The route of the volcanoes in Catamarca

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This is a chronicle of a journey from the provincial capital to the heights of the Cordillera. A fascinating journey between charming villages, huge salt flats, deserts and mountains over 6000 meters high. Nature dazzling little explored on stage.

The route of the volcanoes in Catamarca

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Arriving in Catamarca:
Almost at this destination a sign indicates that we are in Step San Francisco, which marks the border with Chile, is the end of the Route of the Volcanoes. This splendid route, which cuts through vast salt lakes, lagoons, hot springs and charming villages, displays 19 volcanoes that were revered by Andean cultures, ancient inhabitants of the area.

They referred to these elevations as «Apus», home of guardian spirits who offered sacrifices and offerings. Today there are climbers from around the world who worship him to this «sanctuary of height.» But also the less seasoned adventurers can reach these majestic figures. You only need a 4×4 vehicle, a local guide, it is easy to miss, and ability to surprise to see pristine surroundings, one of the few in the world.

The spectacular journey began much earlier, in San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, when the dizziness and headaches, the result of «altitude sickness» were just a warning. And when the Route of the Volcanoes was just a series of black dots drawn on a map, we look forward to had walked so many times.

The volcanoes in Argentina

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Shortly after breakfast, we take the National Route 60, which begins west of the capital of Catamarca and culminates in Step San Francisco. Moist heat is left behind but there are still traces of green between the multicolored hills that mark of what was the ancient Inca Trail leading to the Chilean town of Copiapo.

Before coming to Tinogasta worth making a stop in farming villages Copacabana and La Puntilla, which make up a «Little Italy» the residence of neoclassic style, with large gardens and central gallery is happening along the road.

The majority (as was the tradition at the beginning of last century) have family chapels attached that protect ancient religious images. In both villages are artisan weavers at their looms produce beautiful quilts embroidered with flowers of vivid colors, the typical regional souvenir.

Finally, in the vast valley Abaucán, beside the homonymous river, appears Tinogasta, one of the key locations in western Catamarca, surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, alfalfa and fruit trees. Here begins the «Ruta del Adobe,» a track that goes through a series of buildings several centuries old, built of wood and adobe.

Some house churches that set religious imagery of Chuquisaca (Bolivia) and paintings from Cusco (Peru), real pearls. Are 55 miles pass through the villages the position, the skirt and Anillaco (it was the economic center and most important religious region) and culminate in the town of Fiambalá.

Before leaving the town famous for its hot springs, visited the farm of Pereyra, a classic area where we expect a hearty lunch: meat pies, locro and wine, ideal to mitigate the incipient cold already felt in the heights of Catamarca. The desktop finds us sitting under the olive trees to some, and others, very happy, folk rehearsing steps outdoors.

Archaeological Heritage:

Fiambalá can be seen in much of the archaeological heritage of the province. This is demonstrated by the visit to the Museum of Man, which are pieces of the original cultures of the valley, as Pituil, batungastas and mahupacas and the mummified bodies of a man and a woman, with grave goods of more than 500 years old, found around Loro Huasi, a nearby town.

Routes of the Volcanoes in Catamarca

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In this city, also vineyards are registered trademarks. Occupy large tracts of land and give it a special color to the landscape, besides giving birth to exquisite «high wines» (at 1505 meters above sea level). The relaxing stroll among crops, illuminated by the last rays of sun, culminating in the Finca de Don Diego to sample their exclusive wines from grape cherry.

We continue our way to get a fantastic valley between the mountains, where the renowned Termas de Fiambalá. The water emerge at 1,750 meters above sea level and is concentrated in 14 mountainous rock pools with temperatures ranging between 28 and 51 degrees Celsius.

The route of the volcanoes

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The colors of the desert:

Route 60 turns sharply west and placed ahead of the Cordillera. In the Valley of Chaschuil is evident the incredible range of colors and textures of the high desert: the so-called «pampas coirones» paint a bright yellow horizon, framed by the red hills and blue sky.
There is much talk of the fabulous starry nights in Catamarca (who has ever traveled to the province may account for this) but little is said of the daytime sky, limpid, bright blue like few others.

After leaving the town of Chaschuil the road again placed parallel to the Cordillera. Before entering the domain of the volcanoes, the landscape strikes again with giant dunes of white sand.

How to settle for seeing them from the van? Although we do not board, boards, feeling lie rolling on the sand is priceless. And the radiant image of the mountains against the sky is overwhelming. Its imposing five summits, craved by many climbers, reaching an approximate height of 6682 meters. So not only is the highest dormant volcano in the world but is vying for second place in the list of America’s highest mountains (the first is the Aconcagua) with the nearby Ojos del Salado. So far, experts have not agreed on the final height of each, since the difference is a few meters. The latter, whose height is estimated at 6864 meters is the highest active volcano on the planet, with walls of snow and glaciers are perpetual. Inside warn smokers, who account for volcanic activity. However, it is one of the biggest challenges for climbers.

Moving into the heart of the Cordillera some team members expressed strong dizziness and headaches, which they attribute to the ways of wine tasting the day before. But it’s not a hangover, but «altitude sickness» (altitude sickness), which is mitigated in a few minutes after chewing coca leaves.

volcano in the world

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Volcano Incahuasi:

Soon overlook some of the most important «six thousand» as the hill of the Ducks and Tres Cruces. Also Walter Penck, located south of the end of the Ojos del Salado system, until recently one of the least visited peaks and is surrounded by several volcanoes, making it difficult to access. Among them, the best route is from the Incahuasi, a favorite of hikers, where he found a funerary statue of a native.

Among these giants, they open solitary lagoons and endless salt flats, which are one of the most pristine and stunning landscapes of northwestern Argentina. The guanacos and llamas are watching closely when the 4×4 vehicle is approaching to the domains of the Salinas de la Laguna Verde.

With its inverted volcano, appears as an emerald sea in the desert, inhabited by pink flamingos. She had been seen as a view from the base of the volcano Pissis, where the balcony of the Laguna Verde (4,200 meters high), which is challenging the wind comes, from there down, you can see the green and blue the Andean lagoons, surrounded by black hills and salt flats. Step Around San Francisco are the sapphire blue waters of the lagoon and Peinado volcano to the north, the spectacular Salar del Hombre Muerto.

Back on Route 60, turning west hill is the majestic San Francisco, the most visited of the six thousand, and that is very close to the road and the passing of the same name, which links the Argentine Chilean territory.

It is the end point of a fascinating journey of nearly 200 miles of desert, where human presence is noticed only by the «apachecas»stacked stone, which appear from time to time, an offering of travelers thanks to the Pachamama having left behind a place to begin a new journey.

volcanoes in Catamarca

Photography by wallygrom (very busy at work)

Camp Pumice:

From San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, the legendary Route 40 leads to various circuits of the northwest of the province. The Rock, a village of mud houses surrounded by poplars, located 490 kilometers from the provincial capital, is the starting point to visit one of the most dazzling of the Puna Catamarca: Field Pumice, which is located in the zone dominated by volcanoes Galán, La Alumbrera and Antofagasta, and others in the department of Antofagasta de la Sierra.

Rumbea Route 36 north and rises to 3,600 meters above sea level, where vicuña roam in packs. Arriving at the Loma del Pantheon, where a soccer field (sports passion defies height), we have the first sight distance, a large white spot on horizon. Then we return to the road and a few miles later, at a bend in the road, there is an unexpected Sahara Puna: white dunes, giant, stretching as far as the eye was cut in diagonal sharp against the blue sky. This white universe, a few found to practice sandboarding is also an exotic viewpoint from which you can see, and clearer, a strange landscape that resembles a choppy sea of cream in large flakes that float merengue.

Sand and limestone, volcanic, make this surreal scene (25 kilometers by 10 extension) is the Field of Pumice. The last rays of sunlight projected shadows of the porous deities, which are multiplied to infinity, as the vast sand dunes that surround them. Our feet sink ankle in the sand but still, we set out to explore this landscape carved by wind and time, which seems an uninhabited planet and fantastic.

All a great experience awaits Argentina with the route of the volcanoes in Catamarca!

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