Tilcara, North Argentina

Best Things To Do In Tilcara: North Argentina’s Hidden Gem

Argentina’s north-east has more in common with its neighbour Bolivia than the big European style cities of Salta and Buenos Aires. Which means it’s perfect for travellers who are looking to travel on a budget and stay off the beaten track. Tilcara is one of three popular towns along Route 9 and is well worth your time. Everything you need to know is here in our list of best things to do and Tilcara town guide.

Contents

The 10 Best Things To Do In Tilcara

1. Trek To El Garganta Del Diablo (The Devil's Throat)

Hiking to this waterfall is the best thing to do in Tilcara.

 

This 7km trek will take you out into the wilderness of northern Argentina, through dry desert slopes and fields of giant cacti.

 

As you climb higher into the mountains, the cliffs will close in on you until you are eventually trekking through a tiny canyon with a single walkway – this is the ‘Devils Throat’.

 

Once you exit, you can keep going until you reach the end of the canyon and a find a waterfall.

 

I visited at the start of February, which is the summer in Argentina.

 

The weather was beautiful, and once I reached the waterfall, there were lots of Argentinians (clearly on holidays) relaxing in the shade, dipping into the river and all drinking their beloved mate.

 

It was a lovely day out and my number one recommendation for something to do if your in Tilcara.

Travelling through the north-west is one of the highlights of a trip to Argentina. But there’s so much more to see in this incredible country. To see how to combine the north-west into a one-month itinerary that also covers the entire country, head to the post below:

 

 

The beautiful countryside of Tilcara (North Argentina)

2. Visit The Pre-Inca Ruins Of Pucara Del Tilcara

Pucara Del Tilcara is a historical site where you can explore pre-Inca fortification ruins built in the 12th century.

 

There’s an archaeological museum on-site with information about the ancient Andean tribes in the region, as well as ceramics, skeletons and other artifacts found there on display. Just a warning that all the signs will be in Spanish.

 

A short detour from the ruins and museum is the Jardin Botanica de Altura – a small botanical garden with several species of giant cacti in.

 

The garden, museum and ruins pair well with a trip to Garganta as they are both near each other.

So combine both into a full day out!

If you want to combine a trip to Chile alongside Argentina, then there are several ways to do this with a simple border crossing. The three itineraries in the post below can help you cross the borders a 3 different points in Argentina to see Chile:

 

 

Pucara Del Tilcara, North Argentina

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3. Visit Argentina's Rainbow Mountain

Argentina has a secret rainbow mountain hiding away in the northeast and I personally think it’s more impressive than the one in Peru!

 

El Hornocal or the 14 Coloured Mountain, is just outside the town of Humahuaca, a 30-minute bus journey from Tilcara.

 

At 4,200m it’s high, but you don’t need to trek to it as a road goes all the way to the top.

 

It’s a great little day trip to take and you can be back in Tilcara in the evening, or spend the night in Humahuaca if you want to. 

Everything you need to know is here in our guide:

 

 

Joe and a friend from 'Shall We Go Home Travel' at El Hornocal in Humahuaca (Argentina)

4. Visit Argentina's Second Rainbow Mountain - The Hill Of 7 Colours

Another short journey away in the opposite direction from Humahuaca is Argentina’s second Rainbow Mountain – the Hill of 7 Colours.

 

Whilst it doesn’t sound as impressive as the 14-coloured mountain, apprerently Humahuaca named theirs that to try and out-do Purmamarca so don’t be fooled.

 

The hill is just as colourful and impressive, and you don’t need to take a tour to see this one, you can see it from anywhere in town.

 

There are multiple viewpoints and some short trails around the town that provide great views. 

I would recommend seeing El Hornocal over this one if you are short on time. Although the best thing to do is visit all three of these towns separately so you can see it all.

 

See a comparison of the two here:

 

 

argentina - the rainbow mountains views

5. Try The Traditional Cuisine Of The Region

Tilcara has an impressive restaurant scene considering its small size.

 

And because the north of Argentina still has strong ties to the indigenous cultures of the region, you will be able to find some new and exciting takes on popular dishes.

 

I recommend trying locro (a rich, meaty stew), quinoa and llama meat whilst your here.

 

Here are my top spots in town to eat at:

 

  • El Nuevo Progreso is the go-to in town for delicious local cuisine
  • El Patio is another excellent second option.
  • For live folk music – La Pena de Carlitos.
  • If you are looking for an inexpensive but authentic eat, then try lunch at Mercado Municipal de Tilcara. The market is great for picking up empanadas, chicken skewers, and smaller versions of lorco or llama meat for half the price of a restaurant.
Asado (barbeque) in Argentina

6. Enjoy Steak And Wine Without Breaking The Bank

The best thing about visiting this region of Argentina is that prices are closer to those you find in Bolivia rather than the prices in Buenos Aires.

 

This means you can enjoy steak and wine for half the price and not feel guilty about it.

 

I had a huge steak and shared a bottle of wine at Los Puestos Restaurante and barely blinked when the bill came out.

 

If you are looking to treat yourself, then Tilcara and the north of Argentina are the places to do it.

Or you could check out this cooking experience:

For more great towns to visit in the north of Argentina, why not check out Cafayate. Cafayate is the wine producing region of the north and perfect for wine lovers looking to tour vineyards and go on tastings.

 

For everything you need to know about Cafayate, head to the post below:

 

 

Steak in Argentina

7. Explore The Town, Music Venues And Bars

Having a wander of Plaza Alvarez Prado is the early evening is a great way to spend a couple of hours.

 

There will be artisan stalls selling indigenous crafts and wears, and street musicians giving live performances.

 

After a wander, head to one of the bars sit outside to people watch on the square. Then once the sun goes down, you can go inside or to one of the many other bars to enjoy some live music. The Argentinians like to start their nights out late, so you’ve been warned, you may up be up all night.

 

Arumi is a great place to check out for live music.

8. Wine Tasting At Bodega Fernanda Dupont

If you are after more wine, then a visit to a vineyard is a must. Bodega Fernanda Dupont is a short drive outside of Tilcara.

 

The Winery is open for guided tours from Monday to Saturday between 9 AM to 6 PM. They ask that you call ahead in summer to check the river’s status as it can sometimes flood, stopping cars getting there.

 

 

Vineyards in northern Argentina

9. Take A Day Trip To Salinas Grandes

Salinas Grandes in Argentina is the third largest salt flat in the world.

 

It’s closest to the town of Purmamarca but you can visit from Tilcara too if you want.

 

I always recommend hiring a car for exploring the north west of Argentina. You don’t have to worry about boking tours and you can visit all these amazing places yourself. 

 

It’s completely open to the public and there’s no entrance fee so you can drive there, take some fun perspective shots and marvel at this natural wonder before returning to Tilcara or heading on to Purmamarca.

TOP TIP:  Whilst there aren't many tours advertised online, speak to the staff at your accommodation. They will likely run some basic tours to Humahuaca, Purmamarca and Salinas Grandes.

10. Go Mountain Biking In Quebdrada De Humahuaca

The beauty of this region is so unique.

 

Many of the landscapes of the Quebrada de Humahuaca speak for themselves, and you can enjoy them in many ways.

 

But if you want to inject some action into your trip, riding through the mountains on a bicycle is a great option!

 

This tour has fantastic reviews:

Salinas Grandes, North Argentina

Do You Need A Car For Tilcara?

Route 9 is an incredibly scenic road that’s perfect for extended road trips via car or bike.

 

I highly recommend renting a car to visit Tilcara and the other towns along this route.

 

However, you’ll need to pick up a car in one of the bigger cities like Jujuy or Salta as there aren’t any rental agencies in Humahuaca.

 

The short distances between the towns of Humahuaca, Tilcara and Purmamarca, including all the incredible landscapes and scenery in the region, means having a car is a fantastic way to explore this part of Argentina.

To see how Tilcara and Route 9 fit into a wider north Argentina itinerary, check out one of the posts below:

 

 

cactus in Tilcara, North Argentina

How Many Days Do You Need In Tilcara?

Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Tilcara.

 

The town is small and can easily be seen in the morning. The best thing to do in Tilcara is just take it easy, take in the laid-back vibe of the place and enjoy some local wines and cuisine.

Tilcara 2-Day Itinerary

Day 1

  • Wander the town
  • Lunch at Mercado Municipal de Tilcara
  • Dinner at El Nuevo Progesso
  • Live music at La Pena de Carlitos

Day 2

  • Jardin Botanica de Altura
  • Purcara de Tilcara Ruins / Archeological Musuem
  • El Garganta Del Diablos Trek

Exploring off the beaten track in the northwest is one of 10 great reasons why I think you should visit Argentina. For the other 9, head to the post below:

 

 

small store hut, Tilcara, North Argentina

The Best Places To Eat In Tilcara

I only spent two days in town so didn’t get a chance to try all these fantastic places, but here’s what I came across from research and recommendations from our hostel:

 

  • Khuska
  • La Picadita
  • El Nuevo Progreso
  • La Pena de Carlitos
  • Arumi
  • Los Puestos Restaurante

Are you struggling to work out how many days you need in Argentina overall? Head to the post below to see a selection of itineraries that can help you:

 

 

mountains in Tilcara, North Argentina

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How To Get To Tilcara

Route 9 is one long road that runs from the north down to the city of Salta.

 

Navigating this part of the country is super easy and laidback, just hopping on cheap, local buses whenever you want to move to the next town.

 

Tilcara’s bus station can be found on the corner of Av. Belgrano and Av. Exodo. Ask your hostel for directions if you can’t find it on google maps.

How To Get To Tilcara From Humahuaca

Tilcara is only 40 minutes by bus to Humahuaca and the tickets costs a couple of dollars.

 

Buses are relatively frequent between the two towns. The bus station is in the middle of town, next to Plaza San Martin on Av. Belgrado.

 

There are multiple bus companies, so we just picked the one with the next earliest time.

 

When arriving at Tilcara, the bus will drop you off at the YPF garage across the bridge from the town. You will need to talk from there.

How To Get To Tilcara From Salta

Whilst we did this journey in the opposite direction, going south to Salta, it’s relatively simple to navigate. The buses are easy to organise and run frequently. We didn’t book anything online and just turned up on the day at the bus station.

 

If you are coming from Salta to Tilcara, you may have to change buses in Jujuy. The Jujuy bus station is massive, and we found a bus company within minutes to take us.

 

If you want to do some forward planning, then Bus Bud is always helpful.

 

They will have buses from the big cities such as Salta and Jujuy, but you won’t be able to find any of the buses between the small towns on route 9 as these are all local companies.

If you are heading to Salta after seeing the smaller towns of the north-west, then be sure to check out our guide:

 

 

Route 9 from Salta, North Argentina

Where To Stay In Tilcara

  • Hostel Waira – Overlooking the valley of Humahuaca in Tilcara, Hostel Waira offers budget accommodation, just 200 yards from the Plaza Central. Every morning, local and international breakfast is served.

 

Booking / Hostel World / Website 

 

  • Tilcara Mistica Hostel – Only 200 yards from Tilcara’s city centre, Tilcara Mistica Hostel offers rooms with free Wi-Fi. It features a garden with hammocks, a shared kitchen, BBQ facilities and a bar/restaurant attached as well. Free Breakfast with regional ingredients is served daily.

 

Booking / Hostel World / Website

 

  • Tierra Andina Hostel – Tierra Andina Hostel has a bar, shared lounge, garden, and free WiFi. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, a shared kitchen and currency exchange for guests. Free continental breakfast included.

 

Booking / Website 

Alpaca in the north west countryside of Argentina

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