A photogenic journey through Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

La Yesera

Imagine steep, red canyon walls rising up toward the bluebird sky and creating a natural amphitheatre. Sun-soaked vineyards and bustling, lively town plazas. Rock formations in so many shades it’s like an artist took a paintbrush to the mountains with every colour of the rainbow. This is just a taste of what it’s like to explore the rugged, dramatic, otherworldly landscapes found in Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley.

Found a couple hours’ drive south of the Spanish colonial city of Salta, there’s no better way to explore the region than by hopping in a car and heading down the highway, which is how I found myself with Ossian Lindholm. A Salta native, the renowned photographer leads photo expeditions around the world, organized through USA-based Travel Vision Journeys. The adventures are perfect for photographers of all skill levels even if you don’t know the difference between a F-stop and a flash, combining class time with hands-on instruction from Lindholm in some of the most impressive landscapes on earth.

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Salta

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Salta

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Salta

The picturesque valley meant there were photo-ops at literally every turn, so we pared it down to about half a dozen locations for our day trip through Salta province. Since every road trip requires food and a bathroom break, we made a quick pit stop at Posta de las Cabras, a cute goat farm with a cafe and plenty of baked goods to fuel up on before continuing along the highway.
Our first opportunity to put our DSLRs to work came about half an hour later, when we pulled off the twisting black pavement to a spot that revealed a crimson canyon dotted with vibrant green foliage, making for the perfect contrast. It was here that Lindholm spoke with the group about his process, sharing composition tips and explaining how he adjusts for lighting conditions. However, I was a bit too busy jumping for joy at the scene spread out before us to take notes. See Exhibit A:

Salta province

Thanks to my friend Eric from Travel Babbo for capturing some of these shots #BecauseNoSelfieStick

Up next was El Anfiteatro, and we didn’t need Lindholm to tell us that it was a popular tourist attraction. Nope, that became evident as soon as we saw a line of tour buses parked haphazardly along the shoulder of the road and people armed with selfie-sticks streaming toward it. ‘The Amphitheatre’ was created by erosion from waterfalls that existed millions of years ago, forming patterned cave walls that soar 20 metres high. The resulting acoustics are spectacular, luring buskers who strum guitars hoping to sell CDs to travellers wandering through the cavern. Since I don’t even have a CD player (and really, does anyone anymore?), my friend Eric and I instead spent our time trying to nail perspective shots. Because Instagram.

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

The Amphitheatre

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

The Amphitheatre

Once my calf muscles had gotten a workout from jumping and flailing my arms around in the air while simultaneously praying Eric’s shutter speed was set fast enough, our group piled back into the van and set off for the next lookout point: the winding Rio de las Conchas river. With thick burgundy boulders jutting out over the valley creating natural lookout points, our options for experimenting with composition were endless. It was clear why Lindholm had brought us here: it was a photographer’s dream.
Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui ValleyBeing halfway through the day already, tummies started growling as we pulled into Cafayate (pronounced Calf-ah-zha-tay), a village in the heart of what’s considered to be one of Argentina’s top wine regions, second only to its famous cousin Mendoza. We had a bit of time to meander through its sun-soaked main plaza, sample a sweet sorbet made from the area’s signature torrontés grape, and peruse the handicrafts market before heading to lunch at a nearby vineyard—which it’s safe to say we were all beyond excited about. I mean, panoramic views are lovely and all…but wine.

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Cafayate

We’d be dining at Finca Quara, a winery dating back more than 140 years making it one of the area’s most renowned. The Renaissance-style building was impressive to say the least, surrounded by perfectly-manicured gardens and framed by the Calchaqui Valley’s rolling hills. Our camera-clad group passed through the expansive tasting room lined with more bottles than any of us could conceivably count, containing the likes of Malbec, Tannat and of course Torrontés, an aromatic white wine. Making our way down into the dark cellar, we found ourselves surrounded by massive, uncorked barrels and got a quick lesson about the high-altitude varietals produced in the region. Then just like that, it was time to start sipping.

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Finca Quara winery

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Finca Quara winery

As we sat on a veranda shaded from the heat of the afternoon sun, platters of food kept appearing around the table seemingly out of nowhere, all expertly paired with different wines. Our bellies filled, the drinks went down smooth, the laughter got louder, and our midday meal somehow turned into a leisurely lunch which none of us were in a hurry to end. Except for Lindholm, who was keen to get us to one final location for our photo tour as any good guide does.
Somewhat begrudgingly and longing for a nap, we eventually managed to pull ourselves away from what remained of the feast and make our way back to the van. Fortunately, Lindholm had saved the best spot for last.

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

Finca Quara winery

We pulled up to the La Yesera trailhead about half an hour later, and as soon as I looked out the window and saw the epic scene laid out in front of us my fatigue faded. THIS was why I’d been drawn to Salta province…rainbow mountains!

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

La Yesera

A kaleidoscope of colours zig-zagged across the horizon, the hues of the purple, green, fire-red and blonde hills all seamlessly blending together. It was absolutely magical, and for the next couple of hours we hiked around the barren landscape, scrambling up and down the desolate dunes, admiring the windswept canyon which looked like it had never seen a human footprint.

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

La Yesera

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

La Yesera

Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

La Yesera

As the golden hour began to cast a soft, ethereal light over the valley, we snapped our last set of shots then began the long drive back to Salta. As night fell, a glorious sunset rose up behind the vineyards, making for the perfect ending to our photogenic journey through Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley.
Photo tour Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley

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Rugged, dramatic landscapes, red canyons and sun-soaked vineyards make #Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley the perfect place for a photography tour.


#SouthAmerica | #Travel | #Photo | #Landscape | #Salta

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15 Responses

  1. Adam Lukaszewicz says:

    I would have never guessed this was Argentina! Argentina is still on our bucket list. How many weeks would you suggest? We were thinking about 2-3 weeks?!?!

  2. Linda says:

    We have never travelled in Argentina but this post certainly was a great tease as to why we should move it up on the list. This location was a great place to be on a photo shoot. The red earth reminds me of Utah and Arizona. Even the winery offered lots of great photo opportunities. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Kavita Favelle says:

    I’d love to explore more of Argentina, having only visited Buenos Aires and Ushuaia thus far. Salta looks like a great place to hop off into the Calchaqui Valley, an attraction in its own right before the beauty of the natural landscapes. The amphitheatre formation is stunning!

  4. Marissa says:

    I love seeing your pictures of northern Argentina! I wish I had time to go The Amphitheatre because that looks like Instagram heaven. That’s such a beautiful winery, too! Argentinian wine is amazing.

  5. Indrani says:

    Never been to Argentina sadly but this post increased my desire to get there. Some great photography there giving the glimpse of the place well. Local sorbet, food paired with wines sounds so good. The rainbow montains are excellent photo material. A post well done.

  6. Nick Wheatley says:

    Looks like those photography lessons paid off! Beautiful pictures. It’s incredible that you can visit all of these locations in a single day and still have time for a lunch at a winery. Seems like I need to head back to Argentina – we definitely didn’t visit the Calchaqui Valley on my last trip there and now I am sorry I missed it.

  7. Sneha says:

    Such beautiful pictures. Already made a note to make a pit-stop at Posta de las Cabras – the goat farm whenever I travel to Salta (hopefully soon). And the rainbow mountains? Wow! Quite rare to come across such stunning views, honestly!

  8. Medha Verma says:

    You’re right, the place is such a photographers dream! And your pictures are amazing. I also would have loved to visit the winery for some wine tasting but the canyon is so amazing, I would’ve loved to go for hikes. Argentina has been on my travel list for so long, I better make it there this year. Thanks for such an inspirational post and photos.

  9. Naresh says:

    Your picture are breathtaking! I am a photographer and I just can’t wait to get there. And being able to cover so many locations in a day is so cool, especially the winery! Was it easily managed or would you suggest using more than a day to visit all the places?

  10. Anuradha Goyal says:

    Natural amphitheater – there are not many places in the world that can claim that title. The canyon looks beautiful and I guess anyone would go crazy clicking pictures in such places.

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