Destination Aguarague: five out-of-the-way places to visit in Salta, Argentina
Rainforests are lush with verdant foliage, exotic animals—and opportunities for hiking and devotion. The attractions lie closest to our site.
The sight of so much exuberant vegetation is quite overwhelming for first-timers visiting the region. Standing between the gently rolling hills of the tropical rainforest is the Aguarague field, located in the northwest of the Argentine province of Salta, operated by Tecpetrol for the last 25 years. The Yungas mountain forests that follow the undulating relief of the ground are the main feature of this extraordinary landscape, ranging from lowland jungle to high cloud forests, shrouded in heavy mists. Here is a list of the must-see places that surround the field lying in one of the main gas-producing basins of the Argentine Northwest (NOA).
1- Yariguarenda, the paradise of the Salta Yungas
Very close to the city of Tartagal, in the department of San Martín, lives a Guarani indigenous community who gave the locality its name in their own language: Yariguarenda, the "Place of Toads", a clue to the wealth of biodiversity to be found there. This area is a refuge for the yaguareté, a species of wild cat native to the area, as well as tapirs, monkeys and marsupials, and a vast array of birds, whose song trill through the air against the sound of plentiful waterfalls. Visitors are invited to enjoy the hospitality of the locals, pioneers in developing this rural ecotourism hub and keen to show people their natural treasures, which they so zealously preserve. The locals also pursue organic agricultural practices, with production systems they developed themselves in harmony with their ancestral worldview.
2- Campamento Vespucio, the land of black gold
Social and sports clubs, a movie theater, and the distinctive architectural style of the town's houses point to its historical past: this was where oil was discovered for the first time in Northern Argentina. Campamento Vespucio is surrounded by green hills on all sides, yet it’s only eight kilometers from General Mosconi along Route 34, which is a kind of transition zone between the humid Yungas rainforests and the semi-arid scrubland of the Chaco region. This climate is home to the carob tree, with its sugar-rich pods, and quebracho hardwoods. One of the area’s main attractions is the Quebrada de Galarza, a gully formed by a stream running down from a natural spring further up in the mountains. There is also a series of natural shallow pools in a creek at km 25 on PR 142, and the Divina Misericordia natural viewpoint, which can be easily accessed along a gentle sloping path.
3- Capiazuty, impressive hiking trails
This is a region as yet largely unexplored by tourist guides, even those specialized in ecotourism. The Capiazuty Guaraní community is situated in the Department of General José de San Martín, in the municipality of Aguaray. They live some six kilometers north of the town on the edge of National Route 34. Every December 12, the inhabitants of the handful of houses lying in the valley congregate and form a procession that climbs the steep Cerro de la Cruz to worship the Virgin of Guadalupe, whom they affectionately call "la Morenita". This is also a very good trail for hikers.
4- Acambuco Provincial Reserve, a cradle of biodiversity
Some fifty km from Tartagal, lies a lush green valley, home to an extraordinary wealth of flora and fauna. Located in Aguaray, and covering an area of 36,734 hectares, the Acambuco nature reserve was created in 1979 to restore and protect the forests covering the foothills of the mountains. Unique species such as whitewood, yellowwood, cebil, Creole walnut and cedar, are all protected from logging and illegal activities, while the jaguar, peccaries, caí monkey, coati and yungas squirrel can roam freely. Just like the great green macaw, which faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The word acambuco means ‘long valley’ in the Chiriguana language. Those who come to visit in summer can see its slopes glowing a vivid emerald green, while in winter a light dusting of snow softens the palette of colors. One of the most emblematic places in this region is El Chorrito, a small town lying at the entrance to the reserve, inhabited by a Creole community that still upholds many of its ancestral and culinary customs.
5- The Virgen de la Peña Sanctuary, devotion in the midst of pristine woods
Visitors to Tartagal cannot miss the Virgen de la Peña Sanctuary which lies just 13 km north of the city, on Route 34 in an idyllic location in the middle of the Tartagal Yungas, surrounded by hills. This is where a Franciscan religious community settled in the early 20th century, and built a small chapel to the Virgin, inspired by the local belief that the Virgin appeared to the inhabitants. The sanctuary can be reached on foot or by vehicle. The location is also a good base for hikes of varying difficulty running up into the middle of the hills, where the only sound to be heard is the gurgling and splashing of the nearby river, while toucans, parrots, and even small monkeys enliven the view. One of the trails leads to up the breathtaking Yariguarenda waterfall. On the way down, visitors can enjoy a meal prepared by the local community, such as roast kid goat, empanadas or humitas, washed down with local fruit juice.
*This article was written with the collaboration of Ramiro Arancibia, Facilities, Tecpetrol Aguaragüe.