Cachí is a beautiful tranquil town southwest of Salta city. The scenic drive from Salta is superb as it takes you through the dry cactus plains and then high into the mountains and lush green valleys above the clouds. The bus journey from Salta to Cachí takes about 5.5 hours.
As you near the town of Cachí you will immediately notice the surrounding snow-capped mountains, which are striking against the perfect blue cloudless sky. There are plenty of walks to do around the town, all with stunning views. The walks that we did are listed below, although there are many more to do – just ask at the tourist information centre on the plaza. We went in May when the red pepper fields are being harvested and the peppers are laid out to dry in the sun. The bright red peppers are so vibrant against the dusty dry landscape that these radiant red fields can be spotted from miles away.
Cachí is as laid-back as it gets and the main square, Plaza 9 de Julio, is the perfect place to sit in the warm sunshine and enjoy the peace and quiet….unless, you are ‘lucky’ enough to come across the local lady banging her drum and singing/screaming. One afternoon, she was there for about 3 hours. She certainly has a lot of energy. But, apart from this lovely Señorita, Cachí is super quiet. Around the plaza, there are a few people making some tasty fried empanadas, a type of mini-pasty, and selling some local home-made produce. There are also some small handicraft stalls along the side of the church.
The church, Iglesia San José, was built in the 16th century and is recognised as a National Historical Monument. Its white stone walls and simple design make it a charming fine-looking building. Opposite the church is the Pío Pablo Díaz Archaeological Museum. It’s quite small but interesting and the building itself is beautiful with some colourful artistic murals.
We stayed in a fantastic hostel called Don Arturo, which is a quiet comfortable family-run place. It has a bright sun-lit lounge area where breakfast is served, which opens out onto the patio, and then further down there is a vineyard. All this is overlooking the view of the river and mountains, where you can catch flocks of parrots flying by. There is also a beautiful black cat. It was definitely my ideal place to stay.
Walks to do in Cachí
It takes about 30 minutes to walk up the hill to the cemetery. Follow the path past the bus stop and over the bridge, and continue straight up the road until you get to a crossroads. You’ll see steps on your right going up the hill.
It’s quite a steep rocky track to walk up so wear decent shoes. It doesn’t take long, but you get up quite high and the views are even more impressive. Against the clear blue sky, you can see the fantastic snow-capped mountain range overlooking the immense flat planes in the valley below. It’s a great place to sit and stop, enjoy the silence and take in the views. Look out for condors circling the mountains. If you’re going in April-May time, look out for the bright-red pepper fields dotted around the land.
The cemetery itself is nothing spectacular, but it is interesting. If you notice the range of graves and tombs, you’ll see a variety of styles, sizes and colours. Some are huge ornate burial chambers housing a whole family. Others are humble wooden crosses made with whatever bits of wood could be found. The social hierarchy of graves clearly shows the range of wealth, or lack-of, of the local people.
Walks by the Río Cachí
When you leave the church, turn left and follow the road, past the small square with restaurants, and further down you’ll make it to the river, Río Cachí. It’s not much of a walk, but we found it a beautiful spot to sit, enjoy the view and watch the birds.
You can walk along the Río Cachí, but you have to access it from a different place. By the bus station there is a small bridge (which you cross on your way to the cemetery) with a footpath leading off the road to the left. The path continues all along the river with some nice spots to sit and dip your feet in the water.
Walk to the ruins
For us, this was the best walk. The ruins are nothing special to see, but the path to get there takes you past vineyards, pepper fields, farms and rivers. And naturally, spectacular views.
Leave the main plaza from the southwest (the opposite corner from the church), up the road called Benjamin Zorilla. Continue straight along this road to the outskirts of town and it will start becoming more rural. You’ll pass some vineyards, and apparently you can find the highest one in the world here. If you keep on this track for an hour or so, you will eventually get to a crossroads, which should have a signpost for the ruins to the left. Take this turning and you will eventually do a round circuit, past the ruins, back to the town. I do not know the name of these ruins and I have looked everywhere on the internet and on maps, but I cannot find any information. I promise they are there though!
As I said, the ruins are not much to see, and as a tourist site, it looks pretty abandoned now. However, the walk there is lovely. We passed gorgeous green valleys near the river and beautiful old farms and simple adobe houses. During the autumn when we went, we passed red pepper fields and also lots of farms that had the peppers laid out on the ground drying in the sun. All with the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains.