Ruta 40
Ruta 40 in the Puna
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The Ten Best Destinations

Ruta 40’s Top 10 Sights

Choosing the best attractions and destinations along Route 40, Argentina is not a simple task because there are many sites, natural and cultural monuments, historic landmarks, awesome outdoors and cultural events along its winding course.

Here we list Ruta 40’s "Top Ten Attractions" which we consider unique and worth visiting. They are listed from North to South.

And, we added a final "Bonus Track" with Five Runners-up who didn't make it to the Top 10.

The Top 10 Sights of Ruta 40

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Attraction # 1: Cusi Cusi

The "Valley of Mars"

Jujuy province

A multicolored valley with ochres, reds, pinks, hues of white and gray set in the Puna Plateau in Jujuy province.

It is also known as "Valley of the Moon 2" (where the Valey number 1 is Ischigualasto in San Juan - we list it below as our number 7 in the list). Cusi Cusi Valley is located at an altitude of 3,800 m - 12,460 ft. on a rough gravel section of Ruta 40 between Susques and La Quiaca.

Ruta 40 in Cusi Cusi, Mars Valley
View of the red cliffs of the Valley in, Cusi Cusi, Jujuy.

Where is it, lodging, how to get there:

> > Cusi Cusi

Attraction # 2: Salinas Grandes Salt Flats

Salinas en la Puna

Jujuy and Salta

The "Salinas Grandes" (which means "Large Salt flats") span 82 sq. miles (212 km2) in the Puna highlands at 11,300 ft. altitude (3.450 meters).

The vast white salt surface contrasts with the deep blue sky. It is a temporary lake when it rains, and the salt is harvested using traditional methods. It lies on the border of Jujuy and Salta provinces and the "Old" Ruta 40 runs along its southern and eastern shore. Paved Ruta Nacional 52 cuts across it linking Susques and Purmamarca.

rusty shovel and pile of salt at the Salinas Grandes of Jujuy and Salta
View of the Salinas Grandes in, Salta and Jujuy.

Our webpage on the salt flats has detailed information on its origin, history, location and how to get there:

> > Salinas Grandes Salt flats

Attraction # 3: Abra del Acay

The highest point along Route 40


The Abra del Acay is the highest pass on a national highway in the whole world and the highest road pass outside of Asia: it is set at 16,050 ft. (4,895 m) above sea level.

Located in the Nevado del Acay Range of the Andes, it is a difficult mountain road drive between the towns of San Antonio de los Cobres and Cachi.

Ruta 40 at the Abra del Acay Pass
Narrow roadbed of Route 40 at the Abra El Acay Pass in, Salta.

Visit our page on the Acay Pass to learn about its difficulty, when to drive it and what safety tips to bear in mind:

> > Abra del Acay Pass

Attraction # 4: Quebrada de las Flechas

Amazing rock formations in the Calchaquí River Valley


A Lunar landscape in the heart of the "Valles Calchaquíes" region. Strangely ash colored slanted layers of rock jut-out up to 150 feet above the surrounding terrain.

Its name means "Gully of the Arrows" where the "arrows" are the sharp angular slabs of rock.

They are part of the protected area, the Angastaco Natural Monument (Monumento Natural Angastaco).

Ruta 40 in the Quebrada de las Flechas
La Quebrada de las Fechas in, Angastaco, Salta.

Visit our page where we provide full information on it:

> > Quebrada de las Flechas

Attraction # 5: Shinkal de Quimivil

Prehispanic Ruins


The Shinkal (o Shincal) is a National Historic Monument that preserves Inca ruins.

It covers almost 50 acres of what once was a provincial capital in the Inca Empire. Over 100 buildings including a "pyramid" are located on the site.

It is located in the outskirts of the town of Londres (London), next to Ruta 40.

Inca Ruins of el Shincal
The ruinsa of Shinkal (Shincal) de Quimivil in, Londres, Catamarca.

Its history, a map and much more... learn all about this historic monument:

> > Shinkal Ruins

Attraction # 6: Cuesta de Miranda

A Cliffhanger Highway in the Famatina Mountains

La Rioja

The Cuesta de Miranda, is a section of Ruta 40 that was famous for its danger: a narrow one-lane winding cliffhanger highway on the Miranda River Canyon. It crosses a gap between the 19,000 ft. high Famatina Mountains and the Sañogasta Range.

Now it is a paved highway and is safe and easy to drive. It is located between the towns of Chilecito and Villa Unión in La Rioja province and its maximum altitude is 6,690 ft. (2,040 m) above sea level.

The steep red scenery on the preserved segment of the old Cuesta de Miranda
The old Route 40 in a section that was preserved after the road was paved. Miranda, in La Rioja.

Location, elevation profile, the Inca Road at Miranda and the original preserved roadbed: Read more

> > Cuesta de Miranda

Attraction # 7: Talampaya and Ischigualasto

National and Provincial Parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

La Rioja and San Juan

Both parks are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site the Talampaya National Park is in the province of La Rioja, and is next to the Ischigualasto Provincial Park in San Juan province.

They are renown for their rock formations, dinosaur fossils, prehispanic rock-art and its native animals and plants. It can be reached from Ruta 40 at Jáchal, Huaco or Villa Unión.

Ischigualasto Park
Rock formations at Ischigualasto Park, in San Juan.

Information about both natural areas:

> > Talampaya and Ischigualasto

Attraction # 8: El Payén

La Payunia Provincial Reserve


El Payén or Payunia, is a volcanic region with vast lava flows, basaltic rocks and volcanoes.

It has on average 2.75 volcanos every 10 sq. miles and disputes with the Siberian Kamchakta Peninsula the title of "most volcanos in a given area" in the whole world.

Its lava flows and lava fields are among the largest in South America.

Payen, under fair use, by Kate and Rick Lewis
Volcanos in El Payén, Mendoza.

Provincial Reserve in Argentina, learn more about it

> > El Payén - La Payunia

Attraction # 9: Ruta de los Siete Lagos

Route 40 in the Patagonian forests and Lake District

Neuquén and Río Negro

Ruta 40 betweeen the towns of Bariloche, Río Negro and San Martín de los Andes in Neuquén is known as the "Ruta de los Siete Lagos".

Its name means "The Seven Lakes Road", it is completely paved and it runs through two National Parks, in the Andean forests and runs along the shores of actually more than seven lakes.

The highway is aligned in the Andes, with its forest covered slopes, a pristine area protected by the Nahuel Huapi and Lanín National Parks.

Camino de los Siete Lagos
Camino or Ruta de los Siete Lagos, Ruta 40, in Neuquén & Río Negro.

A detailed itinerary, mile by mile with each of its lakes, landmarks and attractions:

> > Ruta de los Siete Lagos

Attraction # 10: Perito Moreno Glacier

Patagonia's most famous glacier

Santa Cruz

The Perito Moreno glacier is unique because it is not retreating, instead it moves forward, damming Lake Argentino, bursting periodically in a spectacular ice-dam rupture when the lake's water pressure breaks it.

It is located in the Los Glaciares (Glaciers) National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site close to the town of El Calafate.

view of the Perito Moreno Glacier and Lake Argentino
View of the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Ruta 40, El Calafate, Santa Cruz

All you need to know about it: its periodic ruptures, surface, location, how to get there, when to visit it and where to stay:

> > Perito Moreno Glacier

Bonus Track: Another Top Five Attractions

5 More Spectacular Sights on Ruta 40

These are the five runners-up to our top ten list of Route 40 amazing landmarks:

Mendoza: Andes and wine

Vineyards and the Andes.

Mendoza, Andes & Wines

The "Valle de Uco", Tunuyán, Tupungato, Luján de Cuyo, Maipú are terroirs where the great Mendoza wine estates are located. This is the land of the Argentine Malbec. And Route 40 links them all.

Sitio UNESCO, Parque Nacional los Alerces

Verde Lake and Arrayanes River (Sec. Turismo Esquel).

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Los Alerces National Park protects more than 15,000 acres of Alerce forests. This tree, the Fitzroya cupressoides is related to the North American redwood. Some trees are over 2,600 years old.

Inca Trail.

Camino del Inca: Inca Trail

UNESCO World Heritage Site the "Qhapaq Ñan is the Inca Empire's vast road network.

Steam engine, La Trochita. Juan Macri

Expreso Patagónico Railroad

Narrow gauge in Patagonia is a National Historic Monument, you can still ride in in Esquel.

Cueva de las Manos

UNESCO World Heritage Site Cueva de las Manos

Hands painted on the rocks at Cueva de las Manos. A. Whittall

Rock art painted by paleoindians thousands of years ago.

Some of the painted hands are 9,300 years old. The "Cave of Hands" is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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Ruta 40 (Argentina) Online Travel Guide: Information on accommodation, sights, attractions and destinations. Itineraries, tours and resources for planning your Route 40 Road Trip.

Updated on V.12