Iruya, North of Argentina 101
Iruya, North of Argentina, is a magical gem of a town. Located in the province of Salta, though the only way in and out of town is along a dirt road from the neighboring province of Jujuy. Most people come to Iruya after first passing through the Jujeño town of Humahuaca, which is about 3 hours away.
The road from Humahuaca to Iruya is unpaved, bumpy, and incredibly curvy as you wind your way down the mountainside and into the valley. Bring some Dramamine with you if you have a tendency towards carsickness, and choose a seat in the front of the bus. It helped me quite a bit.
The town of Iruya has a population of just over 3000 inhabitants and sits at 2780 meters (9120 feet) above sea level.
The landscape surrounding Iruya is one to sit and admire. It’s totally unique and drastically different from the mountains I got accustomed to in the Jujuy province. The main activities in Iruya are eating, walking around town, and catching the views from the miradores.
Lookout Spots in Iruya, North of Argentina
In this precious town there are a multitude of great lookout spots for every level of traveler. Here are my recommendations.
IRUYAS’ MIRADOR DE LA CRUZ:
This is the easiest lookout to get to. It sits just above the city center. If you follow the Calle San Martin up and around, you’ll arrive in just 15 minutes. From there you have a fantastic view overlooking the town of Iruya and the surrounding mountains. You can also take a look across the river and up the mountain where another mirador sits: Mirador del Condor.
GOING UP: 10-15 minutes
GOING DOWN: 10 minutes
LEVEL: Easy (just a little steep)
IRUYAS’ MIRADOR DEL CONDOR:
I was told it is best to reach this lookout around 3-4 in the afternoon because that is when the condors fly around the area. I reached the top around 1:30pm and didn’t see any condors, so there could be truth to that. The route up is quite steep, and as everyone will tell you, go slowly, one step at a time. Heed that advice. It would be almost impossible to go very fast at all. Once you reach the top though, it’s very worth it. You can see the road in and out of town, the road that leads to San Isidro, and the entire town of Iruya down below.
GOING UP: 60 minutes (most people told me 90 minutes, so depends on pace)
GOING DOWN: 30 minutes
MIRADOR DE IRUYA:
This must be Google Maps taking the piss. There is literally nothing here. The ‘mirador de Iruya’ marked on Google Maps is in reality just a random spot along the road where a few houses are. There is nothing special here. Don’t waste your time.
GOING UP: 15 minutes
GOING DOWN: 15 minutes
MIRADOR DE SAN ISIDRO:
This lookout point is about 6.5 km to the north of Iruya. Follow the road out of town (on the opposite end of where you entered/bus terminal), cross a small river that falls down the edge of a cliff, and keep going. There is only one road so you won’t get lost. The path zig zags back and forth several times as you go along, so be prepared to jump over some stones as you cross the river. When you reach the town of San Isidro, you’ll see a sign welcoming you and then you’ll go up several stairs. Once you get to the top of the stairs, it feels like the lookout should be right there. But it isn’t. Go left at the top of the stairs, and keep following the path left. It will zig zag a few more times until you reach a cemetery at the very peak. Follow the path around to soak in the views before heading back the same way you came up. I suggest stopping at the small restaurant just at the top of the stairs to get some empanadas. It’s family owned and you can sit in the sun while enjoying the amazing view.
The path is mostly flight with just a slight incline the whole way, but the last 20 minutes before reaching San Isidro it definitely gets a bit steeper. The entire way the path is a dirt road, many small rocks, and expect to balance your way across the larger rocks when crossing the river many times.
GETTING THERE: 2.5 hours
GETTING BACK: 2 hours
Food in Iruya, North of Argentina
After adventuring around town, I strongly suggest making a stop for lunch at Cafe Resto Iruya. The views are incredible. The owner, Greta, is a kind and open person who makes fresh dishes full of love. They close early in the winter because it gets cold and the only tables are outside on the patio. But for breakfast, lunch, and merienda, this place is the absolute best!
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