North of Salta, the highway rises up through the magnificent Humahuaca Gorge to reach Purmamarca nestled amidst breathtaking canyons. Purmamarca is one the highland’s prettiest Andean villages perched at the foot of the dazzling “Rock of Seven Colours”, whose rich colour palette of reds, greens and maroons has become the face of northwest Argentina. Founded in 1594, the town is one of the oldest in the area with ochre-washed adobe houses set around a small central plaza. At its heart, a 17th century colonial church is perched in the shade of a 500 year-old Algorrobo tree. With a good selection of simple hotels, restaurants and handicraft markets, Purmamarca provides a wonderful base for exploring the surrounding landscapes.
Close by, the fortress complex of Tilcara provides a fascinating insight into pre-colonial history while the colourful canyons above Maimara offer breathtaking walks and rides. High above Purmamarca, a lonely mountain road snakes its way up into the Andes towards the border with Chile, gateway to Chile’s Atacama Desert. At a dizzying height of 4200m above sea-level, the dazzling salt-flats of Salinas Grandes sparkle in the afternoon sun.