Discover the beautiful Andean Northwest town of Cachi with its beautiful colonial architecture, handicraft market, shops and church dating from the 17th century. A taste of local life in the valley.
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We depart Salta early in the morning and after leaving the tobacco plantations of the Lerma Valley behind, the road begins to climb through the Quebrada de Escoipe (Escoipe Range), an agricultural valley with multicoloured hills, exuberant vegetation and reddish soil. As the road continues we approach the imposing Cuesta del Obispo. It got its name from Monsignor Cortázar, the maximum ecclesiastical authority in Salta, who was travelling from Salta to Cachi back in 1622 and spent the night at this spot at 3.400 m.a.s.l. This winding road climbs for 21 km until it reaches Piedra del Molino (Milestone). A detour leads to Valle Encantado (Enchanted Valley), a small amphitheatre with strange shaped and multicoloured hills and rain-water lagoons. Back at Piedra del Molino a chapel was built to honour the Archangel Raphael "Patron Saint of Travellers. This spot features an unforgettable view of the endless slope below where granite formations of feldspar, mica and quartz offer a dazzling picture.
From Piedra del Molino we continue along the Recta de Tin Tin, an old Inca road that nowadays leads to Payogasta along a straight 12-kilometre stretch that is 3000 metres above sea level and parallel to the Los Cardones National Park with glorious cardón cacti everywhere. The Park extends over 64.117 hectares with century old cardones under its protection. We will reach a lookout point with impressive views of the magnificent snow capped Nevado de Cachi Mountains.
Our trip goes past Payogasta and finally arrives in Cachi: a pre-colonial village worth a visit for its Indian ruins. Cachi means "salt" in Quechua, due to the fact that natives mistook the snowcapped top of "El Nevado" with a salt mine. El Nevado rises 6384 m.a.s.l. marking the border between the Puna desert and the fertile Calchaquí valleys. Located 157 km. from Salta, the town existed before the Spanish domination; it is where the Chicoanas Indians used to live. Each and every town of the Calchaqui valleys has a church opposite the main square that welcomes visitors. These fine constructions give unique character to the skyline. Cachi is no exception: its Spanish colonial church, built in the 17th century and located next to the main plaza, has a floor and ceiling made from cactus wood. The church also has a speckled cactuswood confessional. The archaeological museum in Cachi is the most impressive museum of its kind in the Northwest, capturing the influence of the Incas and Spanish on the region's indigenous people. Located next to the main plaza, its courtyard is filled with Incan stone engravings and preColumbian artefacts. Some inland places of interest in the area are La Paya and Las Pailas. We tour the town and there will be time for a leisurely walk exploring the area before returning back to Salta. The total distance covered by the tour is 320 kilometres (Cachi is 160 kilometres west of Salta)
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