I arrived in Tilcara after 20 hours on a bus from Salta, including a bus change in San Salvador de Jujuy. I came here with Dominic, my friend from Buenos Aires that I met up with in Salta – though we travelled on different buses at different times. I arrived alone at night, and some friendly police officers drew me a map on a piece of paper to show me where my hostel was. Even in the dark of night I could feel the charm of this place. I walked up the cobblestone street lined with cobblestone walls and adobe buildings. By the time I reached the hostel I had already come to the conclusion that this town is “absolutely adorable”.
I arrived just in time to have dinner with Dominic, other residents of the Albahaca (basil) Hostel, and it’s employees at their sister hostel on the other side of town (bear in mind that nothing in Tilcara is further than an 8 minute walk away). The dinner was a delightful mix of people, music and traditional dancing. Much of which I managed to capture on video with my camera!
When I woke up the following morning at Albahaca, I made my way from the dark dorm room to the spacious second floor terrace. There, with the light of day illuminating the stunning mountainous desert, I was floored. “I’m done. This is it”. I thought, and possibly even said it out loud. I immediately went downstairs and told Diego, who works at Albahaca hostel that I wanted to extend my stay an extra two nights (at least).
I only planned on 3 nights because I had heard there was not a lot to do in the area, and that it was mainly a town for people passing from Salta to San Pedro, Chile, or to Tupiza, Bolivia, to stop and enjoy the scenery. Maybe there wasn’t a lot to do… But I did not care. I knew this town was special, and I needed to give it more time. Diego helped me extend my reservation and then brought me breakfast made of toast, homemade apple jam, fresh squeezed orange juice, and tea to start my day while I sat in the morning sun on the terrace enamored by the view of the nearby mountains.
I fell in love many times over in Tilcara. First with the scenery, second with the town, third with Picasso, a street dog with paint in her fur, next with a beautiful old house which I have come to call “La Casa” (I will write more about La Casa in one of my next posts). And there may have also been a small romance in Tilcara for me with Diego, the sweetheart working in Albahaca Hostel.
My first photos in this post are from around the city center of Tilcara, and of the stunning mountain vistas.
In Tilcara, just outside of the city center, and across the bridge, is Pucara. Pucara is a partially restored ancient Inca site. This ruin is a Fort on top of a hill allowing the indigenous people to keep an eye on all the land surrounding the area. For Aproximately $5 US you can spend the afternoon exploring this beautiful fort and learning about the natives with a stunning background of cacti and colorful mountains.
Cerro De La Cruz
Just past the bridge, before you reach the ruins of Pucara, you can enter the path to climb Cerro De La Cruz. The hill is an intense walk, practically straight up the foothill on a path of mobile rocks. This is not to discourage anyone from doing this hike, because it is short and you will reach the top, even at a slow pace in under 30 minutes. I did this trek twice with Diego. Once during the day, which you can see from my images below. The second time was at night. If anyone plans to do this trek at night, wear good shoes, take a decent flashlight, and move slowly and cautiously. It is a fantastic place to view the stars and the lights of Tilcara at night.
GARGANTA DEL DIABLO
This is the 3rd Garganta Del Diablo that I am posting about from Argentina. “The Devil’s Throat” seems to be a rather popular name for natural wonders in this country. This hike takes you from the city center to a beautiful Quebrada trail along the river, ending at a waterfall. Also along this trail you will see a man-made dam with a rich history inside a beautiful canyon.
If you have a car (or in my case a backseat on a motorcycle – I mean, what… Dad, that never happened…) you can take a different route to reach the base of Garganta Del Diablo. This winding road offers beautiful panoramic views of the Tilcara valley.