Tilcara is one of several sleepy colonial villages along the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow, arid ravine 155 km long in the extreme northwest of Argentina, bordering Bolivia. Travelers flock to the Quebrada for its breathtaking views of orange, pink and purple tinted mountains and to explore indigenous ruins and a rural way of life. During my recent visit to Tilcara, I discovered that this particular village offers an unexpected surprise for such a remote corner of Argentina: quirky restaurants, cafes and live music venues with delicious and creative food. Tilcara’s food and nightlife make it an ideal base for visiting the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
Here are my favorite Tilcara food and nightlife discoveries:
1) La Casa de Champa, Belgrano 249, Tilcara
In an old colonial style house with a cozy interior adorned with clay tea pots, religious icons and hand-woven ponchos, this tea shop is the perfect place to experience my favorite Argentina custom, the afternoon tea ritual known as merienda. Here you will find a wide selection of loose-leaf teas mixed with local herbs (my favorite “Yungas” is named for a nearby jungle), as well as exquisite homemade desserts, like the heavenly torta alemana made with fluffy layers of meringue, cake and chocolate. An absolute must for lovers of tea and cake!
2) El Nuevo Progreso, Lavalle 351, Tilcara
This stylish restaurant owned by a hip young couple from Buenos Aires functions as an art gallery as well as a restaurant. Contemporary artwork illuminated by candles hangs from the walls, while the high ceilings and elegant façade provide a reminder of Tilcara’s colonial heritage. The menu takes a creative twist on local cuisine with many excellent options for vegetarians, like the quinoa salad with mushrooms, sesame and grilled vegetables. The highlight of the meal was the dessert (I ordered the chocolate mousse), which was out of this world.
3) La Peña de Carlitos, Lavalle 397, Tilcara
The most famous peña in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, this is a wonderful place to come for a drink after dinner to listen to lively stories and music by local performers. Here you will appreciate the distinct cultural heritage of Northwest Argentina.