We’d never suggest that the iconic Fitz Roy trek and Perito Moreno glacier hike aren’t worthwhile. But Argentina offers many other rewarding (and less-crowded) trails, through lush cloud forest, along colorful canyons, and up the highest peaks in the Americas.
In the rugged Northwest, trails lead to ancient ruins and cross dazzling salt pans, while Mendozadraws hard-core trekkers to the world’s highest mountain outside the Himalayas: Mount Aconcagua.
Independent hiking in these parts requires planning. Public transportation can be limited, and trails are sometimes unmarked and ill-maintained. It’s often best to hire a car, and wise to check in with park ranger stations and arrange stays at refugios (mountain shelters). Park rangers can supply maps, guides, and updated info.
Framed by soaring Andean peaks, the Northwest delivers numerous day hikes and multi-day expeditions through fantastically shaped canyons. The colonial city of Salta is the local visitor epicenter. Some 116mi (187km) north, the charming wine-growing region of Cafayate is the hub for Valles Calchaquíes, where traditional villages nestle amid the thrusting rock formations of the Quebrada de las Flechas. From Cafayate, a scenic, 3mi (5km) hike leads southwest to the Rio Colorado, home to ancient pictographs and a picturesque waterfall.
Just north of the city of Jujuy (75mi/120km north of Salta), the Quebrada de Humahuaca is Northwest Argentina’s main calling card. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this long gorge blazes with waves of vividly colored rock, stretching north to the Bolivian border. Most tourist attention centers on the spectacular Cerro de Siete Colores, the stratified Hill of Seven Colors, which you can marvel at on a 90-minute hike (1.8mi/3km) around the perimeter.
Nestled beneath the mountain, Purmamarca is a captivating village despite its steady traffic of visitors, and with its rich indigenous traditions and incredible setting, it’s an ideal base for hikes and treks for all levels.