Cacti and colorful mountains in Argentina’s Northwest
20.04.2019 - 24.04.2019
From Asunción in Paraguay, we took our longest bus trip yet. It took us a full 24 hours to reach Salta in Argentina’s Northwest, including a change in Resistencia. It was not as bad as it sounds though. There are very high-quality buses in South America and it usually pays off to go with the more expensive companies. Our overnight bus to Salta had almost fully reclining seats and lots of leg space.
We spent the Easter weekend in Salta, which has a lot of nice colonial era architecture and some of the most beautiful churches we have seen on this trip. On Easter morning we went to Salta’s cathedral for the mass. The cathedral is especially stunning inside with columns of pink marble and decorated with plenty of gold. We also visited Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña to see the mummies of children sacrificed by Incas in their festive rituals at the peak of Volcán Llullaillaco (6739m).
We did not really come back to Argentina for Salta, but for the Quebrada de Humahuaca. This spectacular canyon starts North of Salta and continues all the way up to the highlands at the Bolivian border. We rented a car in Salta to explore this region and drove up to Tilcara, where we stayed for two nights. The weather in Salta was very cloudy, but Tilcara was already above those clouds at an altitude of almost 2500 meters. For the first time in Argentina, a majority of people in the village were indigenous.
On our first day in the Quebrada, we tortured our rental car by driving a rough gravel road over a 4000 meter pass to the remote village Iruya. This town is surrounded by steep canyon walls in all directions, which makes it quite an impressive sight. It is questionable though weather it was worth the four-hour roundtrip. However, we had a delicious local meal of mote with goat cheese.
The landscape in the Quebrada is filled with colorful mountains and cacti. One of the most spectacular sights is the Serranía del Hornocal, a jagged mountain landscape consisting of many colorful layers. A good gravel road brought us to a lookout at 4300 meters altitude. On our last day in the Quebrada, we hiked around the Cerro de los Siete Colores, right next to the village Purmamarca.
After returning the car in Salta, we stayed for one more night before taking an early bus to Chile. The bus route was incredibly scenic. We passed large salt flats, flamingo-filled lagoons and snow-capped volcanoes above 6000 meters in height. We also saw vicuñas and lamas along the road. At the 4300 meters high Paso de Jama, we left the Argentine territory for the 6th and last time on this trip. In total, we spent 48 days in this beautiful and diverse country and have travelled to every corner, from Ushuaia to Puerto Iguazú.