Giant cactus forest in Los Cardones National Park.

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Parque Nacional Los Cardones

Top choice in Salta & Jujuy Provinces

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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Salta & Jujuy Provinces attractions

1. Museo Arqueológico

16.61 MILES

This well-presented and professionally arranged museum on the plaza gives an account of the surrounding area’s cultural evolution, with good background…

2. Iglesia San José

16.62 MILES

This endearing adobe church (1796) has graceful arches and a barrel-vaulted ceiling of cardón wood. The confessional and other features are also cardón,…

3. Iglesia San Pedro Nolasco

28.57 MILES

The town church, built in the Cuzco style, dates from the 17th and 18th centuries, and features twin bell towers and a cactus-wood ceiling. The Stations…

4. Centro de Interpretación Molinos

28.57 MILES

This restored historic house has a good English and Spanish display on the region’s culture and history, and tourist information. It's also a space for…

5. Criadero Coquera & Casa Entre Ríos

28.91 MILES

Located 1km west of Molinos, this is where the government’s agricultural research arm raises vicuñas. You can take a tour and feed these beautiful camelid…