Iruya, Argentina: Salta’s Hidden Gem

Chances are, if you made it to this post and are planning on visiting Iruya, Argentina, you probably like the off-the-beaten path destinations. If so, Iruya is perfect for you! In this gorgeous mountain town, llama is on every menu, locals are friendly, and the views are spectacular!

Iruya is odd because it is by no means overcrowded, over-touristy, or super popular, but a lot of its economy revolves around tourism. The people here are extremely nice and don’t take advantage of foreigners – which is rare to find in towns that rely heavily on tourism!

Iruya is the perfect place to unwind for 1-3 days. We’ll go over how to spend 24 hours in Iruya* and include a few more activities for those who have more time. Let’s get into what to do in Iruya, one of Salta’s northern-most towns!

*We took the 8:20 am bus from Humahuaca which got us to Iruya just before noon and left on the 1:00 pm bus the following day. We were able to do all the activities mentioned in this blog post!

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Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting Iruya, Argentina

Spending 24 Amazing Hours in Iruya, Argentina

Before we get started, if you don’t want to do any of the planning, we recommend booking this tour. The tour leaves from Salta and gives you the opportunity to see Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain, the Pucará de Tilcara ruins, various churches, and finally Iruya on a two day trip.

As mentioned above, this itinerary assumes you arrive in Iruya around noon and are leaving on the 1:00 pm bus the following day. If you have more time, definitely spread out these activities a bit more!

Grab a Local Lunch

After you’ve dropped your bags off at your hotel, get a delicious lunch at one of the local restaurants. We recommend Comedor Los Cahis Iruya (all one word on Google maps). They had a delicious Llama Quinoa Wok, with all sorts of vegetables, which are rare in Latin American dishes!

What to Eat in Iruya: Llama Quinoa with Veggies

Admire Iruya’s Church and Shop for Artisan Goods

After lunch, head to the church, and check out the inside! Out front, you’ll find people selling artisanal goods and this delicious tortilla rellenos. Tortillas rellenos are tortillas stuffed with things like goat cheese and ham, then tossed on a grill. These are the perfect quick, cheap snack when you’re on the go! The people selling artisanal goods are indigenous, and dress very uniquely, making the perfect photo opp. HOWEVER, they do not appreciate photos without their consent, so you must ask before snapping a flick.

Iruya Things to Do: Visit the Church

Learn Iruya’s History

Head next door to the Iruya Museum, where you can learn about Iruya’s history. Iruya has a largely indigenous population, the Cachis, and have been able to preserve much of the culture. This is super impressive as they have been conquered by the Incas, the Spanish, and then by the Argentine government (although the latter used the word “unification”). Iruya has a few foreign-owned businesses, but for the most part they are descendants from the Cachis that inhabited these lands hundreds and hundreds of years ago!

The Iruya Museum costs less than $1 USD to visit and is open from 9 am to 4 pm every day except for Sundays. The information is only printed in Spanish, but it’s still cool to see even if you don’t understand Spanish!

Iruya Things to Do: Visit the Local History Museum

Mirador del Cóndor Hike

The view from the Mirador (“lookout”) del Cóndor is absolutely spectacular. The bonus of potentially seeing condors up close is the cherry on top! For those who don’t know, condors are like much bigger vultures, and their wingspan can be up to 10 feet or 3.3 meters! The best time to see condors at the lookout is in the afternoon, so keep that in mind.

The trailhead is across the bridge and on the other side of Iruya from the main part of town; it takes about 25-30 minutes to walk from the church. The hike can take anywhere from 1-2 hours round trip. This hike (and the walk to the trailhead) are very uphill, so take your time and take breaks as needed!

Mirador del Condor Hike Iruya

Walk up to the Mirador del Cruz

The Mirador del Cruz gives a great view of Iruya after dark, so head here for sunset or shortly after! The Mirador del Cruz lookout is a 15 minute minute walk from the church. It is uphill so take your time! To get there, head to this point on Google Maps and continue walking along the well-lit path.

The Mirador del Cruz location on Google Maps is wrong, just follow our directions!

Mirador del Cruz Iruya

Indulge in a Delicious Llama Stew for Dinner!

Head over to Hostería Chez DidierM for a delicious llama or lamb stew! We recommend going shortly after dusk before the crowds! The food is delicious but there can be a bit of a wait time—the Google reviews don’t lie! We recommend tasting the llama or lamb stew they offer!

What Foods to try in Argentina: Llama Stew

Morning Activity: Cruise Through the Valley to San Isidro

Before you leave Iruya, head over to San Isidro de Iruya, another indigenous town located 3 miles (6.3 Kim) northwest of Iruya. This town is even smaller than Iruya and is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat. We stopped at Comedor Teresa for some empanadas and much-needed ice cold water! Entrance to the town is 50 cents per person. We recommend driving as part of a tour to San Isidro, but if you hike, we recommend not doing this the morning you leave. Swap this with the Mirador del Condor hike in our 24-hour itinerary!

Canyon in Iruya, Argentina

Tour vs Driving vs Hiking to San Isidro

If you plan on hiking to San Isidro, just know there are 8 stream crossings each way. Make sure to wear shoes you can get wet or take your shoes off at each crossing. The rocks are super slippery and not easy to cross without slipping in. My hiking boots are drying as I write this! The hike takes around 4.5 hours round trip.

Iruya is 2,780 meters (9,120 feet) above sea level. This isn’t extreme altitude but it is definitely enough to tire you out more than usual! Coca leaves, altitude sickness pills and lots of water are a great way to combat any symptoms of altitude sickness!

If you hike or drive yourself (with a 4×4), make the left after the parking lot to find the stairs that lead you to San Isidro. If you see this bridge, you’ve gone too far! (yes, we went too far)

San Isidro Tour Contacts

If you don’t have a 4×4, we recommend going with a tour or hiring a driver to take you here. You can arrange your tour through Iruya Excursiones by contacting one of the numbers below:

  • +543885475076
  • +54387154025041
  • +543884547066

These numbers are more of taxis, and won’t include a tour guide:

  • +543876835752
  • +543875420210
  • +543873035898

On your way back to town, grab one of the delicious tortilla rellenos, your bags, and head on to the next destination!

Other Things to Note For Visiting Iruya

  • The Iruya bus station has baggage storage
  • If you’re going to Tilcara, Maimara, Purmamarca, or Jujuy after visiting Iruya, you can take the Panamericano bus that leaves at 3 pm every day. Otherwise, you’ll have to catch one of the Transporte Iruya buses that go to Humahuaca and continue on to your destination from there.
  • There’s one ATM in Iruya, but we recommend getting out all the cash you need before hand! Many places only accept cash, so make sure to have a good amount with you!
  • While tourism makes up a lot of Iruya’s economy, not many people here speak English, so brush up on your Spanish before visiting!
  • Some people stay in San Isidro de Iruya to hike to Laguna Verde, an interesting-looking green lake to the northwest of San Isidro
  • There aren’t too many places to stay in Iruya as it’s a very small village. We stayed in and recommend Hostal La Plaza, it was very comfortable and right in the center of the village!
  • The best time to visit Iruya is from April to November. During this time you’ll have pleasant weather that will be perfect for exploring!

How to Get to Iruya, Argentina

There isn’t a ton of information online and buses to Iruya and other spots in Jujuy are prone to cancellations and changes. Therefore, we recommend going to the bus station at your place of origin and double checking the times and routes for how to get to Iruya. The only direct buses heading to Iruya leave from Humahuaca and Tilcara.

How to Get to Iruya from Humahuaca

From Humahuaca, Transporte Iruya leaves at 8:20 am, 10:30 am, or 4 pm. Head to the bus station when you get to Humahuaca to confirm these times and purchase your tickets! A round-trip ticket will cost about 10 USD, and a one-way ticket will cost about 6 USD.

How to Get to Iruya from San Salvador de Jujuy

From San Salvador de Jujuy, you’ll need to first take the bus to Humahuaca from the San Salvador de Jujuy bus station. Evelia and Balut are two of the bus companies you can use to get from San Salvador de Jujuy to Humahuaca. This will cost around $6. From Humahuaca, follow the directions above!

How to Get to Iruya from Tilcara

Panamericano leaves for Iruya every day at 8 am. Make sure to check the Panamericano booth at the Tilcara Bus Station and purchase your tickets the day before! This costs around $8.

How to Get to Iruya from Purmamarca

From Purmamarca, you may be able to get to Tilcara in time to catch the 8 am bus. Head to the Purmamarca bus terminal the day before to confirm times and buy a ticket that will get you to Tilcara before 7:50 am. This costs around $1. If you don’t want to take an early bus or need to get to Iruya early, you can take the bus to Humahuaca for ~$2, and then take the 10:30 am or 4 pm bus to Iruya.

How to Get to Iruya from Salta

From Salta, you can take the Andesmar bus at 4:10 am that should get to Tilcara at 7:45 am. This costs $13. From there, you can take the Panamericano bus to Iruya at 8 am. Or, you can stay on the first bus until you reach Humahuaca and then take the 10:30 am bus to Iruya.

How to Get to Iruya by Car

The roads to Iruya are very windy, and almost completely gravel. Only the first hour or so from Humahuaca to Iruya is on a paved road. You can definitely do this drive without a 4×4, but you may have to go much slower. Also, if you rent a 4×4, you’ll be able to get to San Isidro without a guide. We recommend renting a car in Salta, and using it to get travel between the Salta/Jujuy towns.

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Keep Exploring the Salta Province…

Our Favorite Travel Resources

Accommodations: We use for hotels and HostelWorld for hostels. We also use VRBO or TrustedHousesitters for longer stays.

Flights: We recommend using Skyscanner to find the cheapest and best flights.

Ground Transport: We use 12Go and Omio for buses and private transfers, and and Discover Cars for rental cars.

Activities: GetYourGuide and Viator are the best websites for booking organized tours.

International Medical Insurance: We highly recommend SafetyWing for Digital Nomads and HeyMondo for those not traveling full-time, or who frequently engage in higher-risk adventure activities.

eSIM: We recommend Airalo or Holafly for getting data internationally.

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