The Argentine Northwest is a region characterized by its numerous species and natural beauty. National parks are protected areas within a specific legal framework created to preserve the native animals and plant life so that future generations can enjoy them.
Let’s learn more about the national parks located in both Salta and Jujuy provinces. These beautiful areas are a great plan for nature and outdoor enthusiasts and even when some of them prove difficult to access, others offer campsites and good facilities for visitors.
Los Cardones National Park
This park is located in Salta and is the most visited even when sometimes people don’t know they are crossing it. With 64000 hectares, it was created in 1961 in order to protect the dry mountain ranges in the area that were so important to the pre hispanic cultures who fed their animals there. Even though the park doesn’t have adequate infrastructure to receive visitors, the administrative offices are located in Payogasta and they can provide further information about the reserve.
People cross this national park when they travel from Salta to Cachi and one of the most recognizable segments is the Recta del Tin Tin, a 19 kilometer straight route built over an old Inca road.
Plant life is mainly dominated by the Echinopsis atacamensis, a kind of big cactus known as cardón by the locals. Apart from these giants, dinosaur prints and cave paintings can be found within the limits of the park. Considering the dryness of the environment and the difficulties for life to sprout, a big variety of animals live here, including armadillos, mountain cats, foxes, pumas and condors.
El Rey National Park
This park is located some 200 kilometers from Salta, in the Anta department. It is one of the most biodiverse regions in the country and includes both yungas (mountain forests) and dry plains. This 44000+ hectares of tropical rainforest receive up to 2000 millimeters of rain every year, making it one of the most humid regions in Northern Argentina.
Due to its changing altitude, this national park offers a variety of landscapes; forests, jungles and even meadows are still home for several peoples who descend from our ancestors. Archaeological remains have been found here, including pottery with animal designs and stone axes.
Many endangered species are protected in this reserve, including pumas, tapirs, monkeys, foxes and other felines, parrots and hummingbirds. Plant life also sprouts without difficulty, the most important species found here are quebracho, molle, tipa, guayabo and even a flower documented only within the park: Aphelandra lilacina.
For those who are interested in visiting El Rey, the entrance is free and they offer a campsite with restrooms and cooking area.
Baritú National Park
This is one of the most isolated and, therefore, least visited national parks in Argentina. For this reason, this is one of the best conserved reserves and the animals remain practically intact. The predominant environment covering the hills are the mountain jungles known as yungas where truly tropical atmospheres can be found.
These 70000 green hectares are located in the Santa Victoria region in Salta and can only be reached from Bolivia or by plane.
Several specimens of trees can be found here, including cebiles, guayabos, jacaranda, palo santo and palm trees. As the terrain starts climbing up, the jungle slowly becomes a cedar mountain forest. Among animals, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, armadillos, foxes and several birds including condors and eagles can be found within the reserve.
Even though there is no public transportation that reaches the park, it is not impossible to visit. It is advised to do so between April and December and the entrance is free of charge.
Calilegua National Park
Created in 1979 to protect the jungly hills of Southwestern Jujuy, the 76000 hectare reserve is the largest in the Argentine Northwest. The weather is pretty hot and humid (it may rain over 1300 millimeters per year) and the park acts as a transition between the dry plains in the East and the humid mountain jungles.
Among the protected species we can find jaguars, pumas, foxes, capybaras, ferrets, condors, toucans and magpies. It is estimated that Calilegua houses over 50% of Argentina’s birds.
Keep discovering the Argentine Northwest and help taking care of its characteristic natural richness and beauty.