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Once part of the Inca empire, Argentina’s north-west is a region of picturesque colonial towns, striking natural scenery and deep-rooted traditions. Stretching east from the Chilean and Bolivian borders, the high altiplano, or puna, gives way to arid foothills dotted with giant cacti, adobe villages with cobbled streets, and rugged canyons. The region can be explored by guided tour or self-drive.

The city of Salta with its beautifully preserved colonial architecture and splendid museums is the starting point for the Train to the Clouds, a spectacular journey through a narrow gorge that takes you, via tunnels, bridges and viaducts, onto the high, barren plateau. North of Salta the desolate hillsides of the Humahuaca gorge reveal a stunning kaleidoscope of red, orange, green and brown-coloured rocks, rivalled only by the multi-layered cliffs of the Hill of Seven Colours at Purmamarca. Trips along this ancient trade route can be combined with visits to pre-Columbian ruins, the salt flats at Salinas Grandes or any of the fascinating little churches in the region.

South of Salta lie scenic canyons and attractive colonial towns such as Cachi, Molinos and Cafayate that, blessed with year-round sunshine, is home to high altitude vineyards and excellent wine estates. Visit the area on a circular route that passes through the spectacular granite spires of Arrows Canyon and past the impressive cliffs and rock formations of Las Conchas gorge. For the more adventurous, a journey into the high-altitude puna will reveal an isolated and stunningly surreal lunar landscape dotted with strange weathered geological formations and turquoise lagoons.

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