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.