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Stretching 155km in the Jujuy province, Quebrada de Humahuaca is a mountain valley that is not only intensely stunning but also tells Argentina’s story from 10,000 years ago. A strong amalgam of history and surreal landscapes, the valley was rightfully declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, tourists visit the valley to witness the scenic grandeur that has adorned many magazine covers and to (un)knowingly follow in the footsteps of a historic cultural caravan road used by the Inca Empire in the 15th century.
The mountains of Quebrada de Humahuaca flaunt waves of colors, ranging from rich bands of red, vibrant pink, creamy white, and patches of green. Nestled in amongst this stunning backdrop are quaint towns and villages, all with their own unique experiences and attractions. And while tourism is flourishing in this part of the high Andes, it still retains its mystical charm, making a trip here one that is unforgettable.
1. Cerro de los Siete Colores
The Cerro de los Siete Colores (or the Hills of Seven Colours) is a breathtaking sight. Located just outside of the town of Purmamarca, the Hills are composed of seven different types of rock, which results in a diverse range of colours. From pink to red to white, these waves of colour emerge from the ground, creating a picturesque backdrop for the town below. The Cerro de los Siete Colores is truly a feast for the eyes.
- Visit within the first 45 minutes after dawn for the most vibrant display of colours.
- Experience the hills on horseback by organizing a special tour.
- Take in spectacular views by hiking one of the two hiking trails through the hills. In just ten minutes (or an hour, depending on which trail you pick), you’ll find yourself staring out at this geological wonder.
2. Serranía de Hornocal
The Serrania de Hornocal is a mountain range like no other. Located 25km outside of the city of Humahuaca, the Serrania de Hornocal appears as a jagged row of teeth-like rocks. Centuries of erosion have uncovered limestone bands of vibrant reds, pinks and whites across the range. Rumour has it that up to 33 different colours flow across this natural wonder.
- Atop the mountain is a stunning viewpoint of the peaks and valley below. Entrance to the viewpoint is USD 3* per vehicle.
- Visit after 4 pm, when the western sun illuminates the ranges’ vivid colours.
- It’s best to visit the Serrania de Hornocal via car or organized tour.
3. Pucará de Tilcara
The Pucara de Tilcara is a pre-Incan fortification that dates back more than 10,000 years. Located just outside of the town of Tilcara, the Pucara de Tilcara commands views of the river ball in both directions, offering stunning views of the surrounding scenery. Discovered in 1908, the Pucara de Tilcara was declared a national monument in 2000. Step back in time and explore the Pucara’s 10-room museum displaying more than 5,000 valuable historical artefacts.
- Entry to the Pucara de Tilcara is USD 5 for an adult and around USD 1* for students. Admission includes entry to the Museo Arqueologico, another museum dedicated to the indigenous tribes of the region.
- The Pucara de Tilcara is open every day from 9:00 – 18:00.
4. Old Church of Uquia
Uquia is a small rustic village famous for its old church. The San Francisco de Paula Church dates back to the 17th century and was declared a national historical monument in 1941. Although relatively small, the church is famous for its art-covered walls. Depicting angels with guns and flamingo wings, the “Los Angeles Arcabuceros” painting was brought to Uquia from Cusco during the colonial period.
- Admission and entry are by donation
- Open most days from 9:00 – 12:00 and 13:30 – 17:30
- Marvel at the art and enjoy the views from the quaint and charming church
Located off the beaten path in Quebrada de Humahuaca region is Iruya. The small village is less than 50km from the main road leading to Humahuaca but feels like ages away. Nestled into the mountainside, Iruya is famous for its scenic location, friendly locals, and stunning panoramic views. Visit Iruya for a calming retreat or to take advantage of the area’s fantastic hiking trails.
- Drive the 50km dirt road to take in some of the regions most spectacular vistas.
- Visit the town church; painted in yellow and blue, which dates all the way back to 1690.
- Walk across the Pasarela Peatonal (pedestrian bridge), which spans the Iruya River, and take in stunning views of the town.
The closest airport to Humahuaca is located more than two hours away in Jujuy. From the capital of Buenos Aires, visitors can fly to Jujuy in just two hours. Buses run frequently from Jujuy to the valley with trips taking anywhere from two to three hours, depending on traffic.
The valley can also be approached from Salta. From Salta buses run to Humahuaca several times a day and the trip takes under five hours. There are several tours to Humahuaca available from Salta, like this one.
Humahuaca is the largest town in the region and offers the most options for sleeping and eating. Whether you’re looking for a budget hostel or a luxurious stay, the town has plenty of options for all types of travelers.
1. Las Terrazas Hotel Boutique
Located in the mountainside town of Tilcara, Las Terrazas Hotel Boutique is the perfect place to relax after a long day of exploring Quebrada de Humahuaca. Lounge by the pool or enjoy a cold beverage on a private terrace as you enjoy stunning views of the colorful valley surrounding the hotel. With just nine rooms, Las Terrazas Hotel Boutique is perfect for anyone looking for a restful and relaxing stay in the Argentine countryside.
2. Hotel Huacalera
For modern accommodations in the heart of the valley look no further than Hotel Huacalera. Located in the historic mountain town of Humahuaca, Hotel Huacalera is ideal as a base in Quebrada de Humahuaca. Just two kilometers from the Tropic of Capricorn, Hotel Huacalera offers spacious and sophisticated room with breathtaking views of the area’s unique scenery. The restaurant features a variety of dishes made from locally sourced vegetables and serves wine made from their very own vineyard. Hotel Huacalera is truly a little slice of paradise in Quebrada de Humahuaca.
3. Hostal Azul Humahuaca
For travelers on a budget, Hostal Azul Humahuaca is the perfect place to hang their hats. This bright blue hostel consists of eight rooms and offers guests a bar/lounge, a sun-filled terrace, as well as a breakfast buffet each morning. Situated across the river from the town of Humahuaca, the hostel is in close proximity to the Quebrada de Humahuaca and Candelaria Church, and provides easy access to many of the valley’s famous hiking trails. Enjoy a quiet, comfortable and laidback stay in the heart of the valley at Hostal Azul Humahuaca.
- Get to the viewpoints in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun brings out the most vivid colours of the mountainside.
- The most popular time to visit Quebrada de Humahuaca is in the Argentinean summer and fall (December through June).
- The Quebrada de Humahuaca is located more than 3,000 meters above sea level. To avoid altitude sickness, do not overexert yourself, remember to drink plenty of water, and maintain a healthy diet while in the area.
- Tours of the valley are offered by a myriad of operators and can be booked in Jujuy, Humahuaca, or Salta. You can also find organized multiday trips to Quebrada de Humahuaca.
From its colorful mountain ranges and its rustic towns to its rich history and vibrant culture, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is a region full of wonder and surprise. So, grab your binoculars and charge up your camera, because it is Quebrada de Humahuaca and you don’t want to miss a single moment of it. You definitely want to add it to your Argentina trip.
*Note: Prices are as of April 2018.