The Northwest: Places to Explore

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Humahuaca

Humahuaca (9,700 feet) is the gateway to the Puna. Its narrow stone streets hark back to pre-Hispanic civilizations, when aboriginals fought the Incas who came marauding from the north. The struggle for survival continued into the 16th century, when the Spanish arrived.

Given its location, Humahuaca is a bit touristy, flooded with vendors hawking artisan wares. Things are busiest at midday, when an automated carving of Saint Francisco Solano emerges like a cuckoo from a clock to bless visitors in the main plaza with his mechanized arm. Despite all this, the town is very short on visitor amenities: the tourist board is less than organized, and there are only a few lodgings. These include a couple of small, basic hotels (some downright run-down and depressing) and one large hotel that, at this writing, is falling into disrepair while the municipality decides what's to be done with it.

You're much better off staying in Tilcara. And, indeed, most people visit Humahuaca on a day trip from there, Purmamarca, or San Salvador de Jujuy, or as a stop en route to Iruya. That said, if you're nearby around the time of Carnaval (40 days before Easter), it's worth putting up with whatever lodgings you can get to participate in the wonderful festivities that are a complicated mix of Catholicism and paganism.

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