Parque Nacional Los Cardones

Top choice national park in Valles Calchaquíes

Flanking the winding RP 33 from Salta to Cachi across the Cuesta del Obispo, this park takes its name from the cardón (candelabra cactus), the park’s dominant plant species. Most picturesque is the Valle Encantado, accessed via a drivable 4km track at Km61. A few further miradores (viewpoints) are signposted along the road, along with a couple of short interpretative trails from along the straight stretch in Recta de Tin-Tin. The modern national park office is in Payogasta, 11km north of Cachi.

This is gorgeous high-desert territory, with rounded peaks crowning velvety mountains, where cactus groves stand tall at elevations that eclipse 3000m. Take plenty of water and protect yourself from the sun. Buses between Salta and Cachi will stop for you, but verify times in advance. It's much better to have your own wheels.

In the treeless Andean foothills and puna, the cardón has long been an important source of timber for rafters, doors, windows and more. You'll see it often in the region’s traditional buildings.