After an amazing first day in Salta Rocio and I woke up early to go explore the Northern most province of Argentina, Jujuy. We planned to head up there first because we wanted to be back in Salta for the weekend to see the Argentina World Cup match and the big bicentenerio festival.
We packed up our stuff and headed for the Salta bus station. Buying tickets at the station is really easy if you know what you’re doing. There are a ton of different companies that run trips throughout Argentina so you just have to ask around for the best price and time.
Luckly we only had to wait about 20 minutes before the next bus came through for San Salvador de Jujuy, the capital city of the Jujuy Province. (about a 2-hour trip, $28pesos/ticket)
Side Note: A little tip when checking your bags on the bus is to keep an eye on them from the bus window until they close the baggage storage door. Rocio was telling me that sometimes they check your bags and someone will come by and take them out right before the bus takes off.
San Salvador de Jujuy isn’t like Salta, It’s a little rough around the edges. Regardless, we sucked it up and walked a solid 20 minutes from the bus station to the car rental place as we were eye-balled by locals. Even though Rocio is Argentine she is a Porteña and not a Norteña so she almost got as many weird looks as the giant Yankee.
Sudamericas Car Rental was the company we booked the car reservation through and for $200 pesos a day(and unlimited km) it was a pretty good setup. The only thing I was nervous about was how I was going to navigate my way through the narrow, busy streets of San Salvador after not driving anything other than a scooter in the last 8 months (not to mention a stick shift).
However, as soon as I saw the car we’d be driving all my fears subsided. It was a beautiful primer-grey VW Golwith 2 spacious doors, AM and FM radio (that didn’t work) and a backseat that could fit one person uncomfortably. We definitely didn’t need the much larger, gas-guzzling WV Golf… hmm…
After some quick maintenance tips and a lap around the car for insurance purposes, the Rental guy gave us a map, the keys and said “suerte” (good luck). So, just like that, with my trusty co-pilot and our new hot rod, we were off. The only problem was neither of us knew where we were off to!
Despite almost getting t-boned on our first turn out of the parking lot, we managed to escape the busy workday traffic unharmed. From there on out it was smooth sailing.
Once you hit the Jujuy countryside you feel like you’re in a different world. The rock formations from one mile to the next are all unique and the colors change as fast as you can turn your head. The winding roads makes driving difficult but its the views that captivate your attention long enough to damn near kill ya. Focus!
The goal for the day was to see the Salinas Grandes and the Cerro de los Siete Colores (7-color hill) inPurmamarca before heading to Tilcara to spend the night. We decided to venture to the furtherest point first (Salinas Grandes) and make our way back through Purmamarca to Tilcara in the evening.
The drive was long and beautiful. We made our way through deserts filled with cactuses, rolling green hills and red rocks that reminded me of Moab, Utah. The terrain was so diverse, like nothing i’ve ever seen before.
From a distance the Salinas Grandes looked like a giant frozen lake. Out of nowhere appeared this giant white flat with dry brown and red mountains on all sides. It looked like something you’d find on Mars. There was no town around, just a small little tourist station with bathrooms and a bunch of salt workers staring at us as we came and went.
We turned off the major road and drove right out on the salt flats where a small mix of tourists and actual workers united. After a must-needed photo shoot we walked around aimlessly just marveling at this crazy landscape. After about an hour we picked our jaws back up, ran around a bit and then jumped back in the car to begin our trek to Purmamarca.
The provence of Jujuy is rich with indigenous tradition and Purmamarca was our first real experience with the native culture. The village is small, friendly and quiet. Skinny dogs scavenge around the red dirt roads as village people don’t pay much attention to the foreigners. The low tourist population allows you to see a real glimpse of life without tons of souvenir shops, beggars or… tourists.
We spent the late afternoon poking around as we made our way up to a small hill that overlooked the town and gave you a great view of the 7-color mountain (Cerro de los Siete Colores). Like the name suggests, it’s a remarkable rock formation that takes a little color from all the mountain ranges we had seen that day and splashes them all together on one giant, incredible canvas.
As the sun went down we thought it would be a good idea to find our way to Tilcara where we’d be spending the night. It was a quick drive from Purmamarca but by the time we got into town the sun had set so it made the hunt for our hostel a little more difficult.
Positioned on a hill above Tilcara, the Malka Hostel isn’t the easiest places to find, but that’s what makes it such a gem. We parked the car a few streets below the super-steep dirt road that leads up to the main gate and walked our way up to the entrance. It was like a Spanish summer-camp with beautiful log cabins, a super friendly owner and clean comfortable rooms. The place was spectacular, but we were beat… we’ll check out the rest of the place tomorrow… but for now… zzzzzzz.