The southern loop is Salta – Cachi – Cafayate – Salta. We thought we would be able to do the 300km from Salta to Cafayate through Cachi in a day.. We didn’t count on the absolutely amazing country side there, that forced us to stop so often. We also didn’t expect to be detoured through the river. But that just made it more of an adventure! Even though we had really bad weather in the morning and did a good part of the first day in the clouds. Going west from Salta towards Cachi, the first valley to cross is quebrada del escoipe.
A real surprise in the otherwise arid country: luscious greens, large grasses and water everywhere.. From there you start climbing towards the pass at 3300m. My guide book said the scenery was beautiful.. We had dense fog and could barely see the street ahead of us.. valle encantado, the enchanted valley, was just white for us.. But once we reached the pass, everything cleared up.. The clouds were stuck on the mountains and we had clear views and sunshine on the other side onto the altiplano of Cachi Pampa, so named after the Cachi people living their a long time ago.
On that altiplano you have the “recta tin tin”, or “straight tin tin”.. Kilometers of an absolutely straight road bordering the mount tin tin. We reached Cachi around 3pm, just in time for lunch.. and had some of the absolutely best food in all of Argentina at Oliver’s. The local stew called locro, full of different meats and crushed corn. In good South American style, the lunch took about an hour to arrive though and we already knew we wouldn’t make it to Cafayate that day.. Over 150km were left.
So we decided to stop 50km down the road in Molinos. A small village on the road. It’s a peaceful place with a few hospedajes and restaurants. The lighting is minimal (except on the main roads), meaning night time photography is going to be perfect. We set out after dinner (in good Argentinian style this was around 11pm) to take some pictures. It came to an abrupt end when we started hearing noises behind us and weren’t sure if this was a puma or a dinosaur trying to eat us.
The next day we continued on towards Cafayate through the national park las flechas. A park full of rock formations pointing straight upwards. Absolutely surreal. From there it was just a few more km to Cafayate, where we had a fashionably late lunch again. Empanadas, once more.. And they were so good!
From Cafayate back we took the main, paved road to Salta through the quebrada de las conchas. It took us a mere 3 hours to cover about 50km, stopping every few kilometers to look at the amazing stone formations and in one case the impressive colors displaying in the mountain range. We reached the end of the quebrada de las conchas just as the last sunlight vanished.
The rest of the road was driven in the dark and while the guide book said that the German valley was pretty, it also clarified that it was “just pretty and not spectacular”. After the last two days we didn’t feel too bad about missing it.