The Calchaqui Valleys are an extraordinary destination where history, nature, traditions, archaeology and myths create an exceptional alliance. The Calchaqui Valleys circuit is a sightseeing route par excellence. Comprising the provinces of Catamarca, Tucumán and Salta -the Argentinean Northwest -the Calchaqui are a 520 kilometer-long system of valleys and mountains which offers a panorama of amazing landscapes, winding paths and colorful hills.
In each one of the small populations across the valleys, the ancestors left their traces outlined on the rocks; thus the ancient character is conjugated with the forest and the budding cities. Santa Maria -in Catamarca province- a colorful town known as the “Capital of the Calchaqui Valleys”, was one of the main settlements of the Yokavil nation. There, remains of this culture can still be found today.
In this landscape of remarkable beauty, the unique Tucumán jungle frames part of the valleys. There lies Tafí del Valle, located at 1,976 meters above sea level and furrowed by rivers, cascades and rapids. Its lowlands shelter archaeological remains of great value. Molinos -a city founded in the mid 17th century- is famous for its adobe houses, its galleries and porches and an extensive craft tradition. Other places to visit in the region are El Mollar, a villa creased by green valleys and Amaicha del Valle, surrounded by colorful hills, distinctive for its celebration consecrated to Pachamama (Mother Earth), a religious expression of the people of the Northwest of Argentina.
The Calchaqui Valleys are crossed by Santa María River and are spattered with several dams: Río Hondo in the Southwest and to the North, El Cadillal, on Sali River, La Angostura on Los Sosa River and Escaba on the spring of Marapa River. The area is also surrounded by the highest peaks of the Sierras Pampeanas (the hills of Pampa region), such as Nevado de Cachi.
The region is full of pre-Columbian and colonial cities and sites, most of them intact, like Cachi, Amaicha, Tafí, Santa María, Cafayate, San Carlos, Angastaco, Molinos and Seclantá, among others. In many of these places the Hispanic tradition is still alive in the customs, the way of speaking, the art, as well as in the architecture and religious imagery, expressing a beautiful contrast between the traditional and the modern.
Departing from Cafayate, surrounded by vineyards, where the famous Torrontés wine is produced and on the route running through Quebrada de las Conchas -a majestic ravine- it is possible to visit, in addition to the Calchaqui Valleys, Los Cardones National Park, named after a giant cactus that the native inhabitants used for building their houses.
Information, courtesy of the National Secretariat of Tourism