Days spent: 2 days in Salta, 1,5 days driving through Quebrada de las Conchas
Days recommended: half day in Salta and at least 2 days around Cafayate

Where we slept: Dorm first, then upgrade to a private double in Las Rejas, a very sociable, not necessarily pretty hostel in Salta. Private double in homely and welcoming Casa Arbol in Cafayate. Here you’ll sit all around one table with the other guests to enjoy a yummy dulce de leche based breakfast.

What we ate: matambre arrollado (baked meat roll stuffed with vegetables, hard boiled eggs and herbs), parrilla (in Salta @ Jovi Dos – the Argentinian parrilla often includes organs such as intestine, liver and kidneys. If you don’t want an unexpected surprise on your grill, as it happened to us, double check the cuts included with the waiters-, in Cafayate @ locals favourite, utterly underrated, Shula Cata. I guess the latter was one of our best meals of the 4 months in South America. Don’t even try to expect the grill to be ready before 10 PM).

What we drank: well, we were in Salta for NYE and we hanged out with a group of guys from the hostel. They had quite a few bottles, but hard to remember whether they were vodka, gin or rum based… For sure we didn’t miss out on Salta beer.

How we travelled: we took a bus from San Pedro de Atacama on December 31st and had doubtlessly the best trip ever (Andesmar, 8 hours). Something like other 5 passengers, great movies, awe-inspiring landscapes, food… In Salta we rented a car in order to be able to stop whenever we wanted to take pictures.

How many km we walked: 33

How Salta and Cafayate affected our wallets: again, Argentina is not cheap. Renting a car was expensive even for the European standards! Food-wise it really depends, if you pick a place for locals you can eat amazingly for coins.

Issues we encountered: So… Going back to Argentina wasn’t the most obvious of choices. From San Pedro de Atacama there are easy and quite quick connections to Uyuni in Bolivia, which was on our to do list as well. Me and Isa realised that we had travelled around three countries in less than one month and decided, considering the abundant time on our hands, to take a detour to the Northern part of Argentina. Downsides? Well, not enough connections to Salta (something like 1 or 2 buses every other day or every other 2 days), which forced us to prolong our stay in San Pedro de Atacama (not ideal when you’re on a low budget). Once in Salta we had to wait until January 2nd to pick up our car so, we pretty much wasted one day. Be ready to deal with a region that is getting used to be touristic without being necessarily organised for it.

Would we recommend it? Absolutely, this place’s resemblance to your childhood’s land before time is uncanny. Apart from the organisational pains, Quebrada de las Conchas took my breath away a countless amount of times and forced me to pull the break every few minutes to take more and more pictures. You will drive through barren canyons surrounded by wild landscapes of eerie shaped and colourful rock formations.

Analogue tips: Time to play with a polariser. And wide lens, as usual. The colours of the landscape are so spectacular that you don’t really need any special effects. So I’d go with a regular colour film.

What to do:

  • Salta. Generally a chilled stopover before heading either South to Quebrada de las Conchas or North to Quebrdada de Humahuaca. A half day will actually give you enough time to explore the city centre and its attractions (a pastel pink cathedral and Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montaña de Salta with its mummified children and Incan artifacts) and to reach the viewpoint of Cerro San Bernardo (you can climb the hill or simply take the funicular). Saying that we were impressed would be a lie, but, again, it gives you buffer time to recharge your batteries.
  • Quebrada de las Conchas. One of my personal highlight. In less than 20 minutes we left Salta (and the fine that we found on our dashboard before we could even pick up the rental car…) behind our back and drove across the beautiful Argentinian countryside while playing some local radio stations. We listened to several reggaeton tunes that would have involuntarily become the soundtrack of the rest of the trip. I’m sure all the backpackers are familiar with this! After crossing few small rivers and witnessing the landscape changing from green and fertile to mostly barren, we started driving along the dramatic canyons of Quebrada de las Conchas. Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s throat) and Anfiteatro (amphitheater, because of its dolby-surround-like acoustic) are the most touristic landmarks on the way to Cafayate, and pretty much the only places where you will meet other people. If you don’t stop on your way, you can easily drive along the Quebrada in less than a couple of hours. However, if you’re a photo freak like us, you will end up spending the whole day on the road. The light is so perfect and warm, the colours of the sandstone so intense and surreal, from emerald green and purple to crimson red and white.
  • Cafayate. Surrounded by miles of vineyards and colourful mountains, the hippie town of Cafayate and its myriad hostels is a proper backpackers gem. We only spent one evening there but wished we had planned things differently. We couldn’t get our heads around why this place wasn’t advertised more, considering its beauty and diversity. Also, the vineyards here looked so much better than the ones in Mendoza…

Things we missed: the MAAM in Salta (closed for festivities, we got told anyway that it was quite disappointing), the Cafayate waterfalls.

Who deserve a big thank you: the awesome gang we spent NYE with, Emma & Justin, Hayley & Tim, Floris, Imme…

Canon EOS 300, Kodak Pro Image 100 (35)

Olympus OM-10, Lomochrome Purple 100-400 (35)

LC-A+, Fuji Superia 200 (35)

Olympus OM-1, Agfa Scala 200 (35, expired)

02-03/01/2017, Quebrada de las Conchas (Argentina)