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Located in the lower part of the Río Huasamayo River basin, at 2900 m.a.s.l. Tilcara is one of the largest towns in the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge, with approximately 3000 people living there. It owes its name to the original pre Hispanic indigenous people that inhabited the area it was given over in Encomienda to its founder don Antonio de Argañaráz y Murguía and his heirs.

Tilcara Precolumbian Fortress Jujuy  Argentina Travel According to a Jesuit historian, the original Tilcara indian people were brought here by the church to live in what was called a Reduction where they were to be converted to Christianity. If not located in what today is the town itself it was close by. The town was founded in the year 1586.

Regarding the original population there are no documents left today to shed light regarding their original place of residence. From the Church's point of view, the town of Tilcara has always been considered to be an annexe of Humahuaca and Tumbaya dioceses.

Its mainly mountainous area crosses the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge through which the Río Grande River flows. It has a dry mild climate in the parts that border the Gorge, but the further away and uphill one gets, the colder the weather. In the southern hemisphere winter there are b winds, the climate is cold and sometimes freezing.

Jujuy Argentina
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- Coctaca
- Huacalera
- Humahuaca
- Maimara
- Paso de Jama
- Posta de Hornillos
- Punta Corral
- Purmamarca
- Tilcara
- Tumbaya
- Uquia
- Volcan
In the fertile valleys you will find tree species such as willows, pepper trees, elms and acacias. Regarding wildlife you will find guanacos, vicuñas, condors, eagles, fox, vizcachas and tayras.

It is called the Archaeological Capital of the Province of Jujuy, not only incorporating El Pucará (An archaeological site considered the oldest of all in the region), but also an Archaeological Museum, a museum and a scientific investigating unit such as The Tilcara Interdisciplinary Institute.

Tilcara is a tourist excursion centre, and in the high season it becomes a centre for accommodations and summer holiday tourism in the region. Apart from the above-mentioned museums it also has handicraft centres, restaurants, coffee and pastry shops, garage workshops and places to fix tires. Its hotel capacity is 181 beds and it also has camping sites with a total capacity of 200 tents.

In Purmamarca you will find, side by side with ancient communal celebrations, such as the cult to Mother Earth - Pachamama, also the way to make a payment to the mountain spirits - the Apus through the custom of leaving a stone on a mound at the mountain passes building so called Apachetas, many Christian customs such as the Children's Mass, the Christmas and Easter pageants and many where the two converge in a syncretism such as the cult to the dead.


The Our Lady of the Rosary Church
It was started to be built in 1797, but was inaugurated only in 1865. And, in common with most churches and chapels in the region, it was reconstructed several times. Its exterior walls are of adobe and inside you will find the famous painting of the Cuzco School the Six Scenes of the Virgin. The church has been declared a National Historic Monument.

Main Square Plaza and Side Streets.
As in all cities in the area, the handicrafts market is located around the Main Square, where you can find local products such as local sweets, ponchos, earthenware crockery, musical instruments, and handmade ornaments.

The Pucará of Tilcara Fortified place (Site Museum)
Pucará is an Inca language Quechua word and its literal translation is "Fortified Place". It is found two kilometres from the town, after crossing on a typical bridge and then climbing uphill. Thus, from this old strategic place there is a wonderful encompassing view over the access to the Gorge.

It is part of a defence chain which from above testifies to the amazing technological agricultural achievement of a people and their culture, capable to build fortresses to protect themselves from the hunting and gathering tribes further east, and maybe even to dare oppose the mighty Inca empire to which they finally succumbed towards the end of the XVth century.

Pucará is one of the four fortified villages, which the original people of the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge built on top of strategic hills overlooking the Río Grande River. From north to south, these villages are called Calete, Yacoraite, Campo Morado and Tilcara. There are also other indigenous villages of difficult access, but these have been built on open areas overlooking the side valleys.

The Pucará of Tilcara has been partially restored. The un-restored parts show what the archaeologists had to start out with.

The Pucará is built on top of a hill, which rises about 70 metres above the bed of the Río Grande River, occupying close to 15 hectares. It was an ideal defensive position, on one side cliffs overlooking the river, on the other side steep hillsides and on the accessible parts they built a defensive wall. Here they built their houses, which stacked on top of each other constituted a series of bulwarks for defence against any attacker.

Over the years archaeologists have restored some areas of the dry-stone work. During his or her visit the visitor will be able to discern the numerous roads, real arteries connecting the different areas, carefully crafted, sustained by dry stone work or using the ones sustaining the dwellings.

For example, in the Entrance Sector - Barrio de La Entrada, you will find the first simple area units, with a patio and a room, with a burial place in the centre of the patio. In the Temple Sector you will find corrals, patios, altars and burials and the place is thought to have been dedicated to the ceremonial cult of the moon and the sun.

To get a full idea of how life was for the people in this area you must pay a visit tom the Tilcara Archaeological Museum - Museo Arqueológico en Tilcara. The village itself is built in old-fashioned style, low slung and colonial, with narrow steep streets going down towards the Río Grande River, surrounded by hills of many colours and panoramic views.

The High Altitude Botanical Garden
At the foot of the Pucará of Tilcara, on the left bank of the Río Grande River, you will find this important centre where you will find specimens of the plant species to be found in the Puna highlands and in the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge. It can be visited every day between 09:00 AM till 07:00 PM.

Archaeological Museum
This is one of the most important museums of its kind in all of Argentina. It opened its doors in the year 1968 and here you will find displayed over three thousand pieces that belonged to the Ethnographic Museum in Buenos Aires - Museo Etnográfico de Buenos Aires. At present there are right exhibit halls open to the public as well as a library and administrative areas.

Hall 1 is dedicated to the Andean countries that border Argentina: Chile y Bolivia. Here you will find a valuable mummified body that was found in San Pedro de Atacama in present day Chile.

Hall 2 is dedicated to Peru, with ceramic pieces from the Nazca, Mochica and Chimú cultures.

Hall 3 exhibits pre Hispanic pieces from northwestern Argentina.

Halls 4 and 5 show pieces from the Puna highland area of Jujuy. There is an interesting reconstruction of a chullpa, which is a kind of Aymara burial mound.

Hall 6, named Ambrosetti, is dedicated to pieces from the Pucará of Tilcara.

Hall 7, or Debenedetti, holds the rest of pieces from the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge.

Hall 8 is reserved for temporary exhibits.

Other Museums
  • The ''Ernesto Soto Avendaño" Museum holds pieces and memorabilia of the sculptor that made the Monument to Independence in Humahuaca.
  • The Regional Museum of Art is called 'José Antonio Therry''.
  • The University of Buenos Aires has a local museum called Museo Arqueológico Dr. Casanova, which exhibits an important collection of archaeological remnants from various periods.
The Archaeological Site of Huichairas
On top of a 100 metre high hill, on the right bank of the Río Grande River, facing the Pucará of Tilcara, you will find this site formed by a dense group of dwellings made of stone in a rectangular shape. You will find remnants of roads and broken down walls. You can get there by a dirt footpath.

The La Isla Archaeological Site
A few kilometres north of Tilcara, on the left bank of the Río Grande River, in the folds of the Cerro Negro Mountain, you will find an archaeological site called La Isla, made up of a total of five pre Hispanic sites. Each one has remnants of dwellings, walls, stonework and burial places, which have contributed to about 300 pieces that can be found in the town museum. Access is through a dirt footpath.


The Devil's Throat
Located seven kilometres from Tilcara, in the upper cause of the Río Huasamayo River, from where there is a wonderful view of the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge and the snow-clad peak of Chañi, you will find this deep canyon, chiselled out of the living rock by the river. Access is through a dirt road and you can trek, horseback ride or drive a car there. We suggest you to hire a local guide.


Local Festivities
One of the most enticing tourist attractions of Tilcara is its calendar of traditional festivities. We mention some of the most interesting:

The Popular January Tilcara Fiesta; the Chicha Festival and the so called Bumping of the Godmother - el Topamiento de Comadre, which takes place on the Thursday preceding the carnival. Also, in February there is the Feast to Mother Earth - Fiesta de la Pachamama, and the Meeting of Singers - Encuentro de Copleros in the locality of Purmamarca.

On Ash Wednesdays in Easter, an image of the Virgin of Copacabana is carried on the shoulders of the faithful from Punta Corral; on Good Friday, the stations on the road to Calvary are kept in front of the so called hermitages - "ermitas", enormous banners of great artistic beauty, made up of flowers and dry fruits by the neighbours.


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