Catamarca, adventure tourism and ancestral culture

#ArgentinaDakar keeps taking us around the country. This time to discover Catamarca’s beautiful landscapes and centuries-old Andean culture. The Andes is the main setting where the culture of the peoples in the area has been developing since remote times and where most of the tourism options are found.

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In Catamarca’s mountain ranges we can spot the traces of its aboriginal past through a variety of tours. For instance, remains of the Aguada culture that inhabited the region during the first centuries of our era. To learn about these archaeological findings we should leave San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, the province’s capital city, and go across the country’s most spectacular scenic roads – Cuesta del Portezuelo, a corniche where condors can be sighted and which is also very popular among hang glider and paraglider pilots.

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And there is more extreme adventure in the mountains, but we have to go up to Fiambalá. This village is known by Andean climbers and mountaineers as “The Gate to the Sixthousanders”, so called because from here you can access one of the highest points in the Andes. The area is dotted with some twenty peaks standing taller than six thousand metres and posing one of the greatest challenges on Earth for climbers.

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But perhaps we’re not so keen on extreme sports and would rather choose quieter activities like exploring small villages where time seems to have come to a standstill or becoming familiar with the textile art mastered since ancestral times.

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In the first case, we will head from Fiambalá to Tinogasta along the Adobe Mud Road, a tour that comprises a series of mud and straw constructions, among which stand out some small churches dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. In this area we can also visit several wineries using traditional winemaking techniques and specialised in Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bonarda.

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If we want to know about Catamarca’s textile art, we should return to the capital city. Here we can have a look at the Handmade Rug Factory, where a guided tour will teach us about the art of manufacturing rugs and tapestries. We will have a chance to see women weavers working at their looms, thus keeping a centuries-old art alive as they shape and colour the sheep‘s fine wool.

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