National Park, near the town of Cachi.

From the top: The historic town of San Carlos is one of the oldest in this region: The otherworldly landscape near Cafayate.

Clockwise from top left: San Jose de Cachi church in Cachi’s main square; Facunda Mamani, a 25-year-old gaucho from Lerma Valley; The viewpoint of Tres Cruces on the road to Cafayate; The road to Cafayate in Salta.

Need to know

Getting there:

Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport is around 20 minutes’ drive from Salta city centre and is well served by internal flights from Buenos Aries and other cities in Argentina. 

Best time to go:

March to May, for warm days and mostly cloudless skies. Avoid December to February when heavy rainfall can make roads impassable

Where to stay:

There is a variety of different accommodation available to visitors, from five-star international chain hotels to self-catering apartments. Choices are more limited in smaller towns like Cachi.

Must-pack items:

Early mornings and nights can be bitterly cold, so be sure to pack some warm clothes. Sunscreen is also a must throughout the day. If you’re planning to visit Salinas Grandes, it’s vital to wear sunglasses due to the glare.

How to do it:

The only way to explore this region is with a car, either as self-drive or as part of a tour.

Anything else:

For the epic and jaw-dropping landscape, which can often be enjoyed in solitude: this is a part of Argentina that sees very few foreign visitors. If that’s not enough, the historic villages and towns, delicious food and friendly hospitality will make a trip to Salta a memorable one.