In this third post in my series with Argentina-Excepcion looking at the travel highouts throughout South America, we take a closer look at the Argentine Northwest, from Salta to Catamarca.
The Argentine Northwest is known by some as the Arizona of South America. In the heart of the Andes Mountains, you’ll discover one of the most sublime landscapes in Argentina! Come and take a tour of this astonishing region!
Built in 1582, “Salta la linda” (the lovely Salta) is an Argentine city with some of the best conserved colonial patrimony in the country. The cathedral with its rose façade and the Cabildo with its colonnades and balconies are definitely worth a visit if you’re a keen sighseer.
More active travellers may even want to climb up to the Cerro San Bernardo for an overview of the city; from Salta you can go see some beautiful desert landscapes. Take a car across the Los Cardones National Park, which spreads over 65,000 hectares, where you can see giant cactus and wild llamas – a breathtaking combination unlike anywhere else in the world.
The Calchaquies Valleys
The Calchaquies Valleys are a group of valleys and mountains which follow the famous Route 40 which goes from Salta to Cafayate. There are red mountains with incredible rock formations sculpted by Nature over the years and this region was the land of the Calchaquies Indians, who fought against the Spanish invasions until1667.
Once explored, move on to the Quebrada de las Flechas, which is an astonishing mineral landscape with unusual and strange rock formations. The rocks (which are up to 20 meters high) were transformed by the winds into beautiful peaks in the sky. With the sunlight, the colours change into something like a marvellous impressionist painting.
Finally, Cafayate is undoubtedly a real wonder. This town is famous for its bodegas (vineyards) and for the Torrontés, a grape variety that flourishes in this region. This lovely town has the Cathedral Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which has five naves.
Located in the middle of some amazing mountains like the Quebrada de las Conchas, you’ll never be short of scenery. In fact, there are several natural spectacles with incredible structures like la Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat), El Anfiteatro (the Amphitheatre) and El Obelisco (the obelisk). It’s the highlight of the show!
San Salvador de Jujuy
From the historical city San Salvador de Jujuy, you can discover the surrounding sites like the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a deep valley which is part of the Unesco humanity’s cultural and natural heritage. It has splendid landscapes and a spectacular canyon with multicoloured rocks. Go north to the town of Purmamarca and see the Seven Coloured Mountain, which is a real wonder with beige, red, green, and yellow tones.
Humahuaca is one of the biggest towns in the region, and has many little pretty colonial houses in its cobblestone streets. Then, go back to Purmarca and visit the Salinas Grandes, a salt desert and a jewel of beauty. Just observe the immensity of its huge expanse, which spreads over 12,000 hectares. The view is astonishing and will give you a real change of scenery!
Virgen del Valle Church
San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca is a cultural and touristic centre of the region. You shouldn’t miss passing through the Virgen del Valle Church, which dates from 1694. The Laguna Blanca is a Unesco reserve where the vicuña (llama-like animals used for mowing vegetation) is protected. There, you can observe more than 800 vicuñas. Let yourself be charmed by this huge and rare place, where these creatures frolic freely.
Located at 4,240 metres above sea level, this beautiful site is a mix of lakes, mountains and desert. It would be a shame to miss the flamingos’ colonies which settle in this site from December to March. Finally, the Antofagasta volcano and the Alumbrera volcano are two basalt chimneys known by locals as “Los Negros”. You can climb up it to have a beautiful view over the Antofagasta and Alumbrera lakes and to discover the many birds of the region.
Argentina’s Northwest is a real wonder, and will leave you with an unforgettable experience! Are you ready to go?
Got any other tips on travelling in this area or have a trip booked? Get in touch with a comment below or reach me on Twitter at @GetJaunty.