This dusty little mining town is on the puna 168km west of Salta, and over 2600m above it. It’s suffered greatly since the deterioration of the region’s mining and associated railway, and relies heavily on tourism and the stop-start Tren a las Nubes for income. It’s a very typical highland settlement, with adobe houses, almost deserted streets, and a serious drop in temperature as soon as the sun goes down. It’s not the place for cutting-edge nightlife or street art, but is worth stopping in to get the feel of this facet of Argentine and South American life. You can head north from here to the Quebrada de Humahuaca via the Salinas Grandes and Purmamarca, but the road south to Cachi is very tough.

In colonial times, transportation from northwestern Argentina depended on pack trains; one route passed through here, crossing the rugged elevations of the Puna de Atacama to the Pacific and then on to Lima. It was a rugged journey, taking 20 days to cover the 800km.

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