near Tilcara


matt 120pxFrom Salta, it’s a 7-hour drive to the Bolivian border. Rather than do the bus ride and border crossing all in one go, we decided to take our time. I mean that’s what this trip is all about right- taking our time, exploring, staying in places longer if we like them. Salta gave us a taste of NW Argentina and we liked it. Unlike most of Argentina, the northwest is most populated with indigenous or mixed people. In fact, I read that 30% speak Quechua. Regardless of race, NW Argentines seem friendlier and seem to live at a slower pace. Things seemed more genuine to some extent. We decided to take our time going northwards.





            We stopped in the tiny town of Tilcara about halfway up the nationally-famous Quebrada de Humahuaca. The valley is famous for its dramatic geology and multi-hued valley canyon walls. Tilcara is usually only briefly visited by tourists doing day-tours of the quebrada. Aside from the quaint town, people stop by to see the nearby pucara (fortress in Quechua), which dates to pre-Inca times. It’s the smallest place we’ve visited in Argentina and walking up a hill looking for a place to stay reminded me of some of the reasons I like to travel. We walked along a cobblestone path, with adobe buildings on either side and occasionally a stone wall enclosing livestock or crops. The mountains and deep blue sky all around us and nothing to breathe but fresh, clean, high-altitude air. Tilcara was a small place and a simple place, but a nice place. We found a killer room: two big rooms and a huge balcony on the third floor of a guesthouse perched on the hill, with an unbelievable view of the valley. It also happened to be one of the cheapest rooms we’ve had in Argentina. Instead of just one night to break up the journey to the border, we stayed two and relaxed a little.


our balcony overlooking Tilcara

            The fortress was a short walk from town, covering a hill that is now covered in cacti. Thousands of cacti which make for an interesting sight as one approaches the hill. The ruins are on pre-Inca origin, although I forget the civilization and dates. Many of the buildings have been fully restored by teams from the University of Buenos Aires, but the entire hill was still covered by the stone foundations and just the bases of walls. I found it ironic that the ruins of the hundreds-of-years-old walls were still around, while people in Tilcara were building things with adobe and would surely be gone within a decade or two. Anyways, the “fortress” wasn’t too impressive, but it was somewhat interesting to see and walk around. The best part was actually the views of the valley, especially the red valley walls for which Tilcara is known.


hill of giant cacti and ruins

            Tilcara was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. We didn’t do too much, but it was a beautiful place to spend a slow and pleasant day and a half.


Office with signs indicating the dates and times different types of doctors will swing through town.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>