Hiking and Biking Through Northern Argentina

August 26, 2011

This post first appeared on August 1 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.


If you had told me a year ago that this past Wednesday I would have started my day before the sun rose by climbing into a pick-up truck with two Argentine men and one American to drive two hours into the Andes while rocking to ACDC’s You Shook Me All Night Long, I would have told you that you were insane.  But, that’s exactly how my most recent Wednesday began.

After the completion of our month-long intensive Spanish course, we had a week break to do some traveling.  My friend Campbell and I decided to head up to Salta, in Northern Argentina, to escape the city and get some fresh air.  The Friday evening after our last class, we climbed into a bus and 22 hours later, arrived in Salta. We spent our first couple of days exploring the city and it’s main squares (reminded me a lot of Savannah, Georgia) and visiting the various art museums.

Monday afternoon, we popped into a bike rental place to see if we could rent some mountain bikes for the day.  Francisco informed us that we could rent the bikes overnight and ride up to a little mountain town called La Caldera.  It sounded like an adventure to us so we loaded up the bikes with our backpacks and headed up Route 9 North – a road no wider than 12 feet.  It took about 2 hours to ride the nearly 20 miles to the town, since it was mostly uphill the whole way.  We arrived to La Caldera, a tiny town that consists of about 5 blocks and whose main tourist attraction is a giant statue of Jesus on top of a mountain, and began looking for a place the stay that night.  We found a beautiful hostel on the edge of town that was well worth the less than $20 each we spent to stay there.  After checking in, we rode the two and a half miles to the Dam north of town.  We relaxed and read our books for while on the edge of the lake.  In other words, it was heaven.

The next day we rode up the mountain to see the “famous” Cristo statue.  It was interesting and slightly creepy but a feat of engineering nonetheless.  I was surprised that the number of mini-vans full of tourists that arrived there on a Tuesday morning.  While the statue didn’t enamor me, I did fall in love with the town. If I’m ever forced to go on the run, I’m moving to La Caldera.

We said goodbye to the quaint little town and rode back down to Salta, which only took about 45 minutes since it was a downhill coast most of the way.  We checked into a hostel, took a nap, ate a wonderful dinner at a cute little parilla, chatted with the French and Swiss travelers at our hostel and went to bed.  We had an early morning the next day.

At 6:45 am the next day, my alarm went off and we quickly packed our backpacks, shoveled some cornflakes and coffee into our mouths and met two Argentine men, Facundo and Santiago, outside our hostel next to their new pick-up truck.  Facundo, “Facu,” was the guide we had hired for a two-day trek through the Andes.  Santiago, “Santi,” was driving us to the start of the trail.  Two hours later, after listening to a strange mix of Lady Gaga, ACDC and Simple Plan, we arrived to the trailhead.  We spent the next two days trekking our way through the Andes, meeting the local mountain people along the way.  The next evening, we arrived back in Salta, filthy and sore but happy and relaxed.  I can honestly say that our four days of biking and hiking were some of the happiest of my life.  It was so nice to be away from smog and Internet and people and just sit and look at the mountains.

Well, since this post is getting rather lengthy and I doubt many readers have made it this far, I’ll end here and post later this week with some more details of my Northern Argentina Adventure.



57 Responses to “Hiking and Biking Through Northern Argentina”

  1. donlangdon Says:

    Great to see that you are having quite an adventure. Also good to be aware of your activities.

  2. Anita Mac Says:

    Sounds like a brilliant adventure! Love it. Hope to follow in your footsteps one of these days. Can’t wait to see more photos.

  3. juliacastorp Says:

    i want a trip like that too….!!!!!

  4. janaywrite11 Says:

    What a riveting adventure! Thanks for bringing along for the ride through your post. I thought that the descriptions of the music they played in the back of the pick-up truck were particularly entertaining 🙂

  5. Howard Says:

    Some amazing views, that the pics can enlarged and enjoyed is really something!
    Just looking at them helps me breath more deeply.
    What you write is good to.
    Be careful, be lucky.

  6. Eva McCane Says:

    fabulous scenery! i’m jealous. hope to visit that area someday. thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow congratulations on your adventure! I LOVE hiking and biking. You definitely get to see sights you’d normally miss.

    I’m sure you’ll carry memories of your adventure abroad back home with you. Happy, happy times:)

  8. mark cuckow Says:

    hello sarah i am a student in photography and are currently learning how to build a website and in my studies i stumbled across your website and i like it

  9. Spectacular scenery! I had no idea Argentina was so … beautiful! 🙂

  10. Chris Says:

    Great post and awesome pictures. I plan to visit Argentina in 2012. I’ve heard great things about the beef, malbec, and scotch. Not to mention the incredible sites.

    • Add pizza, ice cream and, of course, empanadas to your list of things to eat here! Some of the world’s best. Also try an Otro Mundo beer while you’re here (locally made in Argentina) – my favorite’s the red ale.

  11. bercton Says:

    Nice out door fun! thanks for sharing and congratulation on FP!

  12. f-stop mama Says:

    Nice post and the trip sounds fantastic. It sounds like something I would love to do. I look forward to traveling and seeing the sights people blog about.

  13. vicfedorov Says:

    wonderful post, feel free to make full use of literary liscence and elaborate.

  14. Ajay Kaul Says:

    Well narrated. I liked the phrase ” shoveled some cornflakes and coffee into our mouths”. My fav pics are the one with the La Caldera banner and the last one. To nature!!!

  15. My mom did almost the same thing, she backpacked the entire way through Chile as did my dad. This is odd how I found this!


  16. That’s for all the wonderful comments everyone! I’ll be posting more photos soon!

  17. munyivaresponsibletravel Says:

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reaching Northern Argentina now (currently in Patagonia)!! I love reading about others’ adventures and to get ideas for places that are next on the list.

    I’m doing a similar thing http://munyivaresponsibletravel.wordpress.com/latin-america/the-south-american-diaries/

    • That’s so exciting! I’m living in Buenos Aires right now. If you’re interested in doing some adventure travel once you’re in Northern Argentina, I would absolutely recommend Andes Challenge [http://www.andeschallenge.com/] . Facu was great. Salta’s a small town so he knows all the other adventure companies also. Enjoy your travels!

  18. Great view. Congratulaitions on FP 🙂

  19. joyce Says:

    exciting !!!! I am interesting in it for a long time. However I dare not to start by myself. My friends don’t like to company with me. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Fabulous! Inspiring story and beautiful landscape.

  21. liz Says:

    “I can honestly say that our four days of biking and hiking were some of the happiest of my life. ”
    what’s an relaxed experience,you have enjoied it!

  22. Fitovers Says:

    it looks a nice trip, I liked the pictures and waiting for your next post.

  23. taxation Says:

    Nice out door fun! thanks for sharing..

  24. Joaquin Says:

    Wow, that’s really a great adventure and your pics make want to get there too. I love trekking as I did in Spain on the way of St. james and now I want to do the same in other countries. Love the idea of going to argentina!

  25. Amazing photos, o how I miss that beautiful country!

  26. Trixie Says:

    Sweet! Thanks for putting this post together — I enjoyed it.

  27. 1cruzdelsur Says:

    I’m glad you like my country, Argentina. Very good pots and I hope you already speak Spanish. Bon voyage.
    Cruz del Sur

  28. leadinglight Says:

    Such beautiful landscape – shame about the economy!

  29. Awesome article, really enjoyed reading this!

  30. Salta is gorgeous–I lived there for a year! If you get the chance to visit Cafayate (a few hours south) or the Quebrada de Humahuaca (Jujuy Province), they are well worth the trip as well! Enjoy Argentina…and have some yerba mate for me : )

  31. Alexander G. Says:

    Nice–> See on this blog–> http://www.radonline.at.tf

  32. Dominic Xavier Farrington Says:

    That sounded great, really should get back out there myself!

  33. Beautifully written story, I plan to go to Argentina too later this year, will write about my experiences there! Thank you for sharing yours!

  34. thoraaron Says:

    Can’t even imagine how crazy biking those roads must get, sounds like a great adventure.


  35. clyde Says:

    What does “Chau” mean? The same as “Ciao”?

    • Hi Clyde!

      “Ciao” is Italian while “Chau” is Spanish. They both mean the same thing (an informal word for goodbye) and they’re both pronounced the same (like “chow”). I was surprised by how it’s spelled in Spanish when I finally saw it in print.

      Thanks for reading!

  36. gaycarboys Says:

    How wonderful. Only maybe not the bike bit. I thbink my bike is best left to the bike lanes in the city, but the bus sounds good. Its a great way to arrive fresh and happy. Its a really lovely post so thanks for sharing it with us

  37. Sergio Bais Says:

    Vos descubrís mi país, aprendes el idioma y disfrutas de tu estadía aquí. Yo fuí leyendo tus relatos, disfrutando tus fotos fotos, y todo tu blog. Muchas Gracias por compartir. Que todo siga así de lindo para vos.

    Apareces en la segunda “hoja” de wordpress.com
    Dave Matthews Band me acompaño en la lectura. Muy buena.

  38. Riazi Snaps Says:

    This is awesome! I’m currently living in Buenos Aires and keep hearing about Salta. I can’t wait to visit!

  39. nomadicstavi Says:

    Very cool! I love the pictures, and that sounds like quite an adventure. I hope to make it down that way in the next year or so.

    Happy Travels!

  40. umesh Says:

    experience is adventurous with a mix of peaceful moments!!!
    really an enchanting place…

  41. Jack T Stud Says:

    thats so beautiful place… wish to go there once in lyf..!

  42. trialsinfood Says:

    amazing! i wouldn’t be able to bike it, but would love to hike it!

  43. rakhikankane Says:

    enjoyed reading 🙂 nice blog!

  44. […] Hiking and Biking Through Northern Argentina (sarahmlangdon.wordpress.com) […]

  45. stushapiroo Says:


    thanks for the blog, and yes we read till the end 🙂

    can you tell us what the company for the tour was called… we wanting to stay with the locals in the mountains, eat the local food and experience the culture.

    kind regards
    stu shapiro.

    • Hi Stu!

      Sorry about the delay on relpying! The company I used to do the hike was called Andes Challenge (http://www.andeschallenge.com/). They also offer activities other than trekking. Our guide was Facundo and he was wonderful! He speaks English, Spanish and German. We rented bikes through MTB Salta from Francisco (http://www.mtbsalta.com/). We simply rented bikes, bought a map and explored the mountains on our own for a couple days but MTB also offers guided tours. Hopefully that helps, let me know how your trip goes!


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