Iruya is a small town at an elevation of 2.790m (9,153ft) above the sea level, located in the Iruya Department of Salta Province in Argentina.
Set high in the northwestern part of the country, the drive to the town is not for the sissies. It comprises the unpaved RP133 and RP13 roads, straddling Jujuy and Salta provinces. The area offers awesome mountain settings, isolated villages and spectacular off-road trails. 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.
Starting at the paved RN9, north of Humahuaca, the road to the picturesque village is 47.4 km (29.45 miles) long. It’s a difficult drive, with countless curves and hairpin turns, dangerous drop offs with very narrow parts, fording many rivers and climbing up to Abra del Cóndor, a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.942m (12,933ft) above the sea level. 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. The road is very dry usually, but summer rainstorms can make it impassable. The best months to travel in this area are June, July, August, September and October.
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.