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Snowy mountains surround Andalgalá. To the north is El Condado (5,450 m / 17,881 ft) and the Aconquija range. To the East, the Sierra del Ambato nudges the sky. Sierra Belén barricades the west. In Quechua, Andalgalá means “Señor of the High Mountain.” All this natural beauty spells hiking and climbing adventures for travelers who stop at this town.

Indigenous nations lived in this valley oasis for millenia. In the surrounding area are a number of pukarás (pre-Hispanic fortresses). Museo Arqueológico de Andalgalá exhibits impressive ceramics and other items from the Belén, Santa María, Aguada and Ciénaga cultures (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-1 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Centro Cívico, Pérez de Zurita 850, Tel: 42-2783. Entry $1).

Andalgalá village was founded during the Calchaquíes wars (1658) as a military fortress. Around Plaza 9 de Julio are Iglesia San Francisco and colonial-era houses. Casa Cisneros, a 19th-century manor with a watchtower, is at the entrance to town (Ruta Provincial 46). A few blocks away is Museo Privado Malli, with a collection of archaeological pieces (Nuñez del Prado 510). Down the street is the old, English-country-styled train station.

For over 350 years, mining has been important to Andalgalá’s economy, but in recent years public opinion has been against the massive projects the government has contracted. The surrounding mountains have veins of gold, zinc, copper and other strategic minerals. Museo Minero Francisco Vera displays minerals, as well as tools and other items related to mining (San Martín and Schmidt). Next door is Museo Folklórico Felipe Zurita, which covers the area’s artisan, dance and music traditions.

Andalgalá is one of the few places in the world where rhodocrosite is found. It is mined at Capillitas (70 km / mi north). Andalgalense artisans create beautiful jewelry and items from these “Rosa del Inca” stones, so named because the the Inca believed it was made from their former rulers’ blood. Andalgalá’s tourism office arranges visits to the mine.

Another pictoresque village near Andalgalá is Chaquiago, dating from pre-Incan times (Ruta Provincial 47). The ruins of a potrero reveals ancient weaving, metalworking and pottery workshops. The historic Estancia Condado de Husán (1711), an olive plantation, offers tours and horseback riding.

Snow-covered Aconquija, the region’s most important attraction, is north on Ruta Provincial 48 (59 km / 37 mi). The road zigzags to Cuesta de la Chilca with incredible views of the range. Within the land’s folds are estancias offering horseback riding, fishing and photographic safaris, and Pucará de Aconquija, considered by archaeologists to be Catamarca Province’s most important site (50 km / 31 mi north by road, then 15 km / 9.3 mi hike in; guide needed). Treks in these mountains can be arranged in Andalgalá.

A refreshing way to end a day is to hit Balneario La Aguada, which has a crystalline pool (3 km / 1.9 mi west). Trekking-sore muscles can be soothed at the Vis-Vis hot springs (38ºC / 100ºF), 40 km northwest of Andalgalá) or Termas Choya Ojo (16-19ºC / 61-66ºF), 16 kilometers (10 mi) from Capillitas.

Andalgalá has two large festivals. Festival Nacional El Fuerte folk festival is held in January. On October 4, Andalgalá honors its patron saint, San Francisco de Asís.

(Altitude: 950 m / 3,117, Population: 14,068, Phone Code: 03835)


Andagalá has basic services: tourism office (daily 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 4-8 p.m. Pérez Zurita, main plaza, Tel: 42-2420 / 1552-0174), police (P Zurita, 42-2233), post office, phone, Hospital Provincial Hererra (San Martín 1125, Tel: 42-2225), pharmacy.


Mercado Artesanal de Andalgalá (Tel: 42-28888)

Artesanías Capallitas (López 255, Tel: 42-2301)


Andagalá Turismo (Rivadavia 63, Tel: 42-2405, E-mail:

Club Andino (San Martín 41, Tel: 1569-5716)—trekking

Estancia Condado de Huasán (Ruta Provincial 47, Km 3, Tel: 42-2493, E-mail:, URL:


Camping Municipal (3 km north, on Río Andalgalá, Tel: 42-2420)

Residencial Galileo (Nuñez del Prado 460, Tel: 42-2268)—single $12, double $17

Hotel Confort (2 de Abril and Av de Mayo, Tel: 40-2868)—single $24, double $34

Hotel de Turismo Santa Rita (Av Sarmiento s/n, Tel: 42-3263)—single $34-42, double $44-51


El Búfalo (Nuñez del Prado 66)

La Casa de Lucio (San Martín 536, Tel: 42-2409)


Other places nearby Andalgalá: Tilcara, Cafayate, Yavi, Humahuaca , San Antonio de los Cobres, Santa Rosa de Tastil, Purmamarca, Belén, La Quiaca and Tafí Del Valle .

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

18 Oct 2010

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