Cow and calf
On the trail
Herding cattle in the Andes
One of the Gauchos
Cattle herd
Riding in Argentina
A birds eye view
Cacti on the mountains
On the mountains
Riding in the Andes
Inca Trail cattle drive
Riding on sand dunes
Steep hills

Head to the high Andes mountains in north west Argentina and join the gauchos on one of the few remaining authentic cattle drives left in the world. You'll be herding cattle the way it was done in colonial times, riding along perfectly preserved Inca trails and driving cattle to ancient corrals. You'll assist in sorting, branding and doctoring the cattle. This destination involves lots of teamwork and adrenaline, taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The trail will take you to areas only accessible by horseback where you'll ride among impressive landscapes; tropical forests with crystal clear streams in the Lerma Valley, the Calchaquí desert with its multicoloured mountains and the Cafayate Creek and its water and wind-eroded hills. 

You'll be joining a small group of experienced riders, who all want to experience the authentic, essential and unspoilt life of the gaucho and cattle drives in the Andes. You will be required to ride your horse off track in steep mountain terrain on this unique adventure that runs just once a year. You'll travel up to altitudes of 3000 mts. (9000 feet) where the forest changes to high altitude grassland visiting the homeland of the Andean condor. As the sun sets, the spectacular stars of the southern hemisphere will cover the sky while you relax at camp enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and warming campfire.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from RW of Tiverton on 09/05/2022

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Exactly what I was looking for - an authentic gaucho cattle drive
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
This is not a holiday in the normal sense - no 5 star hotel - but for those who want a genuine drive perfect
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Again these a superbly talented gaucho horses trained for a job they do well



Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
Please give more details to explain your response:
This is not a holiday in the normal sense - no 5 star hotel - but for those who want a genuine drive perfect
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
This is a genuine gaucho cattle drove on difficult terrain - to be at least 7
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your ride comments, we're glad you enjoyed a truly authentic cattle drive in a spectacular location.
Day 1 
Arrive Buenos Aires and take a short internal flight to Salta. Arrive any time before 4pm to be picked up from the airport. You will visit the MAAM (Museum of High Altitude Archaeology). This museum has been recently opened and shows the items found at an Inca human sacrifice site on top of the Llullaillaco volcano (6730 mts - 18000 ft. high). It holds some of the best preserved mummies in the world. Check in at a boutique hotel and enjoy a welcome dinner with your guide.

Day 2
After breakfast, you'll be driven to meet the horses. The drive takes you along the Cuesta del Obispo and its breathtaking views across the Cardones National Park where you can usually spot guanacos (Andean camelidae). You'll reach Peñas Blancas (2750 metres high) where you can meet the horses and gauchos and have lunch. In the afternoon you'll ride through the valley and look for the cattle spread all around. On the way you can see small houses made with mud and archeological remains of ancient settlements. You'll stop to see the ancient pictographs painted by local Indians centuries ago and will also visit Isonza, a working ranch with its ancient way of life still intact. You'll also visit Leuca Burgos who makes goat cheese and will observe the way they milk the goats, make cheese and grow their crops. This process is centuries old and inherited from Inca times. On the way there are herds of wild donkeys set free by the Spanish Conquistadors. Night at camp at Estancia Peñas Blancas (cabin rooms with bunk beds, shared bathroom with running water but no shower).

Day 3
After breakfast, you'll get ready to ride. The whole day will be dedicated to screening the area and rounding up cattle. The ride takes us west at the beginning until we reach the very steep Chilo slopes which divide two valleys. The view is magnificent and we'll stop for lunch on the way. By sunset we should be able to arrive at the corrals with not one cow left behind. Night at Estancia Peñas Blancas. 

Day 4
The corrals you will be working in were built in mud over 200 years ago and have been used ever since.  Get ready to start sorting and branding each of the cows and calfs. Today will involve a lot of work and adrenaline while the local Food and Drug Administration officers check the health of the herd. It is now time for the gauchos and horses to blend together in a reining exhibition which has made them world famous. You can just decide to relax and watch or get into the corral and join the gauchos! Night in Estancia Peñas Blancas.

Day 5
After breakfast the group will finish whatever work is left from the day before. After that you will drive the cattle that will be delivered to the market. It is a drive to Ovejería where the cattle truck will arrive to load the cattle. Horseback ride back to Peñas Blancas to spend the night.

Day 6
Today is a full day cattle drive to Amblayo where the cattle will be delivered to the market. The riding today is mainly South along the valley. We will go past Yaslaguala. The giant cactii are all over and set the stage. We arrive to Amblayo town (2400 metres high) where we will spend the night. It has only 150 dwellers and its main means of transportation is on horseback. It is renowned for its goat cheese. Sense the feeling of arriving on horseback to this tiny town with almost no cars! An unforgettable experience. To get there we will ride first through archaeological areas where you can see pieces of painted pottery scattered around. We have a look with agreement not to remove any of the findings. Night at Amblayo. Rooms with beds, bathroom with hot water.

Day 7
After breakfast enjoy this picturesque town. Visit its ancient chapel and its 17th century paintings brought from Peru, have a chat with its neighbours. After lunch we ride to the foothills of the Sierra Pelada. These multicoloured hills are unique. We will also ride the Río Salado which is a great place for cantering! Night at Amblayo. Traditional goat barbecue at dinner.

Day 8
High Altitude Wineries – Salta city: After breakfast, drive to Cachi. This area is known for its high altitude vineyards (between 2000 to 2500 metres high). It has just 1% of all vineyards in Argentina but gets 10% of total investments meaning the wine produced in this region is of a very high quality. So to complete your Argentinean experience you'll take part in a private visit to a local winery to taste some of their best wines. Enjoy a final lunch before the 3 hours transfer to Salta city.

Check into boutique hotel. Dinner not included.

Day 9
Departure day from Salta. After breakfast, it's time to check out of the hotel and transfer back to the airport.

Optional additional nights
You can easily add up to 3 additional (non-riding) days onto this programme . Activities for the additional nights are:

Salta city tour: We walk and drive the city with a guide. Its colony buildings bring to life the way the city was at the time of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Quebrada de Humahuaca: Trip to Humahuaca Creek. Walk the ancient indian fortress in Tilcara. We reach Purmamarca and the 7 Colors Hill. Lunch. See a few of the small and picturesque towns along the creek.

Cafayate and its wineries: The road to Cafayate shows us very curious rock shapes (the amphitheater, the toad, the Titanic, etc.). In Cafayate we will visit the world renowned vineyards and wineries for wine tasting. The Torrontés variety is regarded as best in class and exported all over the world.

Small group supplement
A small group supplement is applied if the total number of bookings (including yours) reaches less than 6 riders. This is fully refundable before departure once more people book the holiday.


Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

Fit and responsive horses all in good condition, from 15hh to 15.3hh. Horses are ridden in the traditional style, which is similar to Western riding with neck reining and long stirrups. Instruction is given on first day for those not familiar with this style, it is very easy to learn and quite addictive. Terrain varies from mountainous to desert and the speed of the ride reflects the terrain and is mostly at a walk on the slopes of the Andes. There are plenty of opportunities for those who like to canter or even have a good gallop on the more open bits of terrain.

Rider requirements

This ride is suitable for riders who are able to walk, trot and canter on a good horse. There is usually 6 hours and more in the saddle on riding days, so a good level of riding fitness is recommended. A head for heights and a sense of adventure is recommended for the mountainous riding and basic accommodation during the drive.

Due to the length of riding days this ride is not recommended for children under the age of 10 and there is a weight limit of 95kg/15 stone. There is no need to walk next to your horse and assistance can be given when mounting and dismounting as long as you are a solid rider.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Six nights in basic mountain cabins (shared 'dorm-style' rooms with up to 6 bunkbeds in each room), there are no showers available in the cabins, there is only a toilet and cold water available for washing. Please be aware that there is no heating in the cabins.

There are two nights at a boutique hotel in Salta with private bathroom.

Breakfasts consist of a choice of hot drink, toast and preserves. When available eggs and fresh fruit will also be offered. Lunches: these are usually in the form of a picnic with bread, salads and cheese. Dinners: traditional homely dishes with a complimentary glass of wine.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

General information:

At the time of going to print visas are not required for UK passport holders staying under 90 days, but please check before you depart.
In Argentina the high commissioner is Dr Luis Agote, 2412/52, 1425 Buenos Aires. Tel: +54 11 4576 2222, and is usually open 12.45 –17.00, hours extended during the Summer months (Jan –March).

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 020 7008 0232/0233 or see

Climate Summary

The cattle drive takes place in the Calchaquí Valleys which are desertic and at an altitude around 2600 m high. So expect sunny and nice days with temperatures dropping significantly at night. The rainy season is from December to March.

Climate Chart


There are no specific health requirements although do remember sun block.

For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at

Health (ride specific)

Sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended. Remember it is easy to burn at high altitudes even in weather which is not sunny.


Electricity: 220V, 50Hz as in the UK so electrical appliances can be plugged in with appropriate adaptors. These are widely available for purchase, including at departure airports throughout the UK.

Film and Camera Equipment

In Salta and Buenos Aires you are likely to be able to stock up on camera or phone necessities. During the first 4 days of the ride you will have 12 V DC provided by solar panels which is appropriate to recharge phones and some batteries. On the last two nights full 220 V AC electricity will be available.

Packing List

During the ride it is much better to keep your personal clothing and items light! Normally, you only use half of what you take. As these are pack trips saddlebags are provided to place your personal items that you need while on the ride and your main luggage will be transported via truck.

Clothing and Luggage
• Two changes of clothes: loose trousers, long sleeve shirts which protect better from the sun than t-shirts. For the cold weather it is better to carry along a few thin warm clothes (t-shirts, undershirts, etc) than only one thick garment. Polar sweaters do well both in summer and winter
• Warm undershirt and underpants
• Waterproof jacket and/or poncho
• Hat (not a cap) and riding helmet
• Neckerchief
• Gloves (optional)
• Trekking shoes or riding boots
• Half chaps
• Sneakers (the ones that can get wet)
• Rain cape

• Personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush, tooth paste, etc, in small packaging
• Small towel
• Larger towel
• Wet wipes (optional)

• Personal medicine
• Sunscreen
• Insect repellent (optional)
• Sunglasses
• Prescription glasses or contact lenses
• Water bottle

• Binoculars (optional)
• Camera and/or video camera and spare batteries
• Sleeping bag (optional, available to rent onsite at extra cost, sheets and blankets provided)

• Medical and accident insurance details
• Photocopy of documents


This is a 9 day/8 night/6 days riding programme on one set departure a year.

Departure Dates

2022: 30 Apr; 1 Oct
2023: 29 Apr; 30 Sept

No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.

Single supplement is for a single room when staying in a hotel (2 nights). No single rooms are available while on the trail.

No of   
Riding days Product item description £
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp1,695
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only95
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-5169
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-3369
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp1,695
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only95
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-5169
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-3369
No of   
Riding days Product item description
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp1,889
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only105
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-5189
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-3415
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp1,889
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only105
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-5189
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-3415
No of   
Riding days Product item description $
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp1,789
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only99
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-5179
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-3389
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp1,789
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only99
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-5179
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-3389
No of   
Riding days Product item description SEK
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp20,709
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only1,159
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-52,085
2022 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-34,515
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6double pp20,709
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6single supplement; hotel nights only1,159
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 4-52,085
2023 - 8 nights9d/8n6supplement for group of 2-34,515
Recommended Reading

Reading List

We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

Rough Guide to Argentina - 2nd Edition - Danny Aeberhard

On A Hoof And A Prayer: Around Argentina At A Gallop  - Polly Evans

Footprint Argentina Handbook - Christabelle Dilks

Other Activities

There are plenty of other activities available in this beautiful area. We can arrange for white water rafting, rappel, trekking in the Andes or Four Trax (2 hrs). A Salta city tour and winery tours are also recommended if you have the time.


Condors are regularly seen on the trail as well as the typical wild and tame llama and alpacas. Eagles, foxes, hares, armadilllos and chinchillas also live in the area. The largest predator in the area is the puma who is rarely seen as cats move around only at night.

Other Country Information

Argentina is the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil (almost all the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia could fit inside Argentina's land mass). The country is diverse and includes rain forest in the north, vast areas of fertile farming land in the centre, the Andean mountain range to the west and the desolate plains of Patagonia in the south, leading down to glaciers at the southern tip. Argentina has the world's southernmost city (Ushaia).

Despite Argentina's recent economic woes, its pleasures - stunning natural wonders, an elegant capital and a passionate culture - are still as tempting as ever. Argentina has a distinctly European feel, Argentinians are much more European in temperament that their South American neighbours but their Latin spirit is still evident such as in their love of football and in the tempestuous dance of the Tango.

Argentina is three hours behind GMT. Remember in the summer the UK is one hour ahead of GMT and daylight savings is not in use in Argentina. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +54.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Salta Airport (SLA), Argentina
2022: Included from Salta airport or city centre.
Flight Guide:
London - Buenos Aires return from £700-£1,000. Buenos Aires to Salta flight from £250.
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