A trio of the Northwest’s cloudforests, or yungas – areas of dense jungle draped over high crags that thrust out of the flat, green plains of lowlands on either side of the Tropic of Capricorn – are protected by national park status. The microclimates of all three yungas are characterized by clearly distinct dry and wet seasons, winter and summer, but relatively high year-round precipitation. The peaks are often shrouded in cloud and mist, keeping most of the varied plant-life lush even in the drier, cooler months. They are difficult to access, and a visit requires time and planning, but they reward with dramatic scenery, though the incredibly varied fauna that live amid the dense vegetation are perhaps the main attraction.
The biggest of the three, the Parque Nacional Calilegua, is also the most accessible and best developed – it’s the pride and joy of Jujuy Province – and within easy reach of San Salvador de Jujuy. Parque Nacional El Rey, in Salta Province, is much closer to the provincial capital, but its access roads are sometimes impassable after the heavy seasonal rains. Parque Nacional Baritú, away to the north in a far-flung corner of Salta Province, is the hardest to get to, and therefore the least spoilt. The parks are best visited between May and October, as the summer months – December to March or April – can see sudden cloudbursts cut off access roads and make paths much too slippery for comfort. At all times bring insect repellent since mosquitoes and other nasty bugs are plentiful.