Located north of Salta, almost in Bolivia, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is a place unlike anything else in Argentina. A gorge between two mountain ranges offers multi-coloured hills, cacti forests, unique culture and many historical sights.
It is not a surprise that this valley was declared a world heritage site by Unesco.
If you’re visiting northern Argentina, make sure to stop here! Plus, this is a great place to pass through if you plan to cross the border to Bolivia or Chile.
To help you plan your visit, here are the best places to visit in the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
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Top Things to do in the Quebrada de Humahuaca
#1 See the multi-coloured mountains
The Quebrada de Humahuaca is known for its colourful mountains. Driving through the gorge, you will find many places where you can take in the multi-coloured rocks.
In the morning, your best bet is to see the Hill of Seven Colours near Purmamarca. It is most colourful if you come here before lunchtime, but the colours are barely visible in the evening.
After noon, the eastern side of the gorge lights up with colours. You should both take in the Painter’s Palette near Maimara and the Rainbow Mountains just south of it.
min. 30min, but you can easily spend all day driving around, looking at the mountains
#2 Stroll through the village of Humahuaca
Humahuaca is a cute little village in the northern gorge. Its centre consists of cobblestone streets and adobe houses.
Next to the town square, you can find the oldest building in the region, a church, and the Cabildo. The latter is a beautiful white building worth taking a look at, especially to see its impressive clock tower.In colonial times, the Cabildo was the administrative council that governed a town or village. These days, that word is used for the government office or town hall.
From the town square, you can also climb up to the Independence Monument. While Humahuaca might look like a remote village today, during the Independence War, the Northern Argentinian Army fought 14 battles in this region.
While up at the monument, don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view of the valley.
During the day, the town is full of tourists, but it all quiets down when the tour buses leave. If you want to have the place to yourself, consider staying overnight to fully enjoy Humahuaca.
1 – 2h
#3 Visit the ruins at Pucará de Tilcara
These ruins date from the 11th to the 15th century. The village had a strategic location on top of a hill, and, standing here, you have a great view over the surrounding valleys.
As hard as it is to believe in this dry climate, people’s main occupation was agriculture. They mainly grew potatoes that they then traded for salt whenever llama caravans arrived from the salt flats some hundred kilometres away.
During its best times, Pucará de Tilarca housed around 2,000 inhabitants. The Omacuaga tribe who lived here used the settlement as an administrative and also military centre.
In the late 15th century, this came to an abrupt halt when the Incas conquered the Quebrada de Humahuaca. Their reign only lasted 50 years until the arrival of the Spaniards and the abandonment of Pucará de Tilarca.
While walking through the reconstructed village, look out for the tombs next to the house entrances. Locals would bury the dead close to them and exhume them once a year to celebrate their passing into the next world.
#4 Shop in Purmamarca
The pretty town of Purmamarca, at the bottom of the Hill of Seven Colours, is where you want to go if you’re looking for souvenirs and colourful textiles.
Around the main plaza, you will find many stalls offering woven goods, from jackets to blankets, scarves or bags. If you’re heading up into the Andes, this is a great place to stock up on warm clothes.
Pumarmarca is a cute colonial town and a great place to base yourself if you want to stay for a night or two in the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
#5 Eat llama stew
Llama meat is a local speciality. If you haven’t had it yet, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is a great place to try. Restaurants all along the valley serve llama filet or stew, but a great place to try it is the village of Humahuaca. Here, you will find a high concentration of restaurants offering authentic local dishes.
For those of you who are wondering what eating llama is like, personally, I think that it tastes a lot like pork (no, for once, it is not like chicken). I ate a stew, which was delicious and which I can highly recommend.
Best time to visit the Quebrada de Humahuaca
You can visit the Quebrada de Humahuaca all year round and have a great time.
The best months are from April to October, as they are the driest. However, since the region is very arid, you have a decent chance at good weather during the rest of the year as well. We went in November, and it was a wonderful day with barely a cloud in the sky.
If you come from June to August, pack a jacket. While temperatures might increase during the day, especially if you have sunshine, they drop once the sun sets behind the mountains.
How to get to the Quebrada de Humahuaca
There are several ways of visiting the Quebrada de Humahuaca. The easiest but also most rushed one is by going on an organised tour from Salta. These tours will take you all the way up to Humahuaca, give you half an hour at major sights and will then drive you back to Salta.
You can book those tours in advance. Click here to check it out now!
The far more relaxed way that allows you to take in places at your own pace is to stay at least one or two nights in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. You can visit either by car or by bus.
A rental car gives you more flexibility and the freedom to stop for pictures wherever you want. It is also more expensive than going by public transport.
Buses to the Quebrada de Humahuaca leave from Jujuy and connect the largest villages and towns. You likely won’t be able to visit everything in one day, but if you have the time, this is a fun way to explore the region.
Where to stay in the Quebrada de Humahuaca
There are many cute villages in the Quebrada de Humahuaca where you can stay overnight. Some of the best-known ones are Tilcara, Humahuaca and Purmamarca.
Here are some hotels and guest houses with good reviews that you should take a look at:
- Mid-range: In Purmamarca, you can find Las Vicuñas Departamentos., where you can rent an apartment. All apartments come with a private bathroom and a fully equipped kitchenette. Plus, many have an outside seating area where you can enjoy the mountain views. Go and check it out now!
- A bit more comfort: You won’t find luxury five-star hotels in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. However, if you’re looking for a nicer place, you should check out Las Marias Hotel Boutique. The rooms are beautifully decorated, and in summer, you can go for a swim in the outdoor pool. Click here to see photos and read reviews!
- Budget: In Humahuaca, you can find El Sol Hostal. The hostel has dorm rooms for backpackers but also offers rooms with shared or private bathrooms for budget travellers. Plus, tea and coffee are available in the kitchen. Check it out now and book your stay!
The Quebrada de Humahuaca is one of my favourite hidden gems in South America. Not many travellers make it that far north in Argentina, but if you do, you’re going to have a great time.
Leave us a comment below if you’ve been here and love it as much as we do!
Also, while you’re here, make sure to check out the following blog posts, which will help you plan your trip:
- Learn about the best things to do in Buenos Aires
- Spend a fantastic day in Cordoba, Argentina
- Check out these awesome South America itineraries
- Here is how to visit the Jesuit missions in Argentina and Paraguay
Until your next adventure!
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