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Take an adventure through the heart of Argentina. This northwest region houses some of Argentina's most inspiring scenery, from colourful mountains and barren plains, to spectacular gorges and lunar landscapes. Woven into this tapestry is a strong cultural and gastronomic presence - throughout the tour, discover the indigenous heritage still found in the Andean region and contrast this with multi-cultural Buenos Aires.
Explore Tour Leader
13 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine country, located in the shadow of the mighty Andes.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Mendoza at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport (airport code MDZ), a 20 minute drive from our hotel. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you could explore this lively city by strolling the leafy streets or taking a coffee in one of the many charming plazas and people-watching.
Hotel Crillon (or similar)
30 minutes outside of Mendoza city we find Lujan de Cuyo - a wine growing region where row upon row of vines grow in neatly ordered lines under the shadow of the Andes mountains. Drinking wine in this landscape is an unforgettable experience, and today we will be visiting two of the region's wineries. Although this area is home to many varieties of white, it is mainly known for its reds, particularly the ubiquitous malbec. We will have the chance to taste the multiple varieties of grape found in the area during our tour, before returning to Mendoza. The late afternoon is free to explore the city, and on our first full day in Argentina it's a good idea to try some of the local delicacies - alfajores are an Argentinian staple, a cakey biscuit filled with 'dulce de leche', perfect with an afternoon tea or coffee. We may even try mate - a bitter green tea drink that takes centre stage in most Argentinian social gatherings. Throughout our trip we may often see people walking around the towns and cities, flask in hand, as they go about their daily business. If you are offered some take note - mate is served in a communal cup, with a 'bombilla' (straw) to drink through, and is passed around the circle, each drinker enjoying the mate before passing it back to the server to be re-brewed. Be careful not to say thank you, as this signifies that you have had enough!
Today we have a full day trip to Aconcagua Provincial Park, home to the magnificent Aconcagua - standing at 6961m it is the tallest peak in the Americas. At the bottom of the permanently snow-covered peaks we find lush meadows and some forested valleys, and our Explore Leader will take us on a short 1.5hr hike to the Horcones Lagoon, a glacier fed lagoon with outstanding views of the mountains. The trail is relatively flat and rocky, with mountains looking at either side of us and the peak of Aconcagua rising before us in the distance. Before returning to Mendoza, we also make a stop at the Puente del Inca, a geologically formed bridge once allegedly used by Incas to cross the river. The reddish oranges of the formation are caused by the minerals in the waters running beneath the bridge, and the remains of a slightly curious-looking stone chapel are still found built into the rock.
We drive back to Mendoza after our visit.
Today we set off to Barreal, one of the most beautifully situated towns in this sleepy region of the country. Seven snow-capped Andean peaks overlook the town, and arriving here is a shot of green in the often desert-like landscapes of the northwest. The highlight is the nearby El Leoncito National Park, a protected area with very strict regulations on air pollution. Due to the quality of the atmosphere it is an important centre of astronomy. We will be able to visit the observatory, however it's important to note that this may not be possible by night. The two observatories in this area are only open for night visits a couple of times a week, on schedules that are decided only a month or two in advance. It's most likely that we will be visiting in the late afternoon, but where we can book a night visit we will do so.
Acrux Hotel (or similar)
We have a long day of driving today, approximately seven hours, to Villa Union. Much of the drive is on the iconic Route 40 - similar to Route 66 in the US, the road is embedded into the country's culture, taking travellers from Salta in the north down to the wilds of Patagonia. Most of the road is paved, with just 120km of dirt roads, and on this section we pass through small villages, ancient pre-hispanic settlements and the 'Las Burras' Gorge road, winding through the mountains. Villa Union is the jumping off point for exploring the Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Parks, and is a sleepy town with the shadows of the Andes in the background.
Hotel Pircas Negras (or similar)
A day full of weird and wonderful landscapes awaits us today as we explore the moonlike scenery of Ischigualasto National Park, and the red rock towers of Talampaya. Once the kingdom of dinosaurs, these two parks contain the most complete fossil record known from the Triassic Period and have together been granted UNESCO heritage status.
Ischigualasto National Park is up first. Popularly known as 'Moon Valley', the geological oddities that have been somehow formed by water, wind and sun over the last million years have turned the park into another planet. 'Bowling Lane' is one of the most iconic sites, with scores of perfectly polished round balls sitting on a flat surface, with apparently no explanation to their formation.
At Talampaya, the scrub desert boasts fossilised remains of a wide range of ancestral animals and plants. Even for those amongst us who are not scientifically-minded, the park is another impressive show of geological wonders. We will be undertaking an easy hike through the immense red rock canyon of the Don Eduardo Gorge, which is approximately 8km on flat terrain. The dry riverbeds, red dunes and sand plains are more akin to a Martian journey than our expectations of Andean scenery.
After a thorough exploration of both parks, we return to Villa Union.
We get back on the Ruta 40 today, driving towards the small town of Belen and passing through characterful, rural villages en route. Part of the drive takes us on a winding upwards journey over the Cuesta de Miranda, perhaps one of the most photogenic and visual climbs in the region - taking us from 1000m to 2000m above sea level and back down, in just a couple of hours. The highway was originally built in the early 1900s, following the path of the ancient Inca Trail that eventually leads to Cusco. That early road was precarious - you could barely fit two cars abreast, with one side of the road dropping into the deep Miranda gorge. Thankfully it was updated in the last ten years, and a new highway was built - we'll pass the old one during the drive for comparison!
After the Cuesta de Miranda, it's an easy drive for the final 200 kilometres to Belen. There is a women's weaving co-operative in Belen that we have been visiting with groups for the last few years. Weaving, with both sheep and llama or alpaca wool, is an essential part of the economy up here in the northwest, and the co-op is a fascinating way to learn more about the process and its important place in this society.
Belen Hotel (or similar)
Setting off this morning to Argentina's northern winelands around Cafayate, we stop at the indigenous Quilmes ruins en route. The Quilmes people, dating back to around AD1000, famously resisted the Incan invasion and lived through over a century of Spanish colonisation. The large site is made up of the remains of terraces rising up the cacti-covered hillside - we can walk to the top for excellent views of the valley and the site. Although not as impressive as other archaeological sites in the Andes, it helps us to understand the indigenous heritage in this part of Argentina. Finally, we arrive in Cafayate in the early afternoon for a round of wine tasting in two of the region's rustic wineries, their rows of green vines backed by the spectacular mountains beyond. We might try Argentina's main white wine, Torrontes, famous in this region.
Los Sauces (or similar)
The Argentina of the Andes is steeped in Inca heritage, and the indigenous populations have retained many of their old traditions - in small towns like Cafayate, local methods of weaving have been maintained since pre-Hispanic times, and during our journey through the Andes we may admire their woven clothes, hats, sweaters and ponchos in llama and vicuna wool. Today this journey takes us to Cachi through 'Broken Arrow Gorge', a spectacular formation of sharp, pointed rocks shooting up through the air at all sorts of different angles; the road that we travel on pierces this dramatic and surreal landscape. We'll take the opportunity to stop en route at viewpoints, with some short walks and small village visits. On arrival in Cachi (2530m altitude) we have some free time. We can use the time to relax and wander the cobblestoned streets and tranquil plazas of the town.
ACA Cachi (or similar)
This morning we have free time in Cachi to explore some of the surrounding mountain trails. In the afternoon, we head on to Salta, down the 'Bishop's Hill Road', 20kms of hairpin bends that offer views down to the Sierra del Obispo. During the three hour drive the change in scenery is simply amazing, as we travel from the cactus filled deserts of the Cardones National Park, down to lush green mountains, blanketed in vegetation and eroded by rippling brooks and streams. We stop to discover the spectacular mountain views at the various viewpoints on route to Salta - one of the more lively cities in the north of Argentina, it is a blend of colonial architecture, fascinating museums and buzzing nightlife. Tonight we can get a taste of its music scene at a 'pena', a traditional folk music hall where locals come with guitars and take turns in playing and singing. Dinner is included.
Hotel Antiguo Convento (or similar)
Today we set out to explore the UNESCO Heritage area of the Humahuaca Gorge, a highlight of any trip to the northwest of Argentina. Purmamarca is one of the towns within the gorge, and setting off today we can appreciate the town's incredible backdrop - a mountainside named the 'Seven-Coloured Hill' for its bright shades of yellows, oranges, reds and greens. Indeed, the rest of the day's journey is awash with colour and scenic roadside lookouts; another appropriately named mountain is The 'Painters Palette'. Through our exploration today we visit the regions old traditional villages, such as Tilcara, Maimara and Humahuaca - these villages are perfect people-watching opportunities, and it's interesting to see once again the heritage from the pre-Columbian period which gives this area of northwest Argentina a very distinct sense of cultural identity. This is not only manifested in the woven items that we have seen in other towns, but also in the local diet, with northern food including llama stews and corn dishes. We return to Salta this evening and can make the most of our journey in the north by eating at one of the local restaurants.
We say goodbye to the northwest and catch our flight to cosmopolitan Buenos Aires. Here we find ourselves in the midst of Argentina's capital, located on the southern shores of the Rio de la Plata. Since its founding by Pedro de Mendoza in the 1500s, the city has thrived on trade and its vibrant streets are filled with an eclectic mix of European architectural styles, with Spanish, French and Italian classicism rubbing shoulders with remnants of Victorian grandeur.
We aim to catch a flight arriving in the afternoon. Flight schedules may vary, but any additional free time in Buenos Aires will be at leisure. Tomorrow we will visit the eclectic and bohemian south of the city, so if there is time this afternoon you may wish to visit the elite north, home to the embassies, the Recoleta Cemetery and many of the city's green spaces.
Hotel Principado (or similar)
We\ re experiencing the city as a Porteno (a Buenos Aires native) today, using the local buses and exploring on foot. Each neighbourhood of Buenos Aires has a distinct character, with grand Italianate architecture rubbing shoulders with winding cobbled streets or tree-lined avenues. To get a feel for the heart of the city, we'll stroll towards its founding point at the Plaza de Mayo, where the President's dusty-pink mansion is located. Every big event in Buenos Aires's history has been witnessed by the Plaza, from the continued protests of the \ Madres de la Plaza de Mayo\ , going back to Eva Peron's mass demonstrations in 1945. From here, we hop on a bus towards the colourful vibrancy of La Boca. Settled originally by Italian migrants, the area is famed for its bright houses, a ramshackle affair of corrugated iron, and the tango dancers who perform in the streets. We'll visit a local \ cafecito\ during our tour, taking a traditional Porteno elevenses of coffee and pastries.
We end our morning in bohemian San Telmo, with its small one-way streets, historic mansions and walls covered with street art. Our Tour Leader will suggest lunch at a traditional \ Bodegon\ , sampling specialities that an Argentinian grandma would be happy with. Empanadas, locro (corn and pumpkin stew) or a delicious choripan (a fat chorizo sausage in bread, with chimichurri sauce) may be on the menu.
The afternoon is free to explore, with much on offer. You could stay and explore San Telmo, which is particularly interesting when the antiques market takes over the cobbled streets. For book lovers, the Ateneo Grand Splendid, set in a converted theatre, is one of the most impressive bookstores in the world. This evening we have an opportunity to enjoy something of Buenos Aires' nightlife, perhaps going to a tango show and soaking up the pulsating rhythms of this most Latin of dances.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Buenos Aires.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Buenos Aires at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from either Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery (AEP) or Ezeiza International Airport (EZE).
Argentina has a climate that ranges from subtropical in the north to cold in the temperate south. The Andes has erratic rainfall and flash floods from December to May. From June to September spring like sunny days temper the cold nights.
3 Pin Flat
Predominantly Roman Catholic.
Spanish is the main language throughout this region, along with a number of indigenous dialects, of
Buenos Aires - Tango show US$80 and US$130 with dinner
A warm sweater or fleece, good waterproofs and a windproof jacket are all essential. Laundry services are available throughout.
Comfortable and sturdy walking boots with good ankle support and tread are useful for the walks. Trainersandals for relaxing in.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Total allowance for your international flight: 44lb/20kg. Luggage limit for domestic flights is 15kg. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Water bottle, insect repellent, suncream (at least factor 15), good quality sunglasses and a lipsalve with sun protection and walking poles (if you use them).
On this trip we use really well located hotels that are perfect for exploring this stunning landscape. The Hotel Acrux, in Barreal, is quite small, and we use a mixture twin rooms and 'apartments'. These are made up of two twin rooms, together with a bathroom and a living room area. So if you're in one of the apartments, you may be sharing a bathroom with another two travellers.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Please note we require a photocopy of your passport 3 month pre departure. It is essential that you provide Explore with a photo copy of your passport at the time of booking, as this will be required in order to confirm accommodation. Argentina: Visas are not required for UK, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens. Please note Australian passport holders will need make a payment called the 'reciprocity fee' in advance of travel to enter Argentina. This currently costs US$ 100. This payment needs to be made online at http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/accesible/templates/reciprocidad/reciprocidad.htm The receipt generated at the time of online payment must be printed and given to local immigration authorities together with your passport. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Yellow fever is only recommended for those travelling to Iguazu falls. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.