Andean Northwest (Argentina) : Jujuy : Humahuaca
Humahuaca is a small city in Provincia San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina adjacent to the spectacular Quebrada de Humahuaca on the main road from Argentina into Bolivia. With a population of nearly 8,000 Humahuaca is sited along the banks of the Rio Grande at 3,000 meters above sea level.
The Quebrada de Humahuaca was the first part of Argentina to be explored and settled by the Spaniards, for it provided a connecting route to the more temperate regions further south around Salta and Cordoba where supplies of food and draft animals could be found for the silver mines at Potosi, the gold mines at Oruro and other mining settlements in Upper Peru, now Bolivia. The town was a stopping place along that route before beginning the difficult climb to the Altiplano. Later Humahuaca was a central place for the revolutionary activity that eventually led to the creation of modern Argentina. Humahuaca was also a station on the now defunct railway that connected Bolivia to Buenos Aires, and its wild west aspect will remind many North Americans of some of the towns of Arizona or New Mexico. A dusty ranching center surrounded by acres of cactus and spectacularly colorful mountains, Humahuaca looks like it should be a set for a wild west movie.
Most buses between Jujuy and the town of La Quiaca on the Bolivian border stop at Humahuaca, and through buses to and from Salta are also available at the small and fairly informal bus station a few blocks SW of the center of town.
The town is too small for any transport other than walking to be necessary.
Humahuaca is dominated by the Monumento de la Independencia crowning a small rise just west of the center and reached by climbing a long flight of steps. At the top there is a nice view of the Rio Grande valley and the town center not marred by the statue. There is also an adobe belfry and several cactus plants, perhaps the most photographed site in northern Argentina.
The central plaza is bordered to its west by the lovely small Iglesia de la Candalaria y San Antonio, a colonial era foundation with an altarpiece dating to the late 17th century. Despite its small size, the church is a cathedral, one of the smallest churches to serve that function.
The center of the town is an attractively whitewashed Spanish colonial area. The church, now a cathedral, is well worth a visit.
There are numerous small shops selling tourist trinkets as well as a daily handicrafts market on the steps leading up the hill to the monument. Most of the items for sale will be familiar to anyone who has traveled in the central Andean region, though there are a few artisans making jewelery and other items in more modern styles.
Humahuaca is well supplied with small restaurants offering a range of types of food. Recommended are
Mostly the restaurants also serve alcohol, and there are few places that are strictly bars.
The best abode in town is on the east side of the river and several blocks from the center, Hostal Azul.
There is a tourist office in the Cabildo on the main square, but it keeps very limited hours. Tourism information is also theoretically available at the bus station. Hotel proprietors are excellent information sources.