Travel guide & tours in Catamarca

Information about the province of Catamarca in Northwest Argentina, by our local travel agency.

SAN FERNANDO DEL VALLE DE CATAMARCA

San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, Argentina San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca is the capital city of the province of Catamarca. It is located on the shores of Rio del Valle, at the foot of the Sierra de Ambato and the Sierra de Ancasti. The city has approximately 162000 inhabitants. San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca was founded in 1983 by Fernando de Mendoza and Mate de Luna. Fertile area, the city was at another time a compulsory way for communications between Santiago del Estero and Tucumán with La Rioja. Thanks to its colonial architecture and to its geographical position, the city is an excellent touristic and religious center with the church of the Virgen del Valle, which dates back to 1694.

RESERVE OF THE BIOSPHERE LAGUNA BLANCA

Situated at 3.400 meters of altitude at the South-east of Antofagasta de la Sierra, on provincial route N° 43, this picturesque village of 180 inhabitants represents the ideal stop to make excursions in the high plateau (Puna) of the province of Catamarca. We appreciate its numerous trees which grant it an ambiance of oasis in the middle of a lunar territory, its typical houses made of adobe and the Andes range in the background. From there we can access Laguna Grande (50 km), Campo de Piedra Gomez (30 km), Antogafasta de La Sierra (61 km) ore ven the Volcano Galán (125 km). The area of El Peñon is considered as one of the less polluted areas in the planet!

EL PEÑON

The Campo de Piedra Pomez is one of the treasures of Catamarca’s Puna. It is a surface of about 155 km2 made up of million huge pink, yellow, White and ochre blocks lain on the grey sand. This area is considered as a real volcanology lab. These rocks have been formed at temperatures of about 500 and 600°C. Projected in the air, they have fallen again, became cold very quickly, creating a pressure fall which form air bubbles, from where porosity and the feeble density of the rock comes from. It is difficult to imagine the huge explosion which was necessary to make this surrealist scenography. The Campo de Piedra Pomez is surrounded itself by an immense dune camp some of which reach 100 meters. The sand gradually recovers these formations as well as the surrounding hills.

CAMPO DE PIEDRA POMEZ

The Campo de Piedra Pomez is one of the treasures of Catamarca’s Puna. It is a surface of about 155 km2 made up of million huge pink, yellow, White and ochre blocks lain on the grey sand. This area is considered as a real volcanology lab. These rocks have been formed at temperatures of about 500 and 600°C. Projected in the air, they have fallen again, became cold very quickly, creating a pressure fall which form air bubbles, from where porosity and the feeble density of the rock comes from. It is difficult to imagine the huge explosion which was necessary to make this surrealist scenography. The Campo de Piedra Pomez is surrounded itself by an immense dune camp some of which reach 100 meters. The sand gradually recovers these formations as well as the surrounding hills.

SALAR & VOLCAN CARACHI PAMPA

If we come from El Peñon or from Antogafasta de la Sierra, the foot of the volcano Carachi Pampa is the compulsory passage to get to Campo de Piedra Pomez. The volcano Carachi Pampa, made of black basalt is about 340 m high. It looms on the Salar de Carachi Pampa, 50 km2 wide with the rivers Jote, Pirica and Colorado. With a short walk you can visit two beautiful lakes.

LAGUNA GRANDE

Laguna Grande is explored from El Peñon. It is part of the sites Ramsar, which is registered in the list of humid areas of international importance from UNESCO. Its registration has permitted the local authorities to receive a cooperation for the rational conservation and usage of resources. Laguna Grande is located at 4.240 meters half-way on the best road to enter the crater of the volcano Galan. From December to March, the lake has an important pink flamingo colony in particular the Parina Grande.

VOLCANO GALAN

This majestic volcano was discovered in 1970 thanks to satellite images. Up to now, only the Cerro Galan (5.912 m) stands out in this area. It was in fact situated in the center of the greatest crater in the planet, ie 36 km in diameter from north to south and 24km from east to west. This huge caldera is the result of the eruption of many volcanos, but it was mainly formed 2.2 million years ago at the time of a gigantic explosion. From El Peñon, the Access to the crater takes place by a road skirting Laguna Grande, then a pass at 4.748 meters on the south edge of the caldera. The bottom of the crater is relatively flat and it is the object of a visit to discover the Laguna Escondida and Laguna Diamante with its blue turquoise water, places chosen for the nesting of 3 species of pink flamingos. There we discover the thermal waters of Las Cochas to the south and Aguas Calientes to the north where water is in permanent boiling point at 80°. At that altitude water boils at a temperature below the normal 100 °C. Finally, the streams of the Galan crater are famous for their abundance of trouts!

ANTOFAGASTA DE LA SIERRA & VOLCAN ANTOFAGASTA

The village of Antogafasta de la Sierra, made of 660 inhabitants, is located in the province of Catamarca at 3.400 m of altitude. We find near the volcano Antogafasta and the volcano Alumbrera, respectively at 8 and 10 km to the south of Antogafasta de La Sierra. These are two basalt roads 150 m high called “Los Negros”. It is possible to climb it and to contemplate the homonym lakes Antofagasta and Alumbrera made by the river Las Pitas and filled with numerous birds and pink flamingos. At 4 km from the village we can also discover the Coyparcito ruins, archeological vestige with particularly numerous pottery remains. 5km from there, the Laguna Colorada is a sodium sulphate salt deposit used nowadays for grazing. Antogafasta de la Sierra is the point of departure to go to La Quebrada Seca (15 km), to Mina Incahuasi and to Salar del Hombre Muerto (110 km).

QUEBRADA SECA

Quebrada Seca is a long, strait and deep fissure in the colored rock. The water has allowed vegetation to take place in this mineral world and to animal life to develop. Numerous caves decorated with petroglyphs and cave painting are accessible on 4×4 then on foot or on ATV. Besides the imposing fissure and its archeological interest, the surrounding rock formations impress by their number, their weird forms sculpted by the wind and their beautiful colors orange and ocre.

SALAR DEL HOMBRE MUERTO

The Salar del Hombre Muerto extends on 640 km2, at a bit under 4.000 meters of altitude. It is mainly fed by the river Los Patos which descends from the Galán volcano. Under the salty crust of earth there circulates this water which transports lithium, potassium, sulfate and borate. A lithium exploitation was set since 1997. Lithium departs in trucks towards the north via the Salar de Pocitos and San Antonio de Los Cobres to arrive to the Factory of lithium chloride production situated at General Guemes. Besides this aspect a bit dreadful by the panorama, the Salar del Hombre Muerto offers the view of a spectacular turquoise lake bordered by a salt croute 50 cm thick. The access to this place takes place either by the path of Cerro Gordo from Antogafasta de la Sierra, or by the Nord from Pocitos.

MINA INCAHUASI

The ancient gold mine Incahuasi is located on the South-west shore of the Salar del Hombre Muerto. It was exploited on XV century by the Lickan antay (ou likanantaí) population. It was an important gold exploitation up to the Spanish arrival when they took relay and then abandoned it. We still observe today two sites very close one from the other, at 3990 and 4050 meters of altitude, and made up of small houses (huasi=house). The site also offers a beautiful panorama over the North-east part of the Salar del Hombre Muerto. Do not mistake this place with the volcano or Nevado Incahuasi (6.621 m) situated at the border with Chile close to the passage of San Francisco, or with the Cerro Incahuasi (4.847 m) situated not far from the ruins at the North East extreme of the province of Catamarca.

ANTOFALLA

Situated at 3.380 m of altitude in the border of Salar de Antofalla, the village Antofalla is one of the most isolated villages in Argentina. Made of only 40 inhabitants (8 families), it is a real oasis thanks to some pastures, poplars and willows. In order to get there from Antogafasta de la Sierra you must cross the Sierra Calalaste, and from Tolar Grande a road crosses the Archibarca range.

VOLCANO OJOS DEL SALADO

On the border of Chile and Argentina, in the Atacama Desert, the Ojos del Salado Volcano was finally measured with precision by a scientific expedition in 2007. Final verdict: 6934 meters (22,749 feet), which gives the volcano the merit of being the highest in the world, surpassing the 6833 meters (22,418 feet) of the Pissis, and the second peak of America after the Aconcagua. The highest peaks on Earth, after the Himalayas, are in Argentina. The Ojos del Salado Volcano never registered an eruption but their fumaroles prove the intensity of their internal activity.

SALAR DE ANTOFALLA

The Salar Antofalla spreads at 3.325 meters of altitude. It is 134 km long and 7 km wide, covering a surface of 940 km2. It receives the river Antofalla which flows on the slopes of the huge massif of the Antofalla volcano (6.437 m). This is the third highest active volcano in the planet. The landscape offers the traveler an unforgettable show.

OJO DE AGUA, ANTOFALLA

L’Ojo de Agua d’Antofalla est une sorte de petit lac assez profond. On peut le rapprocher des Ojos del Campo voisins, qui sont connectés entre eux dans le salar d’Antofalla. Il s’agit en réalité de geyser d’origine volcanique aujourd’hui inactif. Leurs coloris vifs proviennent de la diversité de minerais et d’oxydes métalliques renfermée par ces sols fortement agités par l’activité sismique au temps de la formation des volcans.

LAGUNA DEL PEINADO ET VOLCAN EL PEINADO

Difficile de résister à la fascination exercée par le volcan El Peinado, imposant cône sombre qui domine majestueusement les alentours. Sensibles à la magie des lieux, les Incas y avaient déjà en leur temps édifié un petit oratoire. Ce n’est pourtant qu’en 1965 que l’Argentin Sergio Domicelj et l’Autrichien Mathias Rebitsch effectuèrent la première ascension moderne de sa face Nord, puis d’autres alpinistes vienrent à bout de la face Sud en 1996. L’accès à sa base est compliqué par les innombrables amas de cendres et scories volcaniques.

Les diverses coulées de lave qui forment sa surface lui donnent toute une gamme de teintes changeantes selon la lumière du soleil, stries qui lui valent d’ailleurs son nom de “peigné”. A eux pas du volcán, la lagune du Peinado est d’un bleu azur, tandis que la lagune Amarga a plutôt une teinte vert émeraude. Une légende conte que lorsqu’elles se disputaient, un immense taureau d’or se levait de leur écume, qui défendait le lieu en jettant des pierres aux envahisseurs.