Seven coloured hill in Purmamaca

Pre-Incan ruins and a seven-coloured hill in Salta

After Santiago, any town would be a let-down and sadly I didn’t find Cordoba to be that exciting. There’s a lovely gallery that we had almost to ourselves when we visited, and it’s certainly a safe, relaxed place to be – but there are few attractions and you could see the town in a day or two if you really wanted to.

There’s a thriving student scene in Cordoba, and possibly for that reason there’sa buzzing nightlife district. We had a fun night out on a pub crawl in Cordoba. Most people we met were there to party, but if you cant face hangovers in the blistering heat like me, it doesn’t have a huge amount to offer.

We flew to Salta, feeling very hungover. Despite confusion over which gate we were boarding from, it was a simple and affordable way to get between the two towns.

Salta itself is another tiny town that doesn’t have a huge amount to do. The main plaza, like all other Argentinian towns seem to have, was quaint and pretty and home to the odd museum or gallery. It rained for almost all of our time in Salta so we explored the town and lazed about in the hostel for a few days.

One of the reasons to visit Salta is that you can do a few day trips from there. It’s also a good place to start your Bolivian adventure – that’s why we were there, although we changed our minds and decided to find a Salar de Uyuni tour from San Pedro de Atacama instead.

As we’d spent a couple of weeks doing a string of mini-city breaks, we were both keen to see some nature and decided to do a one day tour to Humahuaca. The hostel we stayed at had a travel agency attached and so we got a 20% discount on the tour, which brought the cost down to a more average price for the trip of about $50/60 I think.

It was a LONG day, starting at 7:30 and scheduled to return 12 hours later. We were picked up from our hotel and made our way to the hill of seven colours in Purmamarca in the Jujuy province of Argentina. The hill was the thing I really wanted to see, and I feared I peaked to soon on the tour as it was the first place we stopped! It’s literally a hill with seven colours, and at the foot of the hill is the village. It’s completely geared up to service tourists on day trips to Purmamarca as there’s a tourist market in the plaza, but it was interesting enough.

After Purmamarca, we went north to Tilcara. As you drive past you can see a steep hill with a load of stones at the top, which we were informed was the site of pre-Incan ruins. You can walk amongst the ruins of the ancient fort. It’s interesting to see how tiny they are – some have been re-built to illustrate their size. I was short enough to walk through but Jonny had to bend down. The only bizarre thing about this place was a pyramid of sorts at the very top. It looks so cool, but I found out it was built in the 1970s (I think) as a memorial to one of the archaeologists. It felt so out of place to have something so modern alongside something so ancient.

We arrived in Humahuaca for lunch time. It was quite high up (over 3,000m) and it was the first time I’d really been at altitude so I was hit with a headache and seriously struggled walking up the steps to check out their incredible momument. I don’t quite understand the appeal of Humahuaca, I think it’s possibly a really old town for the Argentinians. It might be one of the first places built when the Spanish invaded, but I can’t really remember.

On the way back we paused at the point where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses and stopped to look at a multicoloured hill known as The Painter’s Palette. The main viewpoint was full of daytrippers so our driver/guide took us to another point where you could climb up a steep hill, along a narrow path, and get the best view. Determined not to miss out, I followed the group for about one minute until I acknowledged that I was bloody terrified and turned back. I watched Jonny climb past everyone to the absolute peak and tried really hard not to freak out about how high he was!

After a taste of nature, I was chomping at the bit to see more and we were both really excited to return to Chile and experience as much as we could at altitude. Next up: San Pedro de Atacama.