Another trip that can be taken from Salta is The Purmamarca day trip. But because me and Gaston had visited here a few years ago and loved it, and because we also wanted to visit the Salinas Grandes while up that way, we decided to make it more than a day trip and managed to arrange with our tour agency Salta Connection to take the tour to Salinas Grandes and Tilcara and to be dropped of in Purmamarca where we could make our own way back when ready.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the guide for this tour was no where near as good as the guide we had for the Cafayate tour even though he was working for the same company. With a big chunk of Coca leaves in his cheek and not so friendly attitude it almost seemed that all the stops we took were for his smoking habit rather than an actual stop for scenery. Anyway none the less the landscape was enough to keep us entertained we got to see a whole lot of cactus spotted mountainsides, massive gorges where you could almost imagine back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and those were their massive rivers.
The first big stop was the Pucara de Tilcara which was a Pre Incan fortified town, which’s position on top of the hill above Tilcara was not only beneficial for defence back then, but is now a great site for tourists to get a view of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. After wandering around there for a while we were getting pretty hungry and wondering if we were ever going to stop somewhere for lunch? Apparently not… Luis informed us that our next stop was to be the Salinas Grandes and to get there we were going to need to travel up to some 4000 metres and then down a windy road and suggested it was better not to have a full stomach for the altitude, we bought a few cookies instead. (I suggest having a substantial breakfast in the morning if you get hungry easily). So over the windy hills we went, at the highest points there were even bits of permafrost which were so thick they looked like snow. Getting out at the top we did feel a little strange due to the altitude but took care to walk slowly and we were fine.
If you do ever visit the Salinas Grandes or any salt desert make sure to take your sunglasses, unlike dad who didn’t have any. The glare from the white salt can be pretty glarey to say the least.
The Salinas Grandes are the biggest salt desert in Argentina but last time we came to South America we went on a 3 day trip to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia which for us was much more impressive. The main thing being that when you are in the middle of the Salar de Uyuni you can not see any mountains and it is just salt as far as the eye can see and here in Argentina there is a lot of salt but not enough that you can be standing in the middle of it and not see anything else. So I would say if you want to see your first salt flat and are only visiting Argentina you will definitely enjoy this, but if you have already been to Uyuni and think this will compare, it won’t in terms of scale but the surrounding landscapes are beautiful none the less.
After the Salinas Grandes, Luis took us back to Pumamarca to stay the night. He offered us some options for accommodation which were cheap but not very comfortable. So we opted to be dropped of in the plaza and said goodbye. Mum and Dad stayed in the plaza with all our bags while me and Gaston went searching for accommodation.
Pumamarka is a fast growing little town and relies heavily on tourism, meaning that for the North of Argentina it is comparably more expensive.
The main attraction is the 7 coloured hills, where the different minerals in the earth show beautiful layers of greens, reds and oranges, it is a good idea to stay the whole day in Purmamarca as the different light on the hills determine how strong the colours look.
The town itself is also beautiful, most buildings are made in the adobe style and the plaza is full of colour with the arts and crafts stalls stacked around the centre.
Every single building in Purmamarca appears to be accommodation a restaurant or both. Anyway it was low season so we were looking to get some good deals, out of curiosity we went to the really fancy hotels as well which were around 1500 pesos ($291 aud) per double room. When we had so far been used to paying 450 pesos for accommodation for the four of us this was a bit much.
Anyway we found the perfect boutique La Casa de Piedra Hotel, which happened to have a special of half price rooms for 380 pesos ($73.89) per double room per night including breakfast. The staff were friendly and the place was beautifully designed, all by the owners who are two brothers from the nearby town of Maimara. They even designed the furniture, the chairs were inspirated from their grandfathers rocking chair. The decor all natural materials such as stone, leather and cactus wood and bamboo.For the roof instead of using glue or nails to hold the pieces of wood together they had been carefully bound together using thin strips of leather. We hurried back to get mum and dad and we all felt so comfortable that we decided to stay two nights and relax a bit.
There are some nice restaurants in Purmamarca as well and if you aren’t accustomed to eating early like us there are usually dinner and live music in most restaurants after 8-9ish. Our favourite restaurant was probably where we had lunch the last day in front of the plaza, unforunatley I can’t remember the name, it is in front of the main plaza between two galleries. They have a great variety of national dishes, especially a lot of interesting salads for vegetarians, not the leafy one’s but with ingredients like quinoa or andean potatoes and honey mustard dressing.
On our last day we attempted to take a walk to the Paseo de los Colorados which are another natural attraction of Purmamarca and only a short walk away with views of unusually orange hills and rock formations, but due to a horrible dust storm we could hardly keep our eyes open and we were getting pelted by fine grains of sand so decided to turn back.
We decided that our next stop would be Cordoba which required us to make our way to San Salvador de Jujuy which offered more options for buses, and then get another overnight bus to Cordoba. Anyway we were pleased we left when we did, our bus to Jujuy was cancelled due to strikes which happens all the time here in Argentina, but luckily when this happens the remise take you where you want to go for around the same price 20 pesos per person. The winds were getting stronger and stronger and rubble was covering the road when we looked up to the hills there were dots of fires spotted along the way, somebody must have lit a fire and it had spread with the wind. A few days later we heard that a really bad storm had hit so we were lucky to leave when we did.