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Tucuman's Circuito Chico

You need only go a little way out of Tucumán City to get a feel for the province. The Circuito Chico (Short Circuit) is a 70-km (45-mi) drive that heads west, through the affluent suburb of Yerba Buena, through cane fields and citrus orchards, and up into the Selva Tucumana—a subtropical rain forest.

The commuter village Villa San Javier, complete with its own statue of Christ, is full of lookouts that double as paragliding launch points. From here, head south to the picturesque village of Villa Nouges, where you can stop for a round of golf, to gape at the mansions, or to hike or fish. The road winds perilously back down to the plains and Ingenio San Pablo, until recently a major cane-processing center, where the road splits: R301 goes straight back to Tucumán City; R339 returns to Yerba Buena past another golf club. If you don't have your own transport, most local tour agencies offer half-day trips for around 50 pesos.

Getting Around

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday the tourist office organizes a 5½-hour tour of the Circuito Chico, and public buses run frequently to San Javier. But if you have access to a car, it makes sense to go it alone and explore the villages and views along the way. Avoid days of heavy rain, don't rush the narrow mountain roads, and leave early so you can complete the trip in the daytime.

Things to Do and See along the Way

As befits a business-oriented city in such verdant surroundings, golf is a big concern in Tucumán and there are four good courses open to the public in the hills along the Circuito Chico, two close to the city in Yerba Buena and two in the hills. The oldest course is the Jockey Club in Yerba Buena, a short but demanding 18-hole course. Also in Yerba Buena is Las Yungas Country Club with a more gentle 9-hole course in pleasant surroundings. Higher in the hills are two 9-hole courses with amazing views; they claim the ball travels farther in the air at El Siambón than at sea-level, while the most picturesque of the bunch, Las Hortensias, was left fallow for nearly 15 years until 1987, when it was rediscovered and brought it back to life.

The beauty of the hills is everywhere—lush vegetation and wildflowers seem to greet you at every turn. But to experience nature in more depth, turn to the right shortly after Yerba Buena and head toward the Reserva Experimental Horco Molle. Part of the Parque Sierra de San Javier (run by the University of Natural Sciences of Tucuman), Horco Molle is full of ocelotes, tapirs, suris, and other fantastical creatures. There's spectacular wildlife to be found in the Reserva Natural Aguas Chiquitas, too, but the main attraction are the waterfalls—the biggest of which plummets 40 meters into a wonderfully cool pool.

To really take advantage of the cool breezes in the hills, you have to try paragliding from the launch pad at Loma Bola, between San Javier and Villa Nougués. When you chose your guide, though, note how much time is spent on instruction; generally, the more the better. Don't be shy about asking for safety records. Find more information and weather conditions at www.lomabola.com.ar.

Best Guides For …

Golf. There are no golf guides per se, but don't hesitate to contact a club directly for information on additional info that will help you self-guide yourself from hole to hole. Jockey Club (Yerba Buena, Av. Solano Vera, Km 2381/425–1038www.jockeyclubtucuman.com),Las Yungas Country Club (Yerba Buena, Mendoza y Canal381/425–0244www.lasyungas.com), El Siambón (RP341, Km 26381/492–5064), Las Hortensias (Villa Nougués381/431–0862).

Selva Tucumana. Reserva Experimental Horco Molle (Av. Pte. Perón381/425–0936Daily 9–7Guided tours 5 pesos) has guided tours for 5 pesos, while Reserva Natural Aguas Chiquitas (3 km [2 mi] from El Cadillal) features a self-led hike to the main waterfall.

Paragliding. Eduardo Deheza (381/425-1430eduardodeheza@hotmail.com) is our favorite instructor in this area who can take you on a tandem flight.

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