The route between Salta Argentina and Cafayate via the RN68 (also called Quebrada de las Conchas) is one of the most beautiful routes in Argentina. The approx. 200 km long route makes you continuously marvel at the beauty of nature. The colors in the Quebrada de las Conchas tend to red-brown-loamy and form always new shapes left and right of the road.
In addition, in the middle of the gorge flows the – depending on the water level – more or less torrential Rio las Conchas and gives the Quebrada de las Conchas a very special atmosphere. We visited the Quebrada de las Conchas during our round trip through the north of Chile and Argentina.
You can read more about it in the following travel report:
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Facts about the Quebrada de las Conchas
On the route between Salta in the north and Cafayate in the south you can always camp well off the road. The beautiful part of the route starts about 1h drive south of Salta and ends shortly before Cafayate. We found Cafayate itself also totally beautiful and – although relatively touristy – also very relaxed. We spent a total of 2 days and 2 nights on the route, for which you actually only need 3-4 hours if you have little time.
There are also guided tours* offered from Salta and Cafayate, which take you through the numerous sights within a day. If you are into more privacy, then you should get a rental car in Cafayate or Salta and drive the route on your own. The roads are in great condition and are therefore easy to drive even with a small rental car. We have created a small overview of the sights and our 2 campsites.
Salta Argentina – Our Campsites
We drove the route through the Quebrada de las Conchas with our Wicked Camper and traveled large parts of northern Chile and Argentina. However, this part of our road trip and also the campsites we stayed at were certainly among the highlights of our round trip. So idyllic and quiet in a gorge on the river as here, we have nowhere else camped. The temperatures here – compared to the rest of our route through Argentina and Chile – are also very pleasant at night, so that we have endured it very well in the tent.
We have also intentionally taken more time here than you would normally need for this route, because we just wanted to relax a few hours a day with our campervan with roof tent and enjoy the scenery. We achieved that with our campsites along the way. It was beautiful and of course we don’t want to withhold the two sites from you.
Campsite 1 – Where the Donkeys live
Our first campsite in the Quebrada de las Conchas was at the very beginning of the route through the valley on the Ruta National 68. At this point the parched riverbed was very wide and some time ago the road still ran straight through the riverbed. On two sides there were still the remains of the broken roads to be seen.
Next to it ran a filled up path
, over which we could drive down into the riverbed with our off-road vehicle. At the end of the path there was a very nice place between the trees – protected from the road – which had been used as a campsite (with campfire) before. Here we spent our first afternoon with a walk along the river and a first relaxed night.
The nervous Donkey
Well let’s say almost completely relaxed night. Because we had seen already, when we had pitched our tent, early several donkeys in the spacious riverbed. Also a mother with her little foal. During the day it looked very idyllic. But in the evening, when we had to leave the tent again to pee, the donkey sounds were not so sweet anymore.
We heard when leaving the tent quite violent and ever approaching galloping noises and in addition a loud and excited snorting. The creepy thing was that of course you saw nothing in the pitch dark night. So you could only hear the – presumed – donkey galloping excitedly closer and we would have almost liked to refrain from peeing. But it’s not that easy. So the pee breaks were kept to a minimum. We didn’t want to get the donkey mom, who probably just wanted to take care of her baby, even more excited.
➤ You can find the campsite here on Google Maps: Campsite 1
Campsite 2 – Camping with own Beach
Our campsite in the Quebrada de las Conchas for the second night was located between the Obelisk and Los Castillos. Again, we were able to drive down a gravel road into the valley and had our site a bit off the road. Theoretically, you can drive your car right up to the river and then spend the night right on the river (and therefore the beach).
But we decided to park under a tree and pitch our tent there just before the river. Since the four-wheel drive of our off-road vehicle did not work, we did not want to tempt fate. Since the weather was perfect, we directly put on our bathing suits, cooled down in the river and then relaxed on the sandy beach in front of the river. Here it is really worth to be early at the campsite and enjoy the great view and some relaxation at the river.
If you think about how close you are to the city of Cafayate and how quickly you are at the top sights of the Quebreda de los Conches, then you have arrived here at a very idyllic spot. We did not want to leave here at all.
➤ You can find the campsite here on Google Maps: Campsite 2
Things to do on Quebrada de las Conchas
The route is a highlight in itself and just by looking out of the window to the left and right, you can see a lot of beautiful things. But every now and then it is worth to stop and walk a few meters, even if it can be quite touristy at times. But that is part of it.
We stopped at most of the sights and had a closer look at them. The rest – less interesting – we have at least from the car in passing thoroughly taken a look at. By the way, we noted the sights in chronological order from Salta to Cafayate.
Garganta del Diablo
Garganta del Diablo was the first major (as seen from Salta) and very touristy sight on the route. There is a parking lot and some souvenir vendors right next to the parking lot. Admission as well as parking is free at this and all other sights. The Garganta del Diablo is an impressive rock crevice that you can enter. Up to the first small steep face, the tourists are crowded.
However, if you climb up the small steep face you can go a little closer to the end of the canyon and have this area almost to yourself. The sign at the (very easy to overcome) small steep face does not prohibit the entry, but warns of coyotes. But we did not see any there.
At the Anfiteatro, which is just behind the Garganta del Diablo, there is again a parking lot. You can buy something to eat (e.g. tortillas con queso: 50 peso), jewelry and self-woven baskets. The sight is a round red rock indentation shaped like a theater (hence the name).
The theatrical atmosphere is underpinned by a guitar player who incessantly blasts the surrounding area with Argentine tunes. Again, the red rock walls contrast perfectly with the bright blue sky and make for a great photo opportunity.
Los Tres Cruces
This viewpoint on the Quebrada de las Conchas, located at the highest point right next to the road, is an absolute highlight on the route. You get a spectacular view of the river that meanders through the valley and the surrounding red mountain ranges.
You should not only enjoy the view from the parking lot but definitely go up the hill to the right. From up there the view is even better. Even though it can be relatively windy there, you can spend some time admiring the reddish-brown valley in front of you.
La Yesera refers to a short hike through a small valley with different colored mountains. The hike takes about 30 minutes each way and offers a phenomenal view of differently colored and shaped rocks. The hike is mostly without any incline. At the end, you can climb a small mountain for an even better view.
If you are good on foot, you can probably hike a little further into the wide valley. But you should pay attention to sun protection and take enough to drink with you. Because there is no shade in this area! By the way, a few hundred meters away there is a restaurant of the same name that sells cold drinks and snacks. There are also some cute dogs running around and also alpacas can be seen there – albeit tied up.
El Sapo is a rock that has a certain resemblance to a frog. However, that is all. We found this point rather unspectacular and didn’t even stop for a photo.
The Obelisc is a rock that rises into the air and is completely enclosed. Also the Obelisc we found little exciting and drove past it. However, since it is right next to the road, just like the Sapo, it is very easy to see it while driving by.
Los Castillos is a viewpoint with a great view of the red rock cliffs and the river flowing in front of it. Here you can make a short photo stop along the road. A hike is not possible here.
Los Colores are red rock formations created by years of erosion. Here you can do a short hike along the rocks. Climbing up is not allowed because the rocks are very porous. If you follow the trail, you can climb up a gray rock between the red rocks and have a great view in both directions. On the one hand on the green-gray and reddish rocks and on the other hand on the green growing valley with the river.
At this point you can walk further to see the area. Since we still had planned the hike along the Rio Colorado, we walked past the 2.5 m tall cacti and then back to the parking lot.
If you park at the road you can reach the sand dune in about 10 minutes by foot. The sand dune is signposted from the road only from the direction of Cafayate and not if you drive along the road from the direction of Salta. However, you can get a good orientation by Google Maps. There the path to the dune is marked. The dune itself is quite nice and you have a good 360° view over the surrounding area… but otherwise it’s just a bunch of sand and not that spectacular.
If you drive by it and have some time you can have a look at the dune. The Los Medanos are the last viewpoint on the Quebrada de las Conchas (RN68) from Salta and direction Cafayate. For us, the route was one of the highlights of our short trip through Argentina. If you also go to Cafayate you should do the hike at the Rio Colorado.
We have described this in a separate article:
Salta Argentina – Our Conclusion
For us, the Quebrada de las Conchas is certainly one of the highlights in northern Argentina and should definitely be visited – on your own or with a tour – if you are in the area. The route between Salta and Cafayate has a lot to offer and is not as touristy as you might think. There are plenty of opportunities to stop off the route to take photos or even camp.
The temperatures here in the Quebrada de las Conchas are very pleasant at night and let us keep this part of our road trip in very good memory. If you have the time – and a rental car – enjoy the route and don’t rush through it. There are plenty of opportunities to do more hiking to enjoy the scenery even more.
Did you drive along the Ruta National 68 and did you see the spectacular Quebrada de las Conchas? If so, leave us a comment below our travelogue and tell us what you liked best there