Views 17 Sep A journey into the mountains
 |  Category: Must-see Travel Destinations

Travelling to more remote locations in Argentina and more widely in Latin America, can provide its fair share of challenges but the experiences awaiting the determined explorer can be extremely rewarding. A significant part of that experience often lies in the journey to such secluded locales and this certainly applies to the tiny town of Iruya, tucked away amongst the Andes in the province of Salta, in the northwest of Argentina.

A journey into the mountains

The only way to get to Iruya without a 4×4 is on the buses operating daily from the town of Humahuaca, some 300km away. The remoteness is partly explained by Iruya’s geographical situation, located on a plateau in the Andes, known as the Altiplano in Spanish or high plain. Iruya itself is carved into a mountainside and sits at a height of 2,780m above sea level. There are other historical reasons which determine the relative levels of connection/disconnection between towns in this part of Argentina. The northwest, such a significant leg of colonial trading links between the silver mines of Potosi in Bolivia and the Atlantic Coast, and subsequent European markets, prioritized more accessible cities such as Salta, Jujuy and Tucumán, whilst bypassing hidden pockets of human civilization like Iruya. Most of the smaller settlements situated in the northwest of Argentina consist of villages or towns with relatively undeveloped transport links, and are sheltered between the mountains or near adequate water sources for drinking and irrigation (Iruya itself is located alongside the Iruya River). Of course, Iruya and many of the neighbouring towns and villages dotted within and along the Andes, possess histories which stretch back far earlier to pre-Colombian times, providing that element of mysticism which undoubtedly draws many travelers to the region.

While the historical transport legacies have influenced the present-day (under-) development of different areas in this part of Argentina, the untouched nature of Iruya makes for a thrilling journey for travelers and back-packers who decide to make the trip. Passengers on board gasp with an equal measure of fear and awe as the bus winds its way through the rocky valleys for which the province of Salta is famous for. Some of those more prone to vertigo decide to draw the curtains on the breathtaking vistas, but in so doing miss a unique opportunity to view this deserted wilderness.The bus seemingly teeters over the edge of the gravel road as it zigzags up and down the steep, sheer-drop valleys and the passengers are forced to put their complete faith in the man at the wheel. Bus drivers are not renowned for their patience and subtlety in the cities of Argentina and those characteristics are evident here as the bus swings around the sharp hairpins at what occasionally feels like reckless speed. However, this perspective downplays the levels of driving skill which can only come with the experience of countless journeys over this terrain. The final destination of Iruya is no less enthralling and the warmth of the reception you will receive in the town, coupled with the views of the sky at night will make this trip unforgettable. Although it would be naïve to suggest that Iruya is still a secret, or off the tourist radar, it is a welcome relief to arrive somewhere which doesn’t feel as commodified as other towns in this region. So, the next time you are travelling on a bus in Argentina, try to avoid drawing the curtains on the awe-inspiring landscapes and the history embedded therein.

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  1. I like this post

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