GEOLOGICAL EXPEDITION IN 4X4

8 days 7 nights

Tourism program specialised in the GEOLOGY of northwestern Argentina (Valles Calchaquíes and Puna plateau), accompanied by Ivan A. Petrinovic (Geologist)

Day 1

Leaving Salta city in the morning towards Los Cardones National Park  passing through the village of Seclantás, where we can see many craftsmen weaving “ponchos” using looms right on their backyard’s houses by the gravel main road.

Then the gorge “Quebrada de Las Flechas” (“arrows” gorge) and then we will arrive in the city of Cafayate in the afternoon where we will spend the night.

Geological interest: the impact that the Andes uplift had in the valleys of Lerma and Calchaquies through sedimentary records and the resulting landscape forms. Thousands of meters of sediments accumulated by rivers and floods that descend from the region of the Puna, have been filling the valleys.

Day 2

Tour to the “Quebrada del Rio Las Conchas” area, following the Las Conchas River and the surroundings of Cafayate, Also visiting a winery and tasting the wines of the high Cafayate Valley in evening.
Geological Interest: The “Reserva Provincial Quebrada de las Conchas” stands out visually for the chromatic complexity and the possibility of visualising much of the Cretaceous and Cenozoic periods through its sedimentary and volcanic records. During this period, much of the northwest was affected by a continental Rift stage (similar to that in Kenya and Tanzania) where vast valleys accumulated reddish sediments while basaltic volcanoes erupted alike to those of the African Rift. The possibility of seeing directly on the route and in nearby small canyons. This geological history that has configured the landscape of Salta, makes this circuit one of the most important geological attractions of northern Argentina

Day 3

It will be a long day, so we will start early in the morning after having breakfast at the Cafayate hotel to continue on the RN40, passing through the province of Tucumán and we will enter the province of Catamarca through the Yocavil Valley which is the last valley belonging to the Calchaquíes Valleys, then we will ascend to the Puna de Atacama (higher pass of the day over 4.000 mts. above sea level) where we will make a detour along a mining road to visit the Piedra Pómez field (volcanic area), then return to the main route and finish in the town of Antofagasta de La Sierra where we will spend the night.

Geological Interest: This circuit is ideal for those who want to know one of the most inhospitable and rugged places of the Argentine Puna. Along the route the progressive widening of the Calchaquí valley and its impact on the landscape is visualised. The extreme aridity of the southern end of the valley, contrasts with the fertility of small oases, where water is available, inhabited by ancestral communities. Some of these towns, such as Villavil’s, are framed by small valleys bounded by dangerous rock cliffs capable of collapsing if weather conditions changed once again. The ascent to the Puna is evident not only by the change in altitude, but by the appearance of recent volcanoes that cover the entire landscape of this southern end of the Puna. Collapse calderas, mono-genetic volcanoes, ignimbrites, pyroclastic flows, lava flows aa, pahoe-hoe, ropes, will be the most interesting points to visit on our tour.

Day 4

It will be a long day that will have as a destination the visit to the collapsed caldera of cerro Galán, for which we will bring provisions to have lunch (pic nic) on the way since throughout the day we will not have access to villages or places with human beings. Estimated to return to Antofagasta de La Sierra in the late afternoon.

Geological interest: This circuit allows you to observe one of the largest super volcanoes on the planet, the Collapsed Caldera of Cerro Galán in all its magnitude. Throughout several stops, we will recognise the peculiarities of the rocks that it catastrophically expelled and the magnitude of one of the most significant geological phenomena on the planet. The interior of the caldera, of more than 20 km in diameter, exposes lagoons with native fauna, thermal springs, dunes of considerable dimensions and the possibility of observing the resurgent Galán hill (6.000 mts. above sea level high), in the center of the depreession.

During the tour we will see extraordinary forms in the ignimbritas of the Galán hill, such as the Paicuqui cooling joints, and in the vicinity of Antofagasta, the Antofagasta, Alumbrera, El Jote and Carlucci volcanoes, with  differents kind of lava as ropes, lavas aa, in blocks, pahoe-hoe. Volcanic bombs thrown from these mono-genetic volcanoes are visible as in the Carlucci volcano.

The climate of the Puna, given the conditions of extreme aridity that preserve the characteristics of the rocks – added to the lack of vegetation cover – allows the recognition of geological processes as if they had occurred in the recent past.

Day 5

After breakfast at Antofagasta de La Sierra we begin the day on which the salt flats (salt plains) of the Andes mountain range will be the common landscape. First we will arrive at the Salar de Antofalla (the second biggest of Argentina), where we will visit the small village of only 60 inhabitants of the same name, and then from there we will continue towards the north of the salt flat to enter the province of Salta again and begin to see the Salar de Arizaro (the biggest in Argentina), once we get there, we will cross it through during 1 hour and then we will arrive at the town of Tolar Grande to spend the night.

Geological Interest: A cool trip to take a view in the geological past of the Puna. The present processes, forming extensive salt flats can be extrapolated to geological records, under the same conditions. This possibility of comparing the current geological dynamics with what happened in the past is a unique experience for anyone interested in understanding how the Puna was formed and how long it demanded its evolution. Both the Salar de Antofalla and Arizaro are unique places on the planet. Extensive mantles of salts, bodies of crystalline water, surrounded by reddish rocks and volcanoes (some of them are the highest on the planet) of contrasting colours, give a permanent frame along the route that invites you to reflect on the human scale contrasted with The geological scale

Day 6

We will leave Tolar Grande going to visit the “Ojos de Mar” (eyes of sea) on the countryside of the village, then we continue on the gravel route to Salar de Pocitos passing through the touristic places known as “Salar del Diablo”, “Red Desert” and “7 Curves”, then arrive at Salar de Pocitos (train station), and from there ascending to 4600 meters to cross the pass “Quirón” to go through the salt of Pastos Grandes and then the San Jerónimo and Negro de Chorrillos monogenetic volcanoes, palced on the rim of the collapse caldera of Aguas Calientes exposing its ignimbrites thousands of meters thick.

Later we will know the famous La Polvorilla viaduct, since the gravel road passes under it, so we admire the most important engineering work of the rail road in northern Argentina (build on the beginning of the XX century by the British).

From the viaduct, we will continue until joining the new RN40 track and go through the base of the Tuzgle volcano stratum, this is one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the Puna, very recent black lavas can be observed, partly covering its slopes, extensive ignimbrites -which testify its explosive past- and its thermal sources –which testify its recent activity-. Then the Andean towns of Sey, Pastos Chicos and Huancar will come to finally reach our hotel in the town of Susques.

Geological interest: Making a latitudinal cut to the Puna, means seeing almost all the rocks that compose it. This tour is the one for those who want to see the most significant geological elements of the Puna, the salt flats and the volcanoes. The visit to the Ojos de Mar in Tolar Grande will give us the opportunity to see one of the few places in the world with live stromatolites, that is, living fossils in a unique ecosystem that are responsible for producing oxygen from photosynthesis for 3500 million of years and at a height of 3500 meters. above sea level.

Day 7

Leaving from Susques we go to the small village of “Abdon Castro Tolay” better known as “Barrancas” (clifts)
and then, the last salt flat of the trip: “Salinas Grandes” basin from north to south stopping in the town of San Antonio de Los Cobres where we will have a lunch and then continue on RN40 towards the highest pass : The Abra del Acay at 4,950 meters above sea level, leaving the region of the Puna de Atacama behind to descend towards the north end of the Calchaquí Valley through La Poma village and then the final destination: the historical village of Cachi where we will spend the night.

Geological interest: We travel southern through the center of the Puna and then continue south, already along its eastern margin. The day before we saw compound volcanoes like the Tuzgle, as maar structures as Tocomar. On this day we will see mono-genetic volcanoes such as the Saladillo that spills its very fluid lavas 30 thousand years ago and modified the Calchaquí River channel by filling the riverbed with lavas and forcing the river to surround the black and bloody lavas. The Gemelos de la Poma are two other mono-genetic volcanoes (the easternmost of the Puna), with blocky lava flow and endorsing the Calchaquí River Canyon. A small lake was formed 30 thousand years ago by this process of closing the river, then being opened again by the force of the river. Later thermal sources partly cover these lacustrine sediments with travertines that the river currently erodes, giving rise to internal caves where the Calchaquí River runs today.

Day 8

After so much travel and geology, we have 1/2 day of rest and free of activities during the morning in the town of Cachi where it is possible to visit its historical church, the archaeological museum and also taste the high-altitude wines that are produced there.

After lunch at noon, we will return to the city of Salta, passing again through the different place of the Los Cardones National Park, once we are there and if the gate is open, we can enter to the Enchanted Valley to make a short hike of approximately 1 hour, from where we will see the Cuesta of the Bishop from 3200 meters.Then back to the vehicle and return to Salta city.

Estimating the arrival in the city of Salta in the afternoon.

This option is also available for the “self driving” mode where you can drive a 4×4 vehicle rented by us and following our group  

Este viaje tiene una salida programada con fecha fija.