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Santa Rosa de Tastil

The title one-horse town is no exaggeration here. Santa Rosa de Tastil may just be the tiniest town in history, but one of great historical importance. Just 100 kilometers (62 mi) from Salta, Tastil was one of South America’s major cities during the pre-Incan era. The tiny modern-day town centers around the ancient city on the hill above it. It has a one-room café where visitors can energize with coffee and empanadas, a small chapel and a shop that doubles as tourism office. There is no lodging in Santa Rosa de Tastil, though travelers might ask around to see if someone can rent a room, or let them camp.

The highlight, however, of Santa Rosa is the site museum devoted to findings from the ruins. Here visitors can see the real artifacts once used close by: pottery, art, weapons and more. There is also a mummy and a rock xylophone, which the museum curator might just play for the lucky few. The museum asks a $0.35 donation upon entrance and has thorough written descriptions in both Spanish and English.

The ruins of ancient Santa Rosa de Tastil, called the pucará (fortress), are just a 10 minute drive away and were discovered by Eric Boman in 1903. Though today they are simply low walls, their roofs were made of leather and woven llama wool. Scientists have determined from the evidence remaining that the Tastil people bred llamas and guanacos, and were skilled weavers who traded with other Andean towns. Various rock paintings have been found in the area, most depicting geometric figures. To date, scientists have not found evidence of wars or diseases, or any other reason that the inhabitants of Tastil might have left the city.

The fortress contains 440 dwellings, which were home to around 2200 Indians during the 14th and 15th centuries. The ruins are vast and not reconstructed, which makes them seem to stretch on endlessly. They are not marked, so it may be helpful to ask in town for a local guide. Guides are free of charge but unpaid and therefore tipping is appropriate.

(Altitude: 3,200 m / 10,500 ft, Population: ­­­­11, Phone Code: 0387)


Other places nearby Santa Rosa de Tastil: San Antonio de los Cobres,

By Suzanne Russo
Suzanne's childhood travel experiences were limited to road trip forays with her parents, and the thrill that came with crossing the state line,...
28 Jul 2010

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