Puna - January 2020

Hello, I will try to post the trip log to Argentina's NOA during last January. We started leaving late in Buenos Aires and stopping in Rosario to rest.
We went up RN34 with the idea of visiting that great lagoon in northeast of province of Córdoba. There is a small town with the colorful name of "Miramar de Ancenuza".
The first thing we went to visit was old Hotel Viena, which, like many old hotels in the country, was in ruins many years ago. Built in the 1940s, few years later it was closed due to multiple reasons.

Our maps called this lagoon Mar Chiquita but in the place we inform ourselves that it is called Mar de Ancenuza. Ancenuza is the goddess of water, and virtues for its minerals are attributed to these waters.It is an endorheic basin, that is, where water gathers from rivers and only leaves through evaporation, maintaining a high degree of salinity comparable to the sea.

Currently this town has a protective wall that stabilizes its layout against overflows, and a beautiful coastal street where domestic crowd enjoys the summer. Right of the background is old Hotel Viena.

A Copacabana's miniature

We toke advantage of a pedal car to tour this small place from end to end!

In the afternoon some inopportune clouds covered sunset over water, which i think must give very nice photos

Later, some streets become pedestrian zone and are "armed" for the nightlife, with many restaurants and music

After dinner we toke advantage of a cool night to visit historic hotel again, where owls live, which scared us a lot with their screeches and approximate flights.

At night a strong wind was declared that made us look for trees to get some protection. Our roof tent withstood the onslaught.

Taking a farewell lap we discovered wind destroyed a couple of things during the night

We continued our journey through province of Córdoba, north thru RN60.
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We continued along RN60 passing through large salt flats from Córdoba, and we took the opportunity to take a look at them

A series of monuments and signs indicate the entrance to Catamarca,

We continued on Route 157 towards San Miguel de Tucumán. There we visited the Independence Historical House, among other old buildings in downtown

Here the Independence from Spain was declared july 9, 1816.

We traveled north to El Cadillal, where we had a picnic for lunch

Then we went into an area where cultivated lemon trees alternate with native jungle to visit El Saladillo Viaduct, a 19th century railway project, now in disuse, made with bricks and similar in appearance to Roman aqueducts.

From there we toke a path through the mountains, and we came to San Javier, where a Christ is found, a figure that is visible from the city of Yerba Buena

From there is a beautiful view of San Miguel de Tucumán

We decided to camp on a balcony about 100 meters from the Christ, with an excellent night view. Like a dream...

Next morning we had breakfast with that landscape ...

We prepared us to travel a little bit south in order to take Quebrada de los Sosa to visit El Mollar and Tafí del Valle

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We continue: We went down the winding road to Yerba Buena,
We continued south, stopping to observe an anthology of Argentine historical buildings that were built in Famaillá

They really attracted our attention.
We deviate to sorroundings of Acheral, where toponymy reminds zamba song Lunita Tucumana, and we traveled along the meandering valley road that borders "los Sosa" river.

going through a mountainous jungle landscape and taking us for the first time to more than 2000 meters (6500ft) of altitude in the town of El Mollar.
From there we began to notice slower performance on the Disco, at the moment the march begins
We arrived to Tafí del Valle, and decided to take advantage of ACA Hostel.
Landscape is impressive. Photographs do not capture it

Here it is easy to taste typical delights of this region, for example humita en chala, tamales, locro ...

Again to load our Disco

We headed west, trying to develop driving techniques to improve acceleration from stopped with automatic gearbox, and arrived to Infiernillo. Here begins presence of cardons , in a dry climate.

We passed through Amaicha del Valle and soon arrived at the Route 40 and headed north, along Calchaquí valley

And finally we arrived at Cafayate. Here is its church

Good place to stop chronicle
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We stayed in Cafayate, a town in the Calchaquíes valleys, mainly producer of famous wines

We went to visit geological formations of Quebrada de las Conchas. One of them called los colorados shows intensely origin of its name

General view of the creek. The name is due to the discovery of seashells, since it is sedimentary rock, in which there are layers that were seabed in the remote past

Arriving at the formation called The Amphitheater, there was a tourist trying out a guitar. Another of them came singing and another newcomer said to them: why don't you try playing something together? And suddenly a magic moment was there ...
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In Devil's Throat, we dare to go up to the upper drawer

We visited Alemania, an abandoned village with a train station, that since 1971 was closed. As a witness to this, trees grow between their sleeping rails

A stop on the route, which after river decided that route no longer passed there, has another layout

Moving towards Salta we decided to visit Cabra Corral dam. Weather worsened and presence of clouds gave it an appearance similar to that of the Patagonian lakes

Detail of dam gates. It is summer, and water level is very low.

It was here when we decided to look for a campsite with a lake view to spend the night.

Nice view for wake up. Province of Salta´s midges seem to be hungry, haha!

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Well, from Cabra Corral we traveled through Lerma valley to city of Salta. We visited its most beautiful buildings such as the church of San Francisco,

Or building of old town hall

We also toke the opportunity to climb San Bernardo hill, from where there is an impressive view of city surrounded by mountains.

Upstairs we toke a family photo, and we dought how beautiful it will look at night ...

And then we went up with our Disco to the hill again to see the night view

It was a long day, we barely had enough time to sleep in a downtown hotel. At next day we visited Güemes memorial

We left Salta thru old Route 9. Look at this iron armadillo

And we had lunch on the side of this narrow path, some fried "empanadas salteñas" with spicy sauce

We continued along this picturesque path until we leaved Salta and entered the province of Jujuy

Without wasting time we waddled the city of San Salvador de Jujuy and arrived at the Quebrada de Humahuaca

And we will leave for now
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We continued, and indeed the next stop was Tilcara

Here we wanted to come and "spend" a little more time to experience a little bit that special city atmosphere.
We had here opportunity to chat for a while with Waman, a local LR forum friend, who often describes with his stories at "Various Topics" section of our forum, a bit of that atmosphere


Night view of Lavalle street

Typical meals from NOA or from all over the country. In this case a locro so delicious to lick our fingers

Desserts, cheese with cayote jam

Pancakes with quinoa

View of the pirca made corrals of Pucará (A pre-Incaic fortified city) of Tilcara

There are reconstructed sectors in quite detail

More night magic through the streets

From there we visited other places in the valley and the Puna,
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Further east of Humahuaca, not far from Tilcara we visited what is new to us: the Hornocal mountain range
To get to this beautiful landscape it is necessary to climb to around 4350 meters above sea level, trough a snail shaped path. Fortunatelly our Disco did it for us. But I was forced to take air pressure sensor connector out in order to get some force from engine.

It is said there are 14 colors in these mountains, my images aren't so pretty as google images.
There is an ambulance post in case some tourist breaks down because the air is missing.
Rovering we arrived to La Quiaca, this is north border with Bolivia.

Redesigned RN40 now ends on this little (and round) square. This iconic route starts at Cape Virgins, more than 5000km far from here. We were there in 2014...

Other view

A view of Villazón, on the Bolivian side. The border is the small river.

Later we visited the church of Yavi, a small town that in the rain was seen in a single color, that of the earth. Yavi was capital of a wide region of Bolivia and Argentina during the time of Spanish viceroyalty. This church was ended in 1707

Returning from La Quiaca we had torrential rain in the middle of the Puna. In the town of Abra Pampa to our surprise, water flooded the streets, and we had to wade several hundred meters of route completely covered with water, guessing the way based on the traffic signs, and with branches and fallen leaves carried by strong current .
Another day we visited the "throat of the devil", which in addition to an impressive landscape is apparently the source of drinking water in Tilcara

We also visited Tiraxi area and its yunga (rainforest) scene. River was full and muddy because of the rain...

A quiet view of inn's garden in Tilcara, from where curious llamas looked at us just like we did at them!

Just mandatory, photo of Cerro 7 Colores in Purmamarca

Our D2 saying goodbye to Tilcara and its narrow streets

And yes, construction blocks here are adobe, made with earth and water.

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We continued heading south to Purmamarca and there we toke the path parallel to Purmamarca river heading west, then we climbed Lipán slope, where we got with our Disco at 4,200 meters above sea level (13780 ft), getting red warning light transmission overtemperature ...
This route, was covered by Camel Trophy vehicles in the nineties...

Crossed the Abra we arrived at Salinas Grandes. Waman had already told us that an excess of water consumption for the exploitation of lithium was being claimed by domestic people.

Nowadays access to salt flat is possible through gateways, after paying an access fee and accompanied with a guide

From hand of our guide we learned many things about the salt, for example extractive techniques, how salt is formed or renewed,

And some photographic techniques...

We said goodbye to the salt flats with this group photo including our Disco

And immediately we toke a section of old route 40 towards San Antonio de los Cobres. It was a real "washboard road", that is, it had a very intense handsaw surface.
Shortly after we started we came across a gentle man who was coming straight ahead with a Fiat Toro, who warned us of a cut in the route due to a river overflow. We decided to continue.
Soon after, we began to travel accompanied by foreigners riding in their equipped Nissan Patrol.

We abandoned the beloved province of Jujuy and continued through Salta territory

Until we reach the point where river was cutting route.
Here we looked for less depth path a few hundred meters downstream, where river was a little more branched. Our circumstantial traveling companions stared to see what we were doing and then imitated us.
We were then able to arrive to San Antonio de Los Cobres. Before to seek for lodging we went to visit La Polvorilla viaduct. This viaduct is part from a centenary train track in these highs crossing Andes to Pacific ocean. It is called "Tren a las nubes" (train to the clouds). The route through which our Disco passes in following photo is the new RN40 tracing.

Due to rainy weather route that connects town with this viaduct was devastated in many places, which made us difficult to find the way sometimes

We continue later
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With rain we seeked for lodging in San Antonio de los Cobres, at approx 3500 meters (11480 ft) over sea level. Here we had the opportunity to eat anchi, a typical Salta dessert that we ordered because until this time we had not seen it in any menu card.
Made among other things with semolina, lemon juice, raisins and stuffed peaches, we really liked it.

The next morning we took a little tour in the town. The church here is already in the architectural style that those of the small Andean towns of Catamarca have.

And we toke photos from a viewpoint.

We continued along RN40 and its gravel in direction of Cachi.
Soon we started to go up the cornice road and seen some vicuñas

Already with snowy mount Acay's top in sight, we found snow on road's edge.

In Abra de Acay, at 4995 meters (16387 ft) above sea level, a red fox was waiting for us with that typical hungry look, used to tourists giving him always something to eat ...

Besides us, he was posing in the photo

We continued the ledge path, which was damaged by these last days rains

In some places the rockfalls made the passage narrower. After traveling a few kilometers we came across Austrian tourists advising us that a river was cutting road ahead and that it was not possible to save it

Although we kept going, we soon noticed that some sand collapses that we had overcome, below road's level had a large sinkhole. Next image shows one of these. It was difficult to pass it at 45 degree angle, but worst thing was crumbling danger. That, and the black clouds of new storms convinced us to return. We were not be able this time to pass through La Poma ...

We went back crossing Acay's abra again and we took asphalt route 51 towards Salta, thru Quebrada del Toro. Threat of rain was present in landscape

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p m

Apr 19, 2004
La Jolla, CA
All epic desert trips fade compared to almost three thousand miles of Ruta 40 in Argentina. I hope to drive the entire length of it some day, in one of my Rovers.
You must hurry because every day there is more asphalt, despite the fact that people complain about underdevelopment, roads that were an adventure to carry out become highways where everything around goes unnoticed ...
We continued our journey through Quebrada del Toro. Trouble with old Acay-La Poma path gave us opportunity to know this another route

We found a moment to eat on the side of road, under constant threat of storm

We arrived for second time in this trip to Salta city, and we chose to visit suburb of San Lorenzo . To our surprise, an empty municipal campsite with all services and very clean and tidy awaited for us.
We toke advantage of these comforts to make an asado (barbecue)

On next day:
A wheel with slight air loss. There was no open Tyre shop on sunday in Salta. We had to supply ourselves

We leaved Salta and climbed "Cuesta Del Obispo" slope again to the west.

Up in the place "Piedra del molino" we found such stone. It is said, someone in the past left it there to pick it up later...
There were lit candles inside little hermit.

Then we passed through Los Cardones National Park and the Tintin straight, part of the ancient Inca trail

And finally we arrived at Cachi. An image showing sunflowers in a village private ground

ACA Cachi Inn deserves a special mention

The town looks beautiful at night

Inn's access

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We continued in Cachi, time to fix punctured wheel

Then we visited places like airstrip (2200 meters over sea level)

View from above. In these towns, is used to be cemetery is located at the top. Ancient cultures buried their dead as close to heaven as possible

Night view from the same place

We toke RN40 south, towards Cafayate. It was very choppy with river overflows, but there were permanently National Roads operators and machines working on each road damage.
Here we see the upper part of Seclantas, that is, again, cemetery

We visited the ancient village of Molinos. As its name indicates, it was the place where mills processed wheat from Calchaquí valley.

The church, a sample of ancient adobe buildings

Quebrada de la flecha, in Angastaco RN40

We arrived to Cafayate for second time in this trip, and among other things my traveling companions toke opportunity to do coordination exercises: lol:

The symbol from Cafayate's Automobile Club service station, at night.

Before continuing on RN40 south, we have loaded diesel and found this truck of European tourists, the main source of most tourists in this area.

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Hello! We continued from Cafayate trough RN 40 south, first entering provice of Tucumán and then entering province of Catamarca
There we followed GPS indications while we calmly visited several towns and without noticing we were changed to Route 39.
Passing south Santa María town suddenly our Garmin 276 told us to turn left on the ground to cross Santa María river in a ford.
Few meters ahead was RN40 from which we had left a while ago. Problem was that river had overflowed and it seemed to have an uneven bottom.
We did an upstream and downstream "foot survey". Meanwhile, several motorists were brought by their different means of navigation to the same impassable point that entertained us.
Finally we forded the mighty waters and from the other shore we saw several cars resigned to turning back frustrated.
We arrived by RN40 to Belén, a city where we toke advantage of to go up its Via Crucis to the Virgin on a mountain

Like everywhere on this trip, night views of each town are beautiful. Belén was not far behind.

The same Virgin is visible at night from town square (white dot to the right of the church)

In this very quiet town and in january, days are hot. People take advantage of fresh nights to sit in square and eat.

In Belén we were able to camp at the Cotelbe campsite, now belonging to municipality

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Well, last section of chronicle.
We left Belen taking RN40 south, passing through Londres (second Spanish town founded in nowadays Argentine territory) and continued this way until we reached La Rioja, more precisely its capital

With its over 40°C (104°F) it did not invite more than to have an ice cream.
After visiting downtown area, we headed south again towards Chepes

There at Chepes we decided to stay at ACA motel. It's very hot during day in this area.
Our D2 with roof tent did not fit under garage shed

At next day we started a long day of travel, traveling along the sandy route that leads from there to Los Túneles (Córdoba)
Once we arrived up to the tunnels, we could see the plain from where we came from, La Rioja province

Here we already begin to encounter traffic, quite absent in recent day. So we traveled from Traslasierra crossing peaks in Quebrada del Condorito National Park, then we passed through Bosque Alegre looking for less traffic, and we reached Alta Gracia

From there we made a short trip and got on the RN9 motorway.

Last stop on return in Leones service station

A few hours later we arrived at our house after 5402km traveled. End of trip!

I hope you enjoyed it as we did!

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