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Follow Travel Consultant, Jason Mayo, as he takes us on his journey through Salta & Purmamarca – South America Desert Region

It would be nice to have unlimited time and budget to travel throughout South America, right? But sometimes we can’t see everything we want and have to figure out the best destinations to visit!  If you have the time, I recommend spending 2-weeks exploring the South America desert region: Salta, San Pedro de Atacama, and Uyuni. On this tour, you will see the vast salt flats, feel the dry heat, hear the classic music of the region and taste the regional empanadas.

Exploring the City of Salta – South America Desert Region 

south america desertMy co-worker and I took a short 2.5-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Salta.  When we arrived in Salta, we took care of our hunger first. We were blown away by the traditional restaurant Doña Salta and the atmosphere. Picture yourself in an old building where the waiters look like they have been working there since the 70’s. I highly recommend trying the empanadas; they were by far the best part of our meal.

During the day we went on a 3-hour Salta City Tour. Salta is nicknamed “Salta la linda.” That means the beautiful one, and anyone who visits will quickly learn why. The colonial architecture combines Spanish and indigenous influences to create a masterpiece. On this tour, we rode the cable car up Cerro San Bernardo Hill, where we saw panoramic views of the city. In the afternoon we visited the Salta Cathedral and the 18th century Cabildo of Salta colonial building, where we even saw the changing of the guard. Saving the best for last, we visited the Archaeology Museum of the High Mountains. The museum can be a controversial museum because it is home to two mummified Incan children that were found high in the Llullailaco Volcano, 6,700 meters above sea level.

Safari to the Clouds – South America Desert Region

south america desertThe next day, we went on the “Safari to the Clouds” excursion. Now everyone is usually familiar with the Train to the Clouds, but the Safari to the Clouds was just as impressive! We departed early in the morning and arrived at the first checkpoint – the train tracks for the Train to the Clouds – when the sun was rising. We went through Quebrada del Toro up to San Antonio de los Cobres. There are thousands of cacti scattered along the rolling hills. As we traveled along the emblematic Route 40 up and down windy roads heading towards the desert, we could not help but stare in awe of the landscape.  Eventually, we crossed into Puna reaching the Salina Grandes. As we continued, the horizon seemed to fade away into the distance. The transition from desert to fertile highlands to wet valleys left us in awe.

There was no shortage of fantastic photo opportunities throughout the day. Along the journey, we stopped in picturesque towns where we meet some of the locals and enjoyed more delicious foods, famous to the region!

Arrival to Purmamarca – South America Desert Region

south america desert

In the evening, we arrived at a quaint little colonial town called Purmamarca. The highlight here is the Hill of the Seven Colors, which is exactly what it sounds like. We went on a short walk as the sun was setting and stopped to admire the beauty of the hills as the lights of the little town started to flicker on.

The town has a small market in the central plaza every evening where you can buy local handicrafts and goods.  We arrived just as they were shutting down for the day, but managed to find some textiles. As we continued wandering around the town, we arrived at a restaurant called El Churqui de la Altura, and we were not disappointed!

In the evening we went to sleep sad that we were leaving Argentina, but we were ready to tackle the biggest Salt Flats in the world – Uyuni!

Get started planning your Atacama Desert tour today!


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