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  NORTH AND NORTHWEST

 

What to see and how to see it.  This is a land with abundant religious and devotional places. Do not miss them as they are part of northern culture and history and listen to people and their stories. This picturesque part of Argentina is though is not  recommended to be visited during the summer season because of extreme temperatures, rains and possible landslides,  as it will limit the visit to the mountains.  But greens and flowers bring different sights and there are lots of free hotel rooms.  Summer is a time of backpackers (students holidays).   

SALTA, JUJUY AND LA RIOJA

The horse shaped province of Salta,  founded for the third time in 1582,  has a magic of its own. It is the place where Martin Güemes and his gauchos became a national legend.  Salta is one of the biggest provinces in the country and is surrounded by three countries, Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay and six Argentinian provinces,   Jujuy, Formosa, Chaco,  Tucuman, Santiago del Estero and Catamarca.   It is also one of the richest among them  in natural attractions,  offering a wealth of amazing tours,  from the very cold Andes and Puna to the subtropical jungle.   Salta is known as one of the best places in the country for a photo safari.    But you have to know and find out when to be at what time.  There is a list of specialized guides which you will find at the Casa de Salta. They will be able to explain and accompany much better than any specialized guidebook. 

The city of Salta is located between mountains and fertile valleys with pleasant temperatures and sun all the year round.   It has a hospitality of its own and rich cultural inheritance.   Salta has fine colonial buildings and is known as "the beautiful one" , a name coming from  the Aymará word sagta, which means "very pretty".   Visit the plaza 9 de Julio and Horacio Bertero´s shop of silver works of art.The cathedral,  built in 1855,   is ornated with murals and alcoves brought form Spain in the 16th century.  The museum Historico del Norte, once the old city town hall, is now displaying works of sacred art, documents, antique furniture and others.  Another interesting site is the  Casa de Güemes and the splendid 17th century Hernandez, Leguizamon and Arias Rengel residences. Also   San Francisco and San Bernardo Convents.  There is neo colonial architecture, well kept traditions, arts, crafts and documents,   a  lot to see and explore.  And if you happen to be there for carnival you will experience the magic of indigenous people of the region displaying their own art and ancient culture,  indian myths and primitive customs reenacting myths of the great indian tribes.

San Lorenzo is Salta´s posh suburb, began as a summer resort for the traditional families of Salta, 17 ks from the city centre.   A place to stay is  Amaga, owned by Ines Ortiz de Cárdenas, a very special hostess who will make you feel at home at all times.

Puerta del Cielo (Heaven´s door) a 5000 hectare spread that was once part of the Potrero de Uriburu in the hills behind San Lorenzo.  The atmosphere here is special for those  looking for the real thing. Puerta del Cielo´s people will pick you up in Salta and drive you through the mountains to Heaven´s Door. Their truck riding is to appreciate the beautiful landscape.   If you are staying at one of the attractive small hotels in San Lorenzo, they pick you up in the truck.  They offer guided nature tours on fourtrax around San Lorenzo and will teach you all about  flowers and medicinal herbs.

The Tren a las Nubes (Train to the clouds) made history in February 1948,  when it first ran between Salta and Antofagasta. The journey now takes 7 hours reaching San Antonio de los Cobres in a a 22 hours round trip. It used to run only during winter but is now operating also during the summer.  An alternative is the Movi Track luxury passenger truck,   running  to San Antonio de los Cobres but also to other parts of Salta. 

Calchaqui Valleys These valleys are a continuous chain of red mineral mountains and green fields under intense blue sky.  The starting point is Cerrillos on the provincial  Route 33, and the first sight is the Cuesta del Obispo rising 1300 meters in 21 kms. The highest point is Piedra del Molino and that is the entrance to the Los Cardones National Park, where vicuñas and northern huemuls roam freely. In the back ground you can see Mount Cachi and at its feet the town of Cachi,  with its archeological museum and its 18th century church.    From there the road leads to the town of Molinos with a church and an old house that belonged to Isasmendi, the last Spanish Governnor and which is now a hotel.   Molinos most important icon is the Virgen de la Candelaria in the  old church of San Pedro de Nolasco.  Further on is  Quebrada de la Flecha, a   lunar landscape and then Cafayate, the centre of Salta´s wine industry, and  Quebrada de las Conchas with millions of years erosion sculpted in its rocks. 

Angastaco  When traveling the Calchaqui Valley it is mostly ignored by local tourists and is mainly visited by foreigners,  who know what is different and appreciate what is pristine.  The town´s patron Virgin´s day is December 8 and the wine festival is held during the second week of February. A passion play is acted out for Easter,  but do make reservations in time. Angastaco is located 1 km off National Route 40, and a short distance from the interesting  Quebrada de las Flechas.   There is a lonely  old town church and a  neocolonial new town church.  Excursions can be made to Los Colorados and the Quebrada de las Flechas and the winery,  a visit to the local museum and local trademasters.  There is a special place to stay recommended by Tucker in The Buenos Aires Herald who praises the hospitality of the Caña Figueroas running the  provincial Inn.  

Cafayate.  Bonnie Tucker calls it peaceful Cafayate and The Calchaqui Valley´s premiere vineyard town. Cafayate is located near the southern entrance to the scenic Calchaqui Valley, 189 kms from Salta

Tafi  (beautiful in quechua dialect) del Valle and its prehispanic Quilmes  indian citadel.  Tafi has been chosen by residents of San Miguel de Tucuman as their summer resort. It is located 107 kms from the capital city. There are remains of the Tafi culture such as menhirs and ruins of Indian settlements that can be seen form the road leading to Abra del Infernillo, one of the four canyons which connect the valley with the rest of the world and vestiges of the old Jesuit presence in the valley.  In Tafi you can visit the Museo Historico, La Banda chapel, the main house of the Estancia Los Cuartos, both on the way to Tafi.  

Bodega La Rosa the winery,  was founded in the late 19th century, a member of the Michel Torino Winery Group, recently purchased by Bodegas y Viñedos Andinos.  They  are offering well explained winery tours  and have just refurbished five of its old guest rooms offering lodging  in this special environment. The knowledgeable people at the inn will give all details what is best to see round there.   It is located 189 kms from Salta city, 125 kms from Tafi del Valle and 24 kms from San Carlos, one of the oldest towns in the Argentine northwest.

Humahuaca´s  main attraction is the market place, the shops selling sacred and profane art, the Museo del Carnaval Norteño the statue of San Francisco Solano, the museum of Ramoneda.

Iruya is passing the Salta Jujuy border at 4000 mts above sea level,  the road goes descending until raching Iruya at a little above 2000 mts, a cluster of houses against the rocks and the light blue dome of the church. This town was built by the Spaniards about 1700. It is not easily reachable;  but the experience is worthwhile.     

Purmamarca the beautiful "7 coloured mountain"  Cerro de los Siete colores. Purmamarca´s  church is devoted to Santa Rosa, (construction started in 1648 and finished in 1779!) and there is a  1000 year old carob tree over the square. 

 

Tilcara (7000 people - 84 kms to San Salvador de Jujuy)  and its reconstructed ruins of  Pucara (hill fort)  2460 m above sea level;  30ºC in January, -4ºJuly,  average  18ºC to 20ºC.  Dry.  141 mm annual rain from November through March.  Tilcara lies in  the Humahuaca Valley with a beautiful view of the Quebrada.   Don´t miss the museum, the market place, folk music and artists and artisans dwellings.  200 kms south Tilcara the landscape will change abruptly you will be entering into the Parque Nacional Calilegua, where  biking tours have just been introduced with environmental awareness intentions.  You can visit the park either trekking or on horseback. Calilegua is situated in Ledesma and has an extension of 76.396 hectares -  between 500 and 3000 mts above sea level and  a great  variety of vegetation as well as fauna.   It was created in 1979 to preserve the yungas.    

La Rioja  There is  message of the past in the language of fossils in the rocky formations of Talampaya,  named a Natural Heritage of the World,   located  south of the province of La Rioja.  The recently "re-discovered" Corona del Inca lake 5530 above sea level (higher than Titicaca in Bolivia)  is a vulcano crater of 5km of diameter recently added to La Rioja most precious tourist sites.  It alll looks this is the highest navigable lake in the world, though it is still being researched. Corona del Inca is at the foot of the Piscis mountain and approximately 520 kms from the capital of La Rioja. Trying to get there is pure adventure. Best time to visit November and not later than April. Snow will make the road inaccessible.  This adventure type tourism will soon be opened  officially, but will be subjected to strict controls.  It is a 7 hours ride and you have to be there with the first lights of day.  Scientific research has started to find out whether there is  life in the lake.  One of the present challenges of Argentine Tourist Board  is finding out whether  Piscis (6882mt)  is actually higher than Aconcagua (6959). A real challenge. 

San Juan.  Ischigualasto´s unique and mysterious rock  formations,  bordering La Rioja province,  are paleonthologists paradise.   Full details will be included soon. 

 

 

 

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