Head in the clouds in Salta, Argentina

Following in the footsteps of the Incas, a new, high-altitude trek in Salta, north-west Argentina, tackles a trail locals hope will boost tourism in this wild and lonely region

‘It’s a mystery,” mountain guide Fernando Santamaria says, as we peer through an arched doorway. The “mystery” is an ancient throne made from slate, inside a boxy stone building in the remote desert of Salta in north-west Argentina. “It could have been used by an Inca general as their meeting room, or for religious ceremonies.” But it could also have been used as a bathroom. “For washing,” Fernando says quickly emphasising that it’s not that kind of “throne”.

The throne room is part of the Sillón del Inca archeological site, the ruins of a town that was one of the most southerly parts of the Inca empire. No one is claiming that it’s the new Machu Picchu, but it is a significant – if virtually unknown – spot, recently recognised as a Unesco heritage site, and the cherry on the cake of a brand new, four-day, 48km trek. The high-altitude route has been put together by three local companies as Salta’s own “Inca trail”, a chance to explore this underrated, little-known region close to the borders of Chile and Bolivia.

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