Monthly Archives: June 2014

Viva Jujuy!

My weeklong solo trip to northwest Argentina was a cultural odyssey, revealing a new Argentina for me, a Spanish colonial lifestyle very different than that of the more hectic, fast-paced urban world of Buenos Aires. The language and accent were noticeably Argentinian, yet also included various indigenous dialects like Quechua. There were many differences in food, clothing, architecture, natural diversity of mountains and valleys, music, the cities and provinces of Salta and Jujuy (Hu-hu-y). These differences shaped my time there into a beautiful week and another possible destination to invite American travelers to add to their list of “Places to see in Argentina.” So rich was my week that I am writing about each destination in a separate post. This post focuses on my time visiting Jujuy and the towns along the “Quebrada de Humahuaca”. In the previous post I wrote about “la vida Salteña”. Check them both out.

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Climbing and climbing more! The capital city of the Province of Jujuy (Hu-hú-y), formally known as San Salvador de Jujuy, and simply referred to as Jujuy sits at 4,130 feet above sea level and is the starting point for numerous daily excursions to the Quebrada de Humahuaca (9,311 ft.) and the salt flats known as Las Salinas Grandes (11,318 ft. above sea level), places I visited during my recent solo trip to the provinces and main cities of Salta and Jujuy. Salta is the focus of the previous post, and Jujuy is highlighted here.

The Quebrada de Humahuaca or Humahuaca Ravine spans almost 80 miles and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the Spanish colonial lifestyle in this area is preserved. The town of Tilcara (the archeological capital of the area), along with the indigenous towns of Purmamarca, Tilcara and Humahuaca with their local artesans markets and beautiful mountain views, welcome tourists all year around. Jujuy feels more Bolivian than Argentinian, at least if measured by the merchants and restaurant staffs’ clothing, culture, foods and indigenous languages, alongside the mountains, valleys and ravines that extend north and west and boast thousands of years of existence among them! Along this majestic route through the mountains and valleys we passed the Tropic of Capricorn, one of the five major circles of latitude marked by maps of the earth, “La Paleta del Pintor” (the painter’s palette) colorful rock formation, and the famous Cerro de Siete Colores (the 7-colored mountain range/hill) that provide the amazing background settings for these simple villages. The main square in Purmamarca is filled daily by local artesans selling their handmade clothing and other articles.

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The most colorful landscapes of the Quebrada are absolutely gorgeous to see, and viewing them is a changing experience as the sun and clouds shift and move across the open sky. Each view is a new one. The 7 colored hill takes its name from the various colors of the mineral deposits prevalent in the area (red rocks made from iron, yellow ones from uranium, white limestone deposits, and the greens and blues associated with copper.)

But when I visited Las Salinas Grandes, the 23,000 sq. miles of salt desert, located more than 13,000 ft. above sea level, with two new Argentinian friends, I realized how subjective our perspectives are. The well maintained, new national highway route 52 led our mini-van up via the serpentine two-lanes hugging the many switchbacks to the top, at 4,170 meters, or 13,681 feet. A thousand feet lower we sail into the Salinas themselves. Imagine an expanse of this desolate, unending white as far as you can see, a vision not unlike seeing frozen-over Lake Michigan from the Chicago skyline in wintertime, a fact that my late brother’s voice echoed in my consciousness. “And you paid how much to come all the way up here to see this?” he asked mockingly, laughing! All the while my Argentine travel buddies were in awe of the white desert, and they climbed the salt hills like kids playing in the new snowfall, while I laughed at my brothers’ wonderful sense of humor! They were fascinated; I, less so, but I am still appreciative that I actually have the chance to travel this far to see scenes like this that look similar but are quite different.

The Tropic of Capricorn

The Tropic of Capricorn

The beauty of Jujuy is in the land, and also in her native people, whether singing for us as did the children we saw, or knitting beautiful handmade ponchos, sweaters, blankets, ceramics and hats. ALong the way we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn, the southernmost latitude where the Sun can be seen directly overhead and where La Pachamama, the indigenous earth goddess of the indigenous Andian people, is worshiped.

Viva Jujuy!Consider a side trip to Salta and Jujuy when you come travelling in Argentina. I’m glad I made the trip.



Filed under Visiting Mendoza

La Vida Salteña

“The earth is not an inheritance but a loan from our children.”

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My weeklong solo trip to northwest Argentina was a cultural odyssey, a quite different Spanish colonial architecture and more laid back lifestyle than the more hectic, urban pace and European architecture of Buenos Aires. The language and accent remained Argentinian, but there were many differences in food, clothing, architecture, natural diversity of mountains and valleys, music, the cities and provinces of Salta and Jujuy (Hu-hu-y). These differences shaped my time there into a beautiful week and another possible destination to invite American travelers to add to their list of “Places to see in Argentina (with me as your guide, of course). So rich was my week that I will write about each destination in a separate post. This post focuses on “la vida Salteña” and in the following post I write about my time visiting Jujuy and the towns along the “Quebrada de Humahuaca” (The Humahuaca Ravine).

The painter's palette

The painter’s palette

For years I’ve wanted to travel to both places to see these colonial cities and the glorious Andes mountains, valleys and gulches that surround them. My route took me via a 2-1/2 hour airplane ride from Buenos Aires to Salta, where I spent three days/nights roaming and touring the city proper and the fascinating formations of the Quebrada de las Conchas (The Seashell Ravine), an 80 mile stretch of the Andes mountains and gulches best travelled by car (but walkable in places). Along the route our small tour group of 6 stopped to enjoy various rock formations, such as El Anfiteatro, created by the forces of water and erosion over centuries to form a natural “bowl”. Argentine folksinger Mercedes Sosa once gave a concert on this beautiful site with its amazing natural acoustics. The day we stopped a lone musician played his flute and it was as if the heavens were welcoming us to sit and receive this beautiful gift of music he and nature created in partnership.

Our midday destination was the city of Cafayate (5,500 ft. above sea level), with its boutique vineyards and wineries, where tastings of the area’s specialty, the white Torrontés wine, are offered daily. Taking a respite from the group I enjoyed a solitary lunch of empanadas Salteñas at La Casa de las Empanadas. Empanadas abound in Argentina, but each province has its distinctive way of preparing them and among the most famous are the varieties of empanadas in the Salta province. They were delicious. Other regional foods I sampled while in Salta and Jujuy included tamales, humitas (made with corn kernels, sautéed onions, spices and goat cheese, wrapped in corn husks), guisos (stews), locro (a special type of meat and vegetable stew commonly eaten during the winter months), and llama (yes, llama the animal!). These are typical regional foods that make up what’s called “la comida andina” (food from the Andes region). Of course this is Argentina, so alongside these regional dishes one could always indulge in parrillas that specialize in grilling meats and, everywhere I travelled, of course, wonderful Malbec wines were inexpensive and delicious! My favorite was llama steak, accompanied by rice and a glass of Malbec, and followed by a dessert of goat cheese, honey and walnuts. Yum! How I wished I had a chance to buy some of the “salame de llama” I saw advertised later during a lunch stop in Purmamarca, Jujuy.

Salame made with llama meat, in Purnamarca, Jujuy, AR

Salame made with llama meat, in Purnamarca, Jujuy, AR

But when I returned to enter the shop I learned it was closed so the owner could go see his son play futbol.

The city of Salta itself is quite the vacation spot for travelers world-wide.With colonial architecture typical of the 17th and 18th centuries, Salta is known as “Salta La Linda” (Salta the beautiful) and it lived up to its name. An easily walkable city center encapsuled by the Cabildo (government house), Cathedral and an interesting archeological museum, Salta is home to many boutique hotels, like the 5-star hotel Villa Vicuña where I stayed for three nights, three blocks from the center of the city. There I was able to sign up the same day for a delightful 4 hr. tour of the city and surrounding areas. I spent one full day with a group of six others touring the Quebrada de las Conchases itself, a day of beautiful vistas that resemble the southwest US, with its cactus, hills and red rock expanses filling my sights and soul.

And goats!

And goats!

<I saw goats, sheep, horses, cows, some llamas and their cousins the vicuñas and the alpacas, along the colorful route Hwy 68.

The province of Salta in northern Argentina resembles Bolivia, I was told, and people in native dress walked alongside urbanites dressed in the style of the day, some speaking in the original indigenous language called Quechua, and can still be heard in smaller villages and towns. The city of Salta is also home to folkloric music in settings known as “peñas,” with singers and dancers costumed in the gaucho tradition.

Una Peña at El Viejo Estación

Una Peña at El Viejo Estación

Many “penas” offer a dinner/show combination, where busloads of tourists are welcomed daily. Visiting a peña is a must-do nighttime activity in Salta for tourists and locals alike. If only my nearest companions hadn’t talked throughout the rousing performance I might have enjoyed the peña I visited even more! Oh well, the next day I’d be off to the city/province of Jujuy, and new Argentinian travel adventures. I enjoyed travelling alone, I discovered, although I did miss having someone to share the “moments” of each day, like when I happened upon little children all dressed up, passing out mini-flags to commemorate the Dia de la revolución de Mayo (May 25), or taught one of the others on my tour group how to take pictures with her new ipad.


Filed under Travel in Argentina, Visiting Jujuy, Visiting Salta the Beautiful