If you want to know things to do in Tucumán, not only in the capital city but also in the rest of the province, don’t miss this article.
The small Argentinean province known as the Garden of the Republic has many sites to offer the visitor. From the place where Argentina’s Independence from Spain was declared to villages surrounded by lush vegetation and pre-Columbian ruins. Visiting Tucumán is, after all, like travelling back in time.
📜 TABLE OF CONTENTS
Map with all the things to do in Tucumán
Tucumán is the smallest province in Argentina and we visited it three times in one trip. The route went something like this:
- San Miguel de Tucumán was our first destination in Tucumán and we visited it after having done the province of Córdoba.
- Tafi del Valle and Amaicha del Valle was a day trip from Cafayate in Salta.
- We visited the Quilmes Ruins while travelling from Cafayate to the province of Catamarca.
🔝 Our visit to Tucumán was part of a 3 month trip through central and northern Argentina which is summarised here: Matetrip Argentina.
Let’s take a look around to see things to do in Tucumán.
Things to do in San Miguel de Tucumán
The provincial capital cannot be overlooked. While many travellers only visit the Casa Histórica de Tucumán, there are other places of interest to see in San Miguel de Tucumán in close proximity to each other. In half a day or a full day you can walk and see all the attractions of the city centre.
Historical House of Tucumán
It is the most important historical building in the whole province and why not in the country, since it was here that the Act of Independence of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata from the Kingdom of Spain was signed on July 9th, 1816. Its white façade is unmistakable and seen many times in all the history manuals of Argentina.
Two clarifications to be made about the Casa de Tucumán:
1) It is not called “Casita de Tucumán”. We have been taught it this way in school and although it may sound affectionate to many, for Tucumanos it is derogatory. It is a Historic House where the most important event of our country took place.
2) The Bicentenary celebration: although the May Revolution of 1810 was an important milestone in the struggle for Independence (it was the beginning of everything), there is a certain “fight” between Buenos Aires and Tucumán over the Bicentenary celebration. In 2010 there was a great celebration of the Bicentenary of the May Revolution in the capital, given that the Cabildo is located there, and yet the celebration of the Bicentenary of Independence, which is the culminating moment, was not given the importance it deserved at the national level. Just google it and you will see what it looks like.
The Historic House of Tucumán is not in the same state as it was at the time of the declaration of Independence, due to the fact that it has undergone demolitions and renovations since then. Today what is preserved in its original state is the Jura hall.
Inside you can visit the Museum of Argentine Independence, an exhibition that displays objects from the colonial period, maps and explanations of the wars of independence, along with the two inner courtyards of the building.
📌 Opening hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is free.
Light and Sound Show at the National Museum Historic House of Tucumán
This is a night-time show that recreates the independence struggle in the different rooms and halls of the Casa Histórica with projections on the walls, as well as the representation of certain historical dialogues.
On a personal level, we found it an amazing show that takes you back to that important moment in our history, and we found the ending very moving.
📌 Free admission. Capacity limited to 75 people. Ask for tickets at the Casa Historica on the day. Ask for the time. The day we went there was only one show at 9pm.
📸 Check here for the Bicentennial tour and make a reservation. A comprehensive tour of all the places that have to do with the independence struggle and the main attractions to see in San Miguel de Tucumán.
Government House, Independence Square and Cathedral
The most central place in San Miguel de Tucumán concentrates, besides the Historic House, the Independence Square, the Government House and the Cathedral.
The imposing pastel-coloured cathedral was built at the end of the 17th century, but its current state was given to it by the refurbishment that took place at the beginning of the 19th century. With its neoclassical style, the two large towers and the paintings on the vaults stand out. In addition, one of its towers still preserves the clock that belonged to the (demolished) Cabildo of Tucumán.
The Plaza Independencia is a very busy place, but it allows you to rest in the shade, especially if you get very hot in the city, as we did. From here there is a nice view of the façade of the Government House, although you may also see, as we did, some demonstrations because it is an important place.
On one side, facing the square, the imposing building of the Government House of Tucumán attracts attention. Built at the beginning of the 20th century in baroque and classical style, on the same site where the Cabildo of Tucumán used to be.
Guided tour of the Government House of Tucumán
The visit to the Government House is very pleasant, lasting about half an hour, visiting the White Hall where the official acts take place and the tomb of Juan Bautista Alberdi, the father of the Constitution.
In the White Room they explain the meaning of the ceiling paintings and what they are used for today.
📌 Free visit. Entrance is through San Martín street and you will be registered for the visit there. Don’t forget to bring your ID card o passport. We couldn’t get through with Benji’s pram.
Alberdi’s tomb reads: “The will that is not educated for peace is not capable of freedom or government“. For reflection.
📸 Check here for a guided tour of San Miguel de Tucumán and make a reservation. Guided tour of the city centre.
9 de Julio Park, one of the things to do in Tucumán
The city’s main green space is right in the city centre. Designed by the French architect Carlos Thays, it dates back to 1916. This architect, urban planner and landscape designer has designed, among other important places, the Sarmiento Park in the city of Cordoba in Argentina.
This ample park occupies a large space and in its interior one finds different monuments such as a small artificial lake, the rose garden and many games for children. It is ideal for drinking mate in the afternoon, although it got a little dark for us.
San Javier Hill
About 25 kilometers from downtown San Miguel de Tucumán, San Javier Hill is an ideal place for hiking, enjoying the views of the city from above and avoiding the high temperatures in the summer.
On the hill is the great figure of the Blessed Christ, which is reached by a winding and narrow road. Here you should stop to take pictures of the surroundings and drink some mates.
Where to stay in San Miguel de Tucumán?
Being the provincial capital, there are many options for lodging in San Miguel de Tucumán. To recommend:
- Las Piedras Design: stylish, spacious and very clean apartments, three blocks from the Historic House of Tucumán. Ideal for families.
- Hotel Premier: very good value for money in the city center. It has rooms or apartments.
🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels in San Miguel de Tucumán.
How to get to San Miguel de Tucumán?
Although it has direct flights to Buenos Aires and other inland cities such as Bariloche or Córdoba, it still does not have a high frequency, with the exception of Buenos Aires.
✈️ Search here for cheap flights to Tucumán.
As for land transportation, if you want to know the frequencies and destinations to travel by bus, you can consult the official website of the Tucumán Bus Terminal.
🔝 If you are coming from the capital, don’t miss this article with the must-sees in Buenos Aires.
Visit Tafí del Valle
One of the things to do in Tucumán is to visit Tafí del Valle. About 100 kms from the provincial capital, the beautiful city is located in the Calchaquíes Valleys at 2000 meters above sea level, ideal to escape from the heat in summer. Surrounded by the high hills of the Tucuman yunga, Tafí del Valle is an ideal place for hiking, mountain biking or enjoying nature.
📸 Check here the tour to Tafí del Valle and make a reservation. Includes: transfers from San Miguel de Tucumán and guide.
Artisan’s Route in Tafí del Valle
In the small center of Tafí del Valle there are not many options other than browsing in the stores and craft stalls.
One of the recommended routes to do is the Weaving Route, which is part of the Artisan’s Route. In the shops and stalls you will find woven fabrics such as shawls, ponchos, socks, gloves, hats, rugs, sweaters, pillows, table runners and much more.
Another store that will catch your attention is the one that sells sausages, especially the famous cheese of local origin. In fact, during the month of February, the National Cheese Festival takes place. On the Artisan’s Route there are several stops to be made at local production sites. As a colorful fact, we bought a picada in the evening and there are stores that sell the picada already prepared with different cheeses and cold cuts to taste.
We did not get to do it due to lack of time and because our visit to Tafí del Valle was during the day, but the Artisan’s Route is more extensive than what is in the small center. It is a circuit around El Pelao hill and La Angostura reservoir, passing through the town of El Mollar and providing several stops of interest for tourists to learn more about the local culture and traditions.
Balcony of Tafí del Valle
The Balcony of Tafí del Valle is nothing more than a viewpoint located at 2550 meters above sea level where the Virgin of Guadalupe is located and from which you can see the town from above. The views are very beautiful (the first photo of Tafi is from this viewpoint) and the Virgin, very visited.
La Banda Jesuit Chapel
This 1718 chapel is now a historical museum. Over the years other rooms have been added to this place and now each room exhibits archaeological pieces belonging to the Tafi and Santa Maria cultures, as well as paintings from the 18th century, furniture from the owners of the house and other Jesuit objects.
🔝 We have learned more about the history of the Jesuits around Cordoba, Argentina.
On the road to Tafí del Valle from Cafayate
On the trip to Tafí del Valle from Cafayate, the road is not in good condition, but the landscapes are a paradise and invite you to stop several times to take pictures. There are several viewpoints, such as El Infiernillo at 3042 meters above sea level, where there is a stand with handicrafts for sale and a monument that one can find in the Cumbres Calchaquíes Provincial Park.
Arriving at Tafí, one can also see the different landscapes of the valley, with the Nuñorco hill dominating the landscape with its 3273 meters above sea level, the Angostura reservoir and the town of El Mollar at its feet, El Pelado hill ahead and the town of Tafí del Valle, our destination.
Where to stay in Tafí del Valle?
Being one of the favorite destinations for tourism in Tucumán, there is a lot to offer in Tafí del Valle. To recommend:
- Hotel Colonial Tafí del Valle: in the heart of the city center, has been completely remodeled at the end of 2018. Service, good breakfast and comfort.
- Aires de Tafí: fully equipped cabins with games for children in a spectacular natural environment.
🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels in Tafí del Valle.
Visit Amaicha del Valle
On the way to Tafí del Valle, we find the town of Amaicha del Valle, which continues to maintain its indigenous character, since it has its own government and deep-rooted ancestral traditions, such as the Cacicazgo and the Council of Elders, for example.
The main attraction of the place is the Pachamama Museum, designed for visitors to learn about the ancestral customs and traditions of the Diaguita culture through the works of the artist Héctor Cruz and its exhibition rooms of paintings and sculptures.
📌 Entrance fee to the Pachamama museum: 1.000 pesos (3 usd / 3 €)
Astronomical Observatory Ampimpa
Continuing along the RP 307 from Amaicha to Tafi, only 10 km from the first is the Ampimpa Astronomical Observatory at about 2560 meters above sea level. It was founded in 1985 to study the last passage of Halley’s comet over the Earth. It offers guided tours and educational science camps for school groups.
At the access to the observatory, there is a viewpoint overlooking the valley of Santa Maria and the views are very nice. In fact, it is called Tres Provincias viewpoint, because from there you can see at the same time: Tucumán, Catamarca and Salta.
Visit the Quilmes Ruins
A few kilometers from Cafayate, located on Route 40, the ruins of Quilmes are one of the places worth visiting in Tucumán.
The Quilmes Indians inhabited the region of the Calchaquí Valleys from the 1st century until 1667. During the Spanish conquest, some 2,600 survivors of the invasion were forced into a long exile to Buenos Aires, where only about 400 indigenous people arrived.
The ruins of the Quilmes village are located on the slope of a hill in a staggered form. Surrounded by cactus and arid soil was the residential area in the lower part next to the fortress in the upper part. Currently, only the circular and rectangular foundations of the buildings have been reconstructed with stone.
The visit to the complex begins with a visit to the Interpretation Center of the Sacred City of the Quilmes, which shows the customs and way of life of the Quilmes Indians, their exile and the struggle for the recognition of their lands. There is even an auditorium that projects a video on the history of the Quilmes.
Subsequently, the ruins are accessed. The guides welcome you; they are descendants of the Quilmes, explain very well and answer any questions that may arise.
The guides do not accompany you on a tour of the site, so after their explanation they show you where you can go up to the viewpoints from where you can get the classic views of the ruins. There are two main viewpoints, one on each side of the buildings, since the village was sheltered by the mountain slopes.
📌 General admission in 2022 to visit the Quilmes Ruins: 500 pesos per person (≅1.7€). It includes the museum, an explanation by the guides and access to the ruins.
📸 Check here the excursion to Tafí del Valle and the Quilmes ruins and make a reservation. Includes: transfers from San Miguel de Tucumán and guide.
Where to stay near the ruins of Quimes?
There is no lodging in the ruins (there used to be, but it is not equipped), so the closest thing is the camping El Algarrobo.
The ideal is to stay in Tafí del Valle (see recommendations above), Cafayate (as we had done) in the province of Salta or Santa María in Catamarca, and go to see the ruins and return.
If you have your own vehicle, we recommend an accommodation quite close to the Quilmes Ruins, which is Finca Albarossa in Fuerte Quemado. It is a beautiful country house with vineyards and mountains in the background. It has a swimming pool, restaurant and all the amenities to enjoy the place where it is located.
🏨 If you are going to stay in other cities to visit the ruins, you can take a look at the different options of lodging in Cafayate or lodging in Tafí del Valle.
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