Salta is full of colonial architecture and has a lovely plaza which is a great place to relax and people watch. While in Salta we climbed to Cerro San Bernado for fantastic views over Salta and the surrounding countryside.
We visited the Museum de Arqueologia de Atla Montana (MAAM). It focuses on Inca culture and, in particular, the child sacrifices the Inca left on some of the Andes' highest peaks. In 1999 an expedition to Llullaillaco, a 6,739m volcano on the border with Chile, discovered three preserved Inca children. In Inca culture some children, from the upper classes, were sacrificed to please or appease their gods and ensure continued fertility of their people and the land. The oldest child on display was a girl about 15 years old considered to be a 'virgin of the sun' - a prestigious role in Inca society. The other two children were a boy and a girl aged 6 or 7, also from high ranking families. Each were accompanied by a selection of grave goods which included textiles & small figurines. During our visit to the museum the little boy was on display. He was perfectly preserved and it was hard to believe we
were looking at a real child from the time of the Incas.
We visited two small towns in the Quabrada de Humahuaca valley which is between Salta and Bolivia. The landscape is amazing with its array of colours and rock formations. The first town we visited was Humahuaca, the largest town in the valley and at an elevation of 3,000m. When we first arrived and were walking to our hostel in the afternoon sun we noticed the elevation as we were feeling slightly out of breath, without even doing any exercise!
Humahuaca is picturesque with cobbled streets and is dotted with handicraft market stalls especially near Plaza Gómez. From the plaza, a staircase leads up to the Independence monument and gives a good view over the town.
The main appeal of visiting Humahuaca is to go to the Mirador del Hornocal to see the Serrania Hornocal, a spectacular rock formation with many layers of different colours. It's located 25km from Humahuaca up a dirt road at an elevation of approximately 4,400m. When we arrived at the hostel we asked if it would be possible to visit that afternoon as we knew that it was best viewed in
the afternoon due to the position of the sun. However, we were told no as it was too late in the day and would have to go tomorrow, but needed to leave after midday. We headed into the town centre and decided to ask around. We asked a taxi driver if he could take us, however we were unable to understand his response. He didn't say no but then he didn't say yes either, so we were a little confused. Just as we decided to give up and were heading for the main square, a local man came up to us and offered to take us. He had a nice four-wheel drive which was perfect for the dirt road. He introduced himself and gave us a commentary along the way, as well as stopping to show us points of interest as well as the local llamas. There was lots of great information, just a pity it was all in Spanish, so alot went over our head! When we arrived at the mirador there were only a few other people there, but even they didn't stay long. The landscape was pretty dry but the rock formations are amazing - especially the
colours. The rock face had many layers of different colours, mainly reds and yellows. Unfortunately the photos don't really do it justice.
We also walked to the Pena's Blanca's which is a natural lookout over Humahuaca & the surrounding countryside. From here we could see back to the town and in the distance the Independence monument.
The second small town we stayed at was picturesque Tilcara at an elevation of about 2,400m. Here we visited Pucará, a reconstructed fortification dating from the 11th to 15th centuries. It's a bit of a strange reconstruction as it has a crazy monument to the pioneering archaeologists built right over where the plaza would have been. Due to its high strategic position the views over the river valley are fantastic.
We decided to visit El Nuevo Progreso restaurant for dinner after being recommended it by the hostel owner & seeing the fantastic reviews on trip advisor. I decided to try the local dish of Locro, a stew of maize, beans, beef, pork & sausage. It was very good but I did have food envy. Gary ordered a steak which was huge and perfectly cooked - overall just amazing. For those of
you that don't know Gary very well, he doesn't like to share his food, but on this occasion as it was so large he gave me an amazing taste.
Next and final stop in Argentina is Iguazu for the amazing waterfalls.
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