But the car geeks had chosen an incredible place to drive through, and I reckon they missed the best bit – Salta province.
Just add salt
We join the route in the north-west, after landing in the city of Salta and visiting the small village of Purmamarca.
It’s home to the “hill of seven colours”, where layers of rock range from beautiful pinky reds to deep purples, and where cute B&B Huaira Huasi offers a homely vibe.
Rooms cost from £65 a night (Huairahuasi.com.ar).
Just an hour further west are the incredible Salinas Grandes salt flats.
The white grains lie gleaming in the middle of an arid, desert-like land, and after getting a snap with a giant llama sculpture, tasting salt straight from the ground and eating a freshly barbecued ham and cheese tortilla for 30p roadside, we make our way to catch Route 40 south.
Hitting the (valley) floor
Soon we’re driving at a peak of 4,895m, spying a mountain fox among snow-capped mountains before winding down to the valley floor and splashing through shallow rivers in the stunning Calchaqui valleys. The roads and hillsides are scattered with llamas and donkeys decorated in colourful ribbons, and the countless cacti piercing the landscape are several metres tall. A one-night stop in the small town of Cachi breaks up the journey.
We kip at former monastery La Merced Del Alto, with whitewashed rooms, a treat of an outdoor pool and a delicious goat shepherd’s pie for dinner. Rooms cost from £80 B&B (Lamerceddelalto.com).
Perfect pit stop
The next day, after a two-hour drive, we emerge from the red rock canyons and dirt track into vineyards with vibrant lavender and a pool so jaw-dropping it looks like an optical illusion.
My hubby Andy turns to me and says: “Wow, how did you find this place?” I want to claim special powers, but actually I’d plotted the route through Booking.com (its map realy does make road trips a cinch).
Estancia Colomé is in the middle of nowhere, but is home to an incredible modern art museum with spellbinding light exhibitions and lavender-scented bedrooms, plus it offers free winery tours to all guests.
Forget Malbec, too – this region is famous for its white torrontés, and it also crafts a spicy red, tannat, from some of the highest-altitude vines in the world. B&B starts from £149 (Bodegacolome.com/estancia-colome).
It’s a vine life
Our next stop is the wine town of Cafayate. At Grace Cafayate, where rooms cost from £135 B&B, we horse ride through vineyards and across sand dunes – despite there being no sea in sight! Rides cost £20 per person for an hour (Gracehotels.com/cafayate).
Afterwards, we dig into a gorgeous pear and blue cheese salad at the Club House before blending our own wine at El Povenir winery, £60 per person (Elporvenirdecafayate.com). Thrilled with our bold red to take away, we finish with caramel and pear ice cream from rustic Heladería Miranda.
That evening we head to Pacha. With its moody blue interior dotted with photos of local landscapes, and dishes such as beef shin pasta, £15, it’s the kind of restaurant you’d expect to find in a major city.
Next we fly south to El Calafate in Patagonia to pick up the rest of Route 40.
It’s a town near the shores of Lago Argentino – the country’s biggest freshwater lake – and just over an hour’s drive from the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier, which you can hear cracking from the walking trails.
But we fall for its little sister El Chalten, a three-hour drive away.
With gorgeous eateries like micro-brewery La Cerveceria and meat heaven La Tapera, plus Fresco bar where we try Argentinian favourite Fernet (a herbal spirit), this village really does reward you for your daily treks through the Andes.
Of course we couldn’t visit Argentina without taking the short flight to the famous Iguazu Falls.
We hop on a thrilling (and soaking!) speedboat ride underneath the falls, £55 per person, before following the rainforest trails through clouds of butterflies and gangs of coatis (Iguazujungle.com).
Then we seek solace around another stunning pool at the Mercure Iguazu, where rooms cost from £125 a night (Accorhotels.com).
Yep, this country is an Insta dream.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Plan road trips with Booking.com and earn discounts after your second booking.
Car hire in Salta starts from £30 a day (Marina-semisa.com.ar).
Capture your adventures on a GoPro, from £199 (Ao.com).
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