South of Salta, the Ruta 40 highway cuts through the heart of the breathtaking Calchaquies Valleys bound on all sides by terracotta peaks and multi-hued canyons. Picture postcard colonial towns sit under the shadow of the distant Andes while lonely mountain roads are framed by gorges and national parks. This is one of Argentina’s most captivatingly beautiful areas, a region that lends itself perfectly to self-drive holidays. Close to the edge of the Cardones National Park, the picturesque town of Cachi is the ideal base for exploring the breathtaking landscapes. Dating back to the 16th century, the white-washed adobe houses hark back to colonial times and lead down to the cobbled plaza and historic San Jose church. Further afield, the rolling canyons catch the evening light beautifully and shelter farms and traditional ochre-washed hamlets.
Heading south-east, the route to Cafayate is one of Argentina’s most spectacular journeys. The dizzying mountain road zigzags through eerie rock formations and lonely, colonial villages to reach the lush, rolling vineyards of Cafayate. There, you can relax at boutique winery, sample the region’s famous Torrontés wines or head out to explore the maroon, fortress-like canyons.