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Northern Argentina's Less Traveled Paths

Pampas, quebradas, a Train to the Clouds, and history

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Cerro 7 Colores Salta Argentina

Cerro 7 Colores Salta Argentina

Peter and Jackie Main

Take time to explore northwestern Argentina's less traveled paths and discover how much you'll enjoy your travels in Argentina!

Many visitors to Argentina tour Buenos Aires, Tierra del Fuego, Iguazu Falls, the great national park of Nahuel Huapi, and go home, thinking they've seen it all.

Far from it! Easily reached by air from Buenos Aires, by bus from Argentine cities and from Bolivia and Peru, the Andean Northwest provinces of Jujuy and Salta have much to offer. Historically, the way through these provinces has been the route ancient Indian tribes, Spanish conquistadores and soldiers of the wars of independence used from the mountains to the sea.

This area witnessed the beginnings of permanent agricultural civilization in Argentina, by several tribes, including the Diaguita who successfully kept the Inca empire from spreading over the Andes into the pampas of Argentina. Before the coastal areas were developed by the Spaniards, this was the most heavily populated region of what is now modern Argentina. The passes through the Andes were well used by local traders. You might find some of their ancient routes as major highways now in this map of "South America, Western, The Andes" (direct buy).

The area is still heavily Indian, with buildings, customs and religion a mix of Indian and Catholic beliefs. The landscape is generally dry, scoured by earthquakes and the violent windstorms known as pamperos, but there are pockets of vegetation and fertile valleys.

Salta, the capital of the province of Salta, is a colonial city, and around the central plaza, well preserved colonial buildings, such as the Cabildo, or City Hall, now a museum, San Francisco Church and San Bernardo Convent are well worth a visit. Consult this list of hotels in Salta for for availability, rates, amenities, location, activities and other specific information.

Other attractions around Salta:

  • The Cathedral of Salta, with the 16th century statues of the Virgin Mary and the Cristo del Milagro. Washed ashore in Peru after the ship from Spain sank, the statues were brought to Salta with the Franciscan monks. They are credited with stopping a 1692 earthquake in mid-tremor when they were carried through the streets.
  • Although it is no longer running, the El Tren a las Nubes, the Train to the Clouds, from Salta to San Antonio de los Cobres reminds us of the engineering skills it took to create the lkine. The railroad span crossisng a desert canyon, the Viaducto La Polvorilla at 13000 ft (4000 m), is an engineering marvel. San Antonio was a stop on the old route for drovers and miners of Chile, now fading away as modern transportation supplanted pack animals.
  • Cafayate enjoys a good climate for vineyards and is the site of the Quebrada de Cafayate where forested land changes to barren sandstone canyon.
  • Parque Nacional de Calilegua is a surprise in the altiplano. Here subtropical cloud forest offers a wide variety of flora and fauna. Birding is popular and the higher you climb Cerro Hermoso, the better the views.
  • Once an Incan village perched high on the slopes of a steep mountain, Iruya clings to its past traditions even as it slowly creeps into the present. For those wanting a step back in time, wildly colorful scenery and a relaxing change from city life, Iruya is the place to go.
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