“A simple mountainside retreat in one of the most remote and beautiful villages in the Argentine Andes”
The pink hostería at its summit seems miraculous. A simple hotel with grand views, it’s a sanctuary of tranquillity: perfect for resting, walking and absorbing the local Andean culture. The 15 comfortable rooms are plainly furnished with white walls, terracotta floors, local weavings and clean bathrooms. The airy lounge/dining room has touches of modern Argentine chic with cowhide lampshades and designer sofas. Sit on the long terrace and gaze at the backdrop of ruckled and eroded mountains (we saw condors soaring high above!), and the patina of roofs piled up vertiginously below. After a day here you'll adapt to the slower pace of life: all around, pre-Columbian Andean life is going on as it has done for centuries.
- Spectacular landscapes - unlike anywhere else in Argentina - a great contrast. Perfect for hiking, riding, and contemplating. If you’re looking for a serious retreat, come for a week: this is the place for writing or painting
- Rooms with a heck of a view
- A rare chance to experience tranquil Andean life
- Comfort: though understated, the hotel’s modern amenities take on a new significance compared to the rustic, ancient way of life all around you
- You can reach Iruya on public transport. In fact, the bus to Iruya north from Salta or Jujuy via Humahuaca is one of the northwest’s great adventures
- Rooms are spartan in feel
- Don't expect slick city service: staff perform their duties efficiently but without warmth and few have much English
- No information on hand about Iruya, the indigenous population or excursions. We found our own way in the village (there's a tourist office down the road)
- Prepare to be flexible about your travel plans if you come in summer, when rains may wash the roads away!
- Very remote, but those looking for peace, tranquillity and excellent trekking will find heaven; seize the chance to see traditional Argentine life while it is still here
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Guesthouse
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
After the journey of a lifetime (or a hair-raising trip, if you’re of a nervous disposition), the calm bedrooms will come as a welcome surprise. Natural materials are used with a clean modern style, and the design creates harmony with the untouched landscapes outside the window. There are terracotta tiled floors, white walls, a desk, good cupboards, exposed wooden beams, white curtains framing the view and local weavings on the walls. The feel is minimalist but welcoming. Rooms are twin, double or triple, and the best have views out over the town, rather than mountainside or courtyard. There are heaters for winter and fans for summer.
Bathrooms are modern and impeccable. Don’t expect much in the way of toiletries other than soap, but all rooms have small baths as well as showers, and there’s plenty of hot water, plus that Argentine essential, a bidet. You can borrow a hairdryer from reception.
There are no phones or TVs in your room and this invites you to relax, absorb the views and tranquility, and switch off from modern life.
- Central heating
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- Internet access
In a village 3 hours’ drive from the nearest town of any size, and 8 hours’ from a city, you’d expect fairly basic food. Here, the hostería exceeds expectation, making the best of ingredients grown locally, and drawing on traditional recipes to give you a flavour of typical northwest Argentinan cuisine. There are excellent empanadas of cheese, meat and llama. Locro (stew) and tamales (cornmeal filled with meat) are on offer, and the humitas (a blend of corn and cheese) are excellent. Everything is homemade and the bread is particularly good.
Breakfast is a pleasure on the terrace on warm days. Fresh OJ, fruit salad, then locally made bread, with dulce de leche and cayote jam made from local fruit. Tea and coffee are made to order, and eggs can be cooked for you too. If you’re heading out for the day, you can ask for a picnic lunch the night before. Specify what you’d like in your sandwiches or staff will assume you want cheese and ham.
Although Iruya is a tiny place, there are a number of small eateries to try. Just bear in mind that you’ll have to hike back up the steep hill afterwards - not recommended if you’re still adjusting to the altitude! Halfway down the main street on the right-hand side is a small local restaurant serving excellent regional dishes. Just look for the place with most people in it.
Further down at the bottom of the main street (just as the path turns left to another plaza with playground at its centre), there’s another lively little place - the 'Café del Hostal', of the Hostal Federíco III. Owner Jesús is a great singer, and there’s often live music at nights: pop in and ask during the day.
- Restaurants nearby
- Village life is fascinating, especially because their ways are centuries old. Walk over the river on the pedestrian bridge to Pueblo Viejo on the opposite slope to Iruya for spectacular views down the valley, or down to the meeting of the two rivers, La Palca. You’ll see women in bright garments walking miles from a remote village with heavily laden donkeys, people working on their maize crops, young children taking goats high into the hills, and local livestock - pigs, donkeys and horses. Never take photos without permission
- Explore the brightly coloured cemetery, just next door to the hotel; then walk up to Iruya Cross, a little platform with shrine, for the best views over the village and La Palca
- Shop for handicrafts: just off the main street - signposted artesanías - is a wonderful Aladdin’s cave of a shop selling woven blankets, ponchos, shawls, knitted bags, little dolls and wooden items. These are very cheap and although the idea of bringing a heavy woollen blanket home might seem quite an effort, you’ll be glad you did
- San Isidro. This spectacular walk takes you down to the Palca, then left along the river in a wide gorge to the tiny hamlet of San Isidro perched on a little plateau. Neat adobe houses with straw roofs, (some with no heating or electricity), with peaches drying on their roofs, a little church - and nothing else. You’ll also pass women spinning wool powered by ingenious waterwheels. Don’t try this walk in the rainy season (December to March) when the river is high, and impossible to cross
- While tours as such are not on offer, the hostería can arrange a 5-hour horse trek to San Isidro. Ask a day in advance because the horses have to be brought from the hills around
- Birding is very good hereabouts. We were elated to see fabled Andean Condors soaring high above the peaks opposite the hotel, and also saw Andean Swift, Giant Hummingbird, King Vulture and Grey Hooded Parakeet plus Sierra-finches, to name a few
- The Fiesta Patronal takes place on the first Friday in October. A religious ceremony and riotous party, it starts with a sacred procession and ends up with mayhem!
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Horse riding
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
Kids dependent on urban or electronic entertainment might take time to adapt, but there’s lots of adventure to be had climbing or riding into the hills, and messing around on the river at La Palca. The hostería’s food is perfect for children, and they will make special meals if necessary.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
There are some triple rooms for families with one child - ask for an extra bed or cot if you need it
Baby cots available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids Activities on site:
There's a very characterful (and slightly rickety) playground (a piece of wood has been shaped like a sheep) just at the bottom of the entrance steps. And another in the heart of the village which has a very large slide
Kids Activities nearby:
Our child loved clambering about the Cemetery next door, and even did a good section of the San Isidro walk, which given the incline and altitude wasn't bad at all. We think she was fascinated by getting close to village life, pigs, donkeys, horses, chickens and all! Local children will also come up to you and make friends despite any lack of common language
Families Should Know:
You are in a high altitude region and far from the nearest town, so drink bottled water and make sure your little ones don't scamper off a hillside. The rivers can swell alarmingly after rains
- Airport: 6 hours (Salta)
- Shops: 2 minutes (basics)
Iruya is at the end of Ruta 133, a rough ripio (gravel) road which leaves the Ruta 9 just north of Humahuaca in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. It’s 315km from Salta and a 6-hour drive, conditions depending.
Fly to Jujuy (195km) or Salta (315km). Both of these airports are served by domestic airlines from Buenos Aires Jorge Newbery Airport. If you're arriving into Buenos Aires from abroad, you'll fly into Ezeiza International Airport. For a list of airlines serving these airports click on the links below. Flights within Argentina typically go through Jorge Newbery National Airport (12km), about 15 minutes by taxi, around US$6-8).
From the Airport
There are regular buses up Ruta 9 between Salta / Jujuy to the Bolivian border at La Quiaca, all of which stop at Humahuaca. From here there’s at least one bus a day to Iruya, often several, depending on the time of year. Book the night before if you’re planning to take a bus in summer, when tourists fill the buses up.
The bus journey is unforgettable: it takes 3 hours and every moment is picturesque or spectacular - and it is astonishing how confidently the drivers approach the winding steep road. Your luggage will be tied to the roof of the ancient looking vehicle and therefore exposed to a lot of dust: wrap clothes in plastic bags inside your suitcase. There’s a brief stop at Iturbe for refreshments and toilets, but it’s wise to bring drinks and snacks with you.
If there are two or more of you, it’s definitely worth hiring a car to see more of this great region, and to enjoy exploring the Quebrada de Humahuaca along the way - see our car rental recommendations. The drive itself is a great adventure: don’t underestimate the ripio road off Ruta 9, and do pay extra for a 4x4; this journey is not recommendable in an ordinary car, although we saw several make it without incident. You switchback up to a pass of 4000m with a shrine at the top, and amazing views, and then descend along more hair pin bends until you drive beside the River Iruya (fording of streams compulsory en route). Note that the mountain passes are not for those who suffer vertigo, although I do, and I would absolutely recommend it as being worth the terror - such scenery!
Once you’re in Iruya, there are no roads anywhere, so you should consider coming by bus from Humahuaca, or you’ll have the additional expense of paying for car hire while your car simply sits outside the hostería for three days.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to Argentina and getting around
- Jujuy 195.0 km JUJ
- Salta 315.0 km SLA
- Beach 500.0 km
- Shops 0.3 km
- Restaurant 0.3 km