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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Humahuaca


Humahuaca is a small town in the north of Argentina not far from the Bolivian border. The town has a strong indigenous feel to it and the population is mostly Quechua speaking. The town is surrounded by amazing Andean scenery. You don’t have to walk for very long to be literally in the middle-of-nowhere, amongst the surreal moonscapes of high altitude rock faces.

It only takes an hour or so to take in the sights of the town. In the town center there is a town hall with a clock tower. At noon every day a life size figure of Saint Francisco Solano emerges from the clock tower and makes the sign of the cross. On the main plaza there is an impressive monument to Argentine Independence and opposite is the beautiful Iglesia de la Candelaria.

The real reason to visit Humahuaca and the reason why Humahuaca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the surrounding area and villages. Nearby is the beautiful village of Purmamarca which has a rock face with stratas of seven different colors. Also nearby is the remote village of Iruya that seems untouched by time. And there are the pre-Colombian ruins of Coctaca to visit.

Humahuaca is a good place to start horse trekking tours of the area. Or if you prefer to walk then it is easy to find a company offering guided treks of the area.

Cheap accommodation is limited in Humahuaca. The population seems keen to cash in on the small trickle of tourists the town attracts. One of the cheaper and better places to stay is Hostal Humahuaca. The hostel has dorms and private accommodation. The dorm beds are $9.50 per night. This price includes breakfast. The Hostal Humahuaca’s website claims that they have a guest use kitchen. When I visited that wasn’t the case.

Hostal Humahuaca is not affiliated to any booking engine. To contact the hostel directly you can visit their website: www.humahuaca.com.ar.

For more information on Humahuaca click the link

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tilcara

Tilcara is a beautiful small cobbled street town in the Argentine Andes near the border with Bolivia. It is a picturesque and tranquil spot to stay for a few days. The main historical point of interest in Tilcara is the impressive ancient ruins called El Pucara. It is a fort build on a hill side for defensive reasons. The lower parts of the walls have been carefully restored to give you a good idea of the advanced architecture used by the indigenous people of the region. The entrance fee is very reasonable and the ticket includes entry to the neighbouring botanical gardens and the archaeological museum in town.

Also of interest is the Museo Jose Antonio Terry which features paintings by the Buenos Aires-born eponymous painter. Also featured are pieces by local artists.

In August, Tilcara holds a big Pachamama Festival where people where animal masks and party all night and all day. Tilcara like Amaicha del Valle and other northern towns in Argentina has a strong indigenous presence and seems more allied with Bolivian culture than Buenos Aires culture. In the evening around the central plaza you can see live musica folklorica featuring pan pipes, guitars and other local instruments.

Tilcara is a friendly and laid back place that is generally safe to walk around at night.

The surrounding countryside is breathtaking. There are a number of walks you can do, including the one hour hike to Garganta del Diablo, which is a narrow gorge with a waterfall.

Accommodation in Tilcara is plentiful. It ranges from expensive hotels to basic hostels to camping. Recommended is La Albahaca Hostel run by a local family. There are dorms and private rooms with and without en suite bathrooms on offer. The family is very friendly and lets you use their kitchen. There’s a small bar and a roof top terrace to look at the piercing bright stars at night.

The bus station is just a short walk from the central plaza and La Albahaca Hostel. El Pucara is signposted. The path for El Pucara starts up the hill just past La Albahaca Hostel.