We left Humahuaca with the 9am bus to Iruya. There are 2 different companies that offer the service from Humahuaca. We ended up buying our tickets with whatever company that has an opened ticket office when we tried to buy (as they seem to enjoy letting clients run around to try to find opening hours or just not open when the employee are taking vacations). The drive takes 2h45 and goes up North on the main road until it forks on a dirt road heading right in the mountains. At some point we crossed back in the province of Salta (at 4000m!) before the road start zigzagging all the way down in the valley. If you are afraid of heights you might want to avoid looking outside at that point, as the road is very steep and close to the cliffs. We arrived to Iruya and walked up the hill towards a small hostel/family house that had been recommended to us – Casa de Familia Asunta. The hostel is located on Belgrano street, close to the Mirador of the village… which means you will have a nice little trek up the hill with your bags. Another lady from the bus going to the same hostel even offered me water on my way up… definitely my cardio hasn’t been getting better!
The hostel has many dorms and a few private rooms. It has a large, sunny patio with view on the mountains and a small kitchen to use. The breakfast wasn’t included but we used the opportunity to make ridiculous amount of crepes in the morning. It also has one of the nicest kitchen I’ve seen so far in a hostel – not in terms of how well equipped it is, because it’s not, but all the walls have been covered by travelers with drawings and inspirational quotes. After eating local food for lunch in a small “comedor”, we started exploring the area. There is a 3hrs road that leads to another small village, San Isidro, that can be followed from town and going down beside the creek/cascades. We didn’t make it all the way to the village as we were not fully prepared for a long walk, but we enjoyed viewing all the changes in the colors and shapes of the mountains as we headed further down on the road.
On our second day we headed to the Mirador of the Condors, on the other side of the main bridge in the village. To be honest I am a bit unsure exactly of where the mirador is exactly, but there was many viewpoints on the trail where you can stop and have an incredible view from Iruya and the mountains around. From Iruya, go down towards the bridge (where the buses stop), cross the bridge and keep following the staircase and the main road going uphill. You will eventually go a bit out of the village, cross a gate and keep hiking higher up on a zigzag trail. From the church in Iruya, it takes 1h-1h15 to reach the first really good view point, where we stopped to have lunch and relax in the sun. The guys decided to keep going higher up to explore more, and the others and I stayed behind to chill and hike back down a bit earlier. The guys said they hiked another 2hrs and reached very high elevation (most likely higher than the 4000m point of the road coming from Humahuaca) and could have kept hiking further up if they had had enough time. At this point of my trip, I highly enjoyed taking a 1h nap watching the condors flying in circles over our heads and heading back down to relax in the village. If you feel like it, I definitely recommend doing this trail – with enough time you can really enjoy it and go as far as you feel like!
In case you wonder, there is NO Internet access in the village. That’s totally fine with me, but caused me a bit of trouble as I needed to send a confirmation email for a booking I had in San Pedro de Atacama… anyways, I found the phone number and hopefully will be able to reach them on time. There are a few places in town that have “Internet” signs but don’t be fooled – most of them cancelled their Internet because the signal is so bad it isn’t worth paying so much for the service. I was finally able to access Internet on my last evening (3 pesos for 15min… which it will take you to send one email) That was fine with me – Iruya is like a small oasis of calm and peace when you explore a bit during the day, enjoy good food, relax and finally read through that book you’ve been carrying around for months…
On our last day we relaxed and took the bus back to Humahuaca. There I took the next bus to Purmamarca, as I needed to get back there to catch my bus to Chile the next morning. I had to say goodbye to my travel partners, Stig and Baptiste, after more than 2 weeks together. Lovely as they are, they waited with me at the bus terminal and waived at me until my bus was out of sight. Thanks guys for all the moments shared, I have lived the highlights of my trip by your side!