Alemanía, Salta’s Railroad Ghost Town

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The Argentine ghost town of Alemanía, a stop on the La Vuelta a Los Valles drive through Salta, is an interesting stop for explorers.

Alemanía is the starting point for the Quebrada de las Conchas (The Shells Gorge), the 60-kilometer stretch of multicolored rock formation between here and Cafayate.

A depot of Argentina’s once-expansive railway system, the town is said to have been coined ‘Alemania’ (without an accent) in 1617 by local indigenous tribes.

Most locals now say the town was named in honor of German workers who worked on the railway lines through here (‘Alemania’ means Germany in Spanish, but the country name doesn’t have an accent added on the ‘i’).

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A shack in Alemania, Salta Argentina

An Abandoned Train Depot

Alemanía was the last stop on the Belgrano railway line from Salta, which was supposed to be continued onward to Cafayate.

Between 1916 and 1920 the town held a few hundred residents, attracted by the abundance of work brought by the expansion of the railway lines.

The town’s folklore likens it like the wild west — a refuge of debauchery, where people came to earn lots of money and party for days at a time, enjoying the local Torrontés wine.

The railroad work was put on hold during World War I and was never completed.

As with other railroad towns that attracted European immigrants, many in Patagonia, such as Esquel and Puerto Madryn it went into decline when the trains shut down.

The railway line was closed for good in 1971 and today only eight families reside in the immediate area.

The old train depot has been converted into a modest art gallery with some unique arts and handicrafts on sale.

The few die-hards who claim to be descendants of the railroad workers, have land claims, some lifestock and not much else.

They live without modern conveniences such as electricity or telephones, and are so eager for visitors that they will likely treat you like long-lost friend.

But keep in mind the locals consider the depot their turf.

Ask for a ghost story and explore the turn of the 20th century buildings and railway wagons.

Cross the gorgeous old train tressel to go hang out on the riverbank.

A Spooky Setting for a Suspenseful Film

The most action that Alemanía sees these days is as the setting for film sets.

In 2010 a then-unknown Amber Heard starred in a remake of the horror movie, ‘And Soon the Darkness’ which will spook anyone considering camping here.

A few people do camp in and around Alemanía, or just take a dip in the Río de La Conchas, (Conchas River), but you’ll have to carefully cross the old train trestle to reach the accessible side of the riverbank.

The residents will provide you with fresh water, just throw them a few pesos as thanks — visitors will notice that they have no source of income here aside from the few pottery, wood carvings and wool products they produce and sell.

Hike to a Waterfall

This is the starting point to hike onto the hills to the Cascada de Alemanía (Alemanía waterfall) three hours away.

Ask locals for directions or someone may offer to guide you.

Getting there:

Alemanía – 99 km south from Salta on Route 68, at kilometer 107.

You’ll pass by here if on the popular La Vuelta a las Valles scenic drive.


Camping is your only option in Alemanía.

Bring all your own supplies — the closest place to buy food is a few kilometers up the road. Also secure your food well as there is lots of wildlife in the area.

Be sure to meticulously clean up your campsite, pack out all your refuse, and be generous with the locals, who share their territory free of charge.


The artisans in Alemanía make some very interesting art, wood, pottery and wool items that you won’t find elsewhere.

Since there’s no radio, TV or even many neighbors to hang out with here, the residents dedicate a lot of time to their crafts, which are very reasonably priced.

Unfortunately homemade terracotta pots are the most practical for travelers, so show your appreciation for their hospitality however you see fit.

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