Cafayate is a town located in the province of Salta, Argentina and it is 190 km from the city of Salta. In the town there’s nothing special to see (as usual in Argentina since all the beauty is in the nature) but we found a nice plaza where all the coffees, restaurants and handicraft shops were concentrated. There’s also a beautiful cathedral and some colonial buildings around the centre.
The town is actually an important tourist centre for exploring the Colchaquíes Valleys (“Quebrada de Cafayate”), an impressive place that can be seen along the paved national route 68 (that goes from Cafayate to Salta). Mountains, valleys, canyons and gorges, combining one of the most spectaculars sceneries we’ve seen in these (and other) trips. We stopped at the usual rock formations, including the windows (“las ventanas”), the obelisk (“obelisco”), the frog, the Amphitheatre and the Devil’s Throat. But what we liked the most was to drive the entire route through not only these rock formations but also the involving scenery. We stopped several times during the route 68, especially in the first 90 km after Cafayate town, where we found the most impressive landscapes. We’ve also done some small walks (less than 15/20 minutes each one) to better enjoy the places at our own pace.
We heard about Quebrada de Cafayate before (that was one of the reasons to cross the border from Chile to Argentina again) but we were not expecting so much beauty. And if we had to choose the top places to visit in Argentina this will be one of them!
After Cafayate we visited Salta, a colonial city and the second most populated city in the northwest of Argentina. The city has become a major touristic destination in the country due to its old buildings, colonial architecture and the natural scenery close to the city (it is currently a base for many tourists to explore places like Cafayate and Humahuca). But the city itself has some attractions that deserve to be explored, including the MAAM (“Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montaña de Salta”), the Historical Museum of the North (“Museo Historico del Norte”), the Pajcha (“Museo de Arte Étnico Americano”) and the main square (“Plaza 9 Julio”) where it is possible to see several old buildings and also handicraft stores.
Our favourite museum was the Historical Museum of the North. This museum is located at the Cabildo, a very important and historical building from the 18th century. The building itself is a real architectural jewel from the colonial period maintaining parts that date back to 1717 (although most part of the building corresponds to the repairs made between 1789 and 1807). We did the museum-guided tour starting with the pre-Inca times until the Argentina’s independence. The museum has several precious pieces from the Inca domination but also from the colonial period, including portraits, furniture, a numismatic collection and carriages/stagecoaches from the viceroyalty days to the 20th century (the museum has the the largest car ever made by Renault). After the guided tour we spent an extra hour exploring the rooms by ourselves, including the view of the main plaza from the Cabildo terrace on the first floor.
We also visited the MAAM, Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montaña, famous for the mummified bodies of 3 children discovered at the Llullaillaco peak in 1999 and tons of information related to the Inca culture. We saw one of the children (since the museum rotates the bodies every six months) and we found impressive that the hair and clothes were perfectly preserved. The museum also exhibits another tomb-robbed mummy called “Reina del Cerro” (Queen of the Mountain) that was discovered and sold several times ending up in this museum afterwards. There are several videos that explain better the history of this and the other mummies, including the discovery process and testimonies of local people.
The Pajcha museum is a small museum about the indigenous culture and art from all over Latin America. It has lots of information split by culture, including Mapuche silver jewellery and religious sculpture from Cuzco. The only thing we didn’t enjoy was the guide that was chasing us all the time, so we didn’t feel comfortable reading and admiring the pieces at our own pace.
We spent some time just walking around the city and enjoying the terraces and restaurants. Anyway we felt the city was too expensive when compared with other cities in Argentina, specially the handicraft and souvenir stores.
Next stop: Jujuy & Tilcara (Argentina)