Monday, April 30, 2012
Yesterday we drove from Tucumán north about 4 1/2 hours to the town of Tilcara, which is about 40-50 miles south of the northern border of Argentina and Bolivia, and about an hour by car north of the city of Jujuy, which is the northernmost point in Argentina that you can fly into. Since this is a 4-day weekend, we had no choice but to stay one night in a hostel in Ticara. Our friends know the area well, and they booked a cabin for us with enough beds for our party of 9. We got several dozen empanadas at a local restaurant (Los Puestos), some wine and cheese at the only supermarket in town (very small and very rustic I might add), and had a great dinner in the kitchen of our very rustic cabin. Like most places in Argentina, it had free WiFi, and so after dinner we looked at the crystal clear night sky with the help of "Star Walk," an iPad app that let's you identify anything you happen to look at in the night sky. The Milky Way was the star attraction. (Tonight we saw the Southern Cross.)
Tilcara (elevation 8,000 ft) is located in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which is a huge area of massive valleys with hundreds of miles of spectacular scenery and very few people. It's high, arid country, but it receives enough rainfall occasionally to cause significant erosion of the sedimentary rock which then displays an incredible variety of colors. All of the photos in this post were taken in Purmamarca, which is just 10 miles south of Tilcara. Tilcara is the more established town, but Purmamarca has the more spectacular views. The shot above is the approach to the town, which lies at the foot of multi-colored mountains that are breath-taking.
Most tourists don't see this view, since you have to skirt around the edge of the town and go up a narrow dirt road for a mile or two. The variety and intensity of the colors are something to behold.
Another shot of the back country, taken from higher up.
And yet another shot, to put it into better context.
Here we are sitting at a spot that overlooks the town of Purmamarca. The mountains on the left display a subtle but wide range of color. Recent rainfall has given the mountains in the distance a hint of green.
Adjacent to the town is the hotel "Manantiales del Silencio," which is undoubtedly the classiest and most luxurious of all the hotels in the region. We had a fantastic lunch there, and then relaxed in the gardens out back, which enjoy views such as you see above. This hotel was the choice of Prince William of Holland and his wife, Princess Maxima (Argentina's most favorite homegrown celebrity) when they came to the area not too long ago. A room for two is pricey by the standards of the region, but costs only about $200 a night, including breakfast. (We tried to get a room but their 12 rooms were booked solid.) There were a number of very nice-looking hotels that we saw in and around Tilcara, and I imagine you can get a great room for around $100. Tilcara also has a surprising number of nice-looking, small, and very charming hotels and restaurants.
The photo was taken about 15 miles west of Purmamarca, just off the highway that goes to the Paso Jama that leads to Northern Chile.
It's difficult to capture the beauty of some features of the landscape. The mountain in the background of the above photo almost looks like it were made of a golden brown ceramic. Note the hints of purple in the middle area. My point with all these shots is to emphasize the highly unusual, colorful, and varied nature of this unique part of the world. You could spend an entire week exploring. The accommodations are very nice and very reasonably priced, the food is very good, and the people are very friendly. I was surprised that we didn't run across a single American tourist either yesterday or today. Most of the tourists are young Argentines. I'm told that it is best to avoid the summer months (Jan-Mar) because the youth population reaches disturbing proportions. Winter months can be cold (tonight it's about 38-40º outside), but the sky is almost always bright blue.
Posted by Scott Grannis at 9:55 PM