This is another Argentina altogether. From the Andes to cloudforest, high-altitude desert plains to quaint oasis villages, cities of architectural splendour to ancient indigenous rituals, you’ll find constantly changing landscapes of inexhaustible beauty. Less famous than Patagonia but just as beguiling, you could travel here for a month and still have more to explore.
The Spanish occupation of Argentina started here 400 years ago, and the colonial cities of Salta and Jujuy boast grand buildings, palm-filled plazas and fascinating museums. Salta is the more romantic of the pair, and better set-up for tourism, with good restaurants and abundant tour operators. Drive west up into the staggering Quebrada del Toro, where the ruined pre-Incan city of Santa Rosa de Tastil is the region's undoubted archaeological jewel. From here, continue up to San Antonio de los Cobres, before being dazzled by the shimmering salt flats in La Puna - the immense high-altitude desert. Descend from here to the long, wide gorge of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with many archaeological treasures in small villages.
Or head southwest from Salta to the beautiful Valles Calchaquíes, where Cachi and Molinos are magical places to rest. Hike in the shadow of magnificent snow-capped Andean peaks, sample high-altitude wine, or relax in a luxurious finca and contemplate the views. Fincas are the estancias (ranches) of the northwest, and your visit isn’t complete without a stay in one. We’ve selected our favourites, where you're welcomed by owners who'll take you around their lands on horseback, chat to you over delicious dinners, and give you privileged insights into their rural culture.
Far from europeanised Buenos Aires, it’s the indigenous culture which makes the northwest so distinctive. Look out for beautiful weavings, haunting baguala music, and festivals such as the August Pachamama fiesta and the Easter pilgrimage of panpipe musicians in Tilcara. Go hiking from Iruya, Cachi or Purmamarca and you'll find peaceful village life still carries on much as it did before the Spanish conquistadores arrived.