A word on the history
As you might expect, historical sites in northern Argentina related to the War of Independence 200 years ago are well-preserved and promoted. As Argentines come to value their indigenous culture, pre-Hispanic sites (including Argentina's Inca Trail) are also now much better conserved, and often curated by descendants of the original tribes themselves. All these sites are set against the backdrop of some of the most mesmerisingly beautiful landscapes imaginable.
Below are two possible tours, but we are always happy to create a bespoke itinerary designed around your interests.
Classic History Tourmin 5 days
We head north from Salta to San Salvador de Jujuy, following the old mountain road between these two historic cities, before climbing into the spectacular multi-coloured canyon of the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
We are now following the old Spanish supply route up to Cuzco and Lima: as well as pre-Inca ruins in Tilcara, this road is peppered with old colonial churches, including Uquia’s San Francisco which has some rare and startling artwork. A Spanish fort at Hornillos has been converted into a museum dedicated to the War of Independence, much of which was fought up and down the Quebrada de Humahuaca two centuries ago.
The role of the indigenous natives in the War of Independence is commemorated in the town of Humahuaca by a rather Mussolini-esque monument commissioned by Peron, but as we head north we’ll see that the struggle continues. We climb above 3,000m altitude into the mountain plateau, past the swirly limestone landscape of Tres Cruces and on to the historic town of Yavi, close to the border with Bolivia.
This tiny town houses a jewel of a church famous for its onyx windows, and a manor house which was once home to a Spanish marquess who bought and plundered swathes of what is now North West Argentina and southern Bolivia. We can visit the frontier town of La Quiaca, bustling with cross-border trade, on the way to Santa Catalina, an old colonial adobe town and then to the high altitude lagoon of Pozuelos, home to hundreds of pink flamingoes, as well as gulls, ducks and vicuña.
Next we head east across the 4,000m Abra del Condor mountain pass to arrive in the beautiful mountain town of Iruya, a perfect place for extending the trip with some hiking into the hills, before returning to Salta via the tobacco and sugar fields.
This trip can be combined with EXPEDITION TO THE CLOUD FOREST or MOUNTAIN TREKKING IN IRUYA
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min 6 days
Footsteps of the Conquistadores
We leave the rolling green tobacco fields of the Valle de Lerma to climb in altitude into the colourful Quebrada del Toro, heading for the mountain plateau, and glimpsing snow-topped mountains, some of which are among the highest in Argentina, rising to more than 6,000m above sea level. We will stop at Santa Rosa de Tastil to visit the pre-Inca ruins: and tell you the mysterious story of what happened to the tribe of 3,000 people who lived here. Overnight in San Antonio de los Cobres: a former mining town re-invigorated by tourism and the Train to the Clouds.
The next two days are along unmade road well off the usually-trodden tourist track. We are now on the old Spanish mining route, following Route 40, which links Argentina from north to the south along more than 5,000km. First we head to the famous viaduct of La Polvorilla where the Train to the Clouds ends its journey, and continue through fields scattered with basalt and pumice stone to Tuzgle volcano. We travel through some breathtaking mountain plateau scenery up to the old adobe Spanish settlement of Santa Catalina at 3,800m altitude. We can visit Laguna de los Pozuelos, home to flocks of pink flamingoes, and the border town of La Quiaca on the Bolivian frontier, before reaching Yavi, with its 17th century church, old colonial house and extraordinary history.
From here we follow the old Spanish trade route from Lima to Buenos Aires, travelling down the valley of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, an area rich in history. Highlights include the immense multi-coloured rockscape, pre-Inca ruins, old colonial churches and a Spanish fort now converted into a museum dedicated to the War of Independence. We will visit the famous Seven Coloured Hill at Purmamarca, climbing to a superb viewpoint which takes us away from the day-tripper crowds. Finally, we'll return to Salta via the mountain road, a taste of the verdant sub-tropical forest to the east of the Andes mountain range.
This trip can be combined with WINE & MOUNTAINS for a 10 day exploration of the whole Altiplano
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