Week 14 – I was not sure about what to expect from the extreme north of Argentina and I was absolutely not disappointed! Driving from the green valley of the small-town Cafayate surrounded by vineyards, we entered the spectacular Quebrada de Cafayate, multicolored canyons exhibiting stunning array of stones, before arriving in the region’s capital, Salta La Linda. Its nickname means “the beautiful” and it deserves it!
The colonial city has been really well preserved. Its historical center is fabulous! Colorful buildings line the lively streets and go perfectly with the sofisticated charming churches. The Cathedral Basílica on the Plaza de Armas is a jewel! There is a lot of touristic shops but they are of very good quality and offer a lot of the Andean culture as well as of the more European heritage of Argentinian. The Carmelite convent San Bernardo is still occupied by 19 nuns who are not allowed to have any contact with the exterior, which makes it unvisitable but incredibly real.
The mix of Andean culture and colonial heritage makes Salta incredibly charming and captivating. The food is very diverse and hearty with the traditional Andean Locro (a stew based on squash, corn, beans and meat), the delicious empanadas de carne La Salteña (the best ones of Argentina and probably of South America!), the quesillo con miel de caña (goat cheese with sugar can) and so much more!
Salta is also well known for its controversial Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (Museum of High Altitude Archaeology) in which a specific exhibition has been built around 3 children’s mummies found on the top of volcanoe Llullaillaco at 6700masl. It seems the 3 children have been sacrificed in order to act as mediators with the gods at the time of the Incas. It’s fascinating and horrifying at the same time! The bodies and objects have been found in an incredibly good state of conservation, giving the opportunity to the scientists to learn a lot about this period. One of the 3 child is always exposed, being replaced by another one every 6 months, so you have the possibility to see very closely one of the corpses in a disturbing reality. Aged of 15, 7 and 6 years, these children from very rich families don’t show any kind of traumatism and have probably been buried alive during the Inca ceremony capacocha. As we saw during our visit of Peru, there are so much more to learn about the Inca culture, and not all the scientists agree on their traditions as for example they didn’t believe in the sacrifice of children.
Long story short, we were really pleased to return to the Andean culture! I have only one regret, not staying longer to discover all what this region has to offer!
Now we are at the end of our discovery of the north part of Argentina and I can say that I had real coups de cœur for the cultural Buenos Aires, the natural “wildlify” Península Valdès and the colorful region of Salta! The Jesuitica estancias from Córdoba region were also really interesting and I enjoyed learning more about this part of South America history. Even if the main goal of the jesuits was to evangelize the native population, they truly wanted to give good education and knowledge which caused them to be kicked of America by the king of Spain!
In summary, Argentina has some really vibrants regions as well as some really laid back places which makes it very pleasant to discover!