An unpaved road from Humahuaca to Iruya is the start of the discovery of awesome mountain settings, isolated villages and spectacular off-road trails. Most of the trail is unpaved.
The dirt road that reaches the village, with a speed limit of 20 km/h, is about 50Km long (31 miles). It fords several rivers and goes over a 4000 meter pass. Iruya is reachable daily by local bus from Humahuaca (unless rain makes the road impassable). Iruya is a small town located in the Salta Province of northwestern Argentina, and is the capital of the Iruya Department. The some 50-km-long road is partly paved / unpaved. Few people use it and the area is home to vicuñas. Just before reaching Iruya you will reach a beautiful gorge, rough and barren yet colorful in tinges of red and brown.
After Humahuaca, the road starts paved, but soon turns into a dirt and gravel track. The road is very dry usually, but summer rainstorms can make the road imapssable. The best months to travel in this area are June, July, August, September and October. The route climbs at an elevation of 13,500 feet above the sea level, and then suddenly descends to 9,300 feet to Iruya, just on the limit of the provincial border into Salta.
This is an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities. Don’t forget your camera! Just north of the UNESCO Site of Quebrada de Humahuaca you will find a good reason to leave the main road and take the turn-off to the picturesque village of Iruya. The local people are more reminiscent of Bolivians than of Argentineans with their long, black braids tied together at the end, their short, layered skirts and sombreros, sometimes pimped with a fresh flower.
A sign at the entrance to town warns visitors against:
•taking photographs of the residents without permission
•giving out charitable donations to the residents
•inappropriate dress. No bikinis.