Rarely do you get to stay in a place where you feel so welcomed and at home that you have trouble leaving. There will always be the 5-star resort that is so luxurious that you need to be clawed away from the king size bed, or the friend’s apartment that you wish you could stay in longer just to be with people you know. Yet it’s much less common to find a hostel and feel so at peace that you want to stay around just to be there. In my short time in Tilcara, I was fortunate to find one of those places.
My friend Leo recommended La Albahaca Hostel, a short walk from the bus terminal in the small village. Walking towards the center you take the first right on Padilla and walk uphill (go at an easy pace if you’re not acclimated to the high altitude) and on your right you eventually come to the friendliest lodging in town. There you’ll be met by either Dani or Pablo, both transplants who didn’t grow up in the village, but came a long time ago and wound up staying.
For $30 ARS a night you get Internet, breakfast, a clean bed and terrace to take in the view, but also the buena onda, or good vibes in the place. As I walked in the door it felt like I was watching old friends talk, but the same thing could happen to you after spending a night there. Immediately I was pulled into the conversation and offered a round of mate, the first I had been offered on my trip, making me feel right at ease. The hostel is small and simple—don’t expect spa treatment. Yet the treatment you receive from the staff and most likely from the other friendly travelers who are passing through is more than compensation.
Tilcara is the kind of place you go to in order to relax, forget about work and troubles, and just enjoy nature. You can head up to the terrace where you get a magnificent view of the Jujeño mountains, or walk up to Pucará, a reconstructed Inca fortress. Another option is climbing up to the Garganta del Diablo and checking out the waterfalls. The nice thing about the village is that it’s in the middle of many attractions in the area, like Purmamarca and Iruya.
Dani and Pablo are quick to offer advice and give you their recommendations on the best peña in town or a cheap place to eat. The kitchen is small, but you can also cook your own meals there and eat in the dining room or lounge area, enjoyed in company by the staff. Music is usually on the in background, and since many Argentinians frequent the place, you can usually see mate being passed around and join in a conversation about soccer, politics, movies, whatever.
I can honestly say that I was seriously contemplating spending another night in Tilcara, simply because I was so comfortable in La Albahaca and with the guys. As I left the hostel to head further south, Dani and Pablo gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek (customary between men in Argentina) and it genuinely looked like Dani was sad to see me go. That was a first for me.
If you’re visiting Tilcara and want a place to say, I highly recommend La Albahaca, and guarantee that you’ll have as rewarding of an experience as I did.