Explore The Northwest
To get to the village of AMAICHA, take the RP-307, which zigzags northwards from Tafí, offering views of the embalse and the mountains – but be warned that low cloud often persists here, so you might be penetrating a blanket of thick fog instead – and heaves you over the wind swept pass at Abra del Infiernillo (3042m). From here, the road steeply winds back down, along the banks of the Río de Amaicha. It takes you through arid but impressive landscapes thickly covered with a forest of cardón cacti, with the Cumbres Calchaquíes to the east and the Sierra de Quilmes ahead of you, until you reach Amaicha itself. The peaceful, nondescript little place livens up during the Fiesta de la Pachamama in carnival week, when dancers and musicians lay on shows while locals put on a kind of pre-Columbian Passion Play, acting the roles of the different pagan deities, including Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Along with a number of small eateries serving delicious locro, the Casa de Piedra is open for meals year-round; it also sells local crafts.
Just 200m along the road from the village centre, near the junction with the RP-357, is the splendid Museo Pachamama. The brainchild of local artist Héctor Cruz, it’s actually several museums rolled into one, and it’s worth a look to see the structure itself, built around fabulous cactus gardens and incorporating eye-catching stone mosaics, depicting llamas, pre-Hispanic symbols and geometric patterns. Each large room in turn displays an impressive array of local archeological finds, the well-executed reconstruction of a mine along with impressive samples of various precious and semi-precious ores and minerals extracted in the area, plus paintings, tapestries and ceramics from Cruz’s own workshops, to modern designs inspired by pre-Columbian artistic traditions.
Beyond Amaicha, the RP-307 veers westwards before running south to Santa María, in Catamarca Province, from where you can travel down to Belén, whereas the RP-357, a straight well-surfaced road, takes you northwest for 15km to the RN-40, which heads north along the west bank of the Río Calchaquí towards Quilmes and Cafayate. The regular buses from Tafí to Quilmes and Cafayate will drop you off by Amaicha’s museum.