Explore Argentina In The Stunning Landscape Of Quebrada De Humahuaca

Salinas Grandes

I was delighted to be back in the Quebrada de Humahuaca recently for the first time since roadblocks made trips into Jujuy province nigh on impossible. As you will see from a previous blog, for almost two months, travel north from Salta along the main road to Bolivia has been obstructed by protests against the province’s new constitution.

I returned last week with guests from the USA, and can report that though a few protesters remain, fingers crossed they will continue to make their point, but without reverting to the heavy-handed protests which have cost the local economy an estimated US$10 million in lost revenue during the high season of winter holidays.

Our only “run in” with the protests was a friendly woman near the Salinas Grandes who gave us a leaflet, decently translated into English. The roots of the latest conflict lie in long-argued rights to ancestral land which have now become a hot issue due to the increasing licitations for lithium mining in those ancestral lands.

The road protests also seemed timed to coincide with Jujuy governor’s (ultimately unsuccessful) election campaign as Vice Presidential candidate for the main opposition party.

Police moved in to ensure safe passage of ballot boxes for the election primaries last Sunday, and they have remained in position to ensure protesters don’t return to the original roadblock points.

On our private tours of the Quebrada de Humahuaca since the Covid pandemic, contacts and friends who work in tourism have told me low season doesn’t exist anymore: it’s boom time all the time, as even Argentines used to travelling abroad began to discover the beauty of this area.

Tourism authorities calculate hotel occupation in July at 63%, compared to 98% for the previous year, which is better than expected considering how difficult it was to move around the area.

I will pass you onto an article written by the team at Gondola listing some of the best places to explore in this jewel of Jujuy province, the Quebrada de Humahuaca, all included on our tours like Essential Humahuaca, Salt & 7 Colours and Fourteen Colours and Cloud Forest.

 

Explore A World Heritage–Listed Valley At The Quebrada De Humahuaca

One of Argentina’s most notable landscapes unwinds at a strategic position in the north bordering Bolivia. This vivid and colorful landscape has river-scoured canyons and colourful mountains making this one of the most memorable natural scenes captured in thousands of Instagram photos.

The Rio Grande flows through the Quebrada, and erosion, combined with tectonic movement which formed the Andes 12 million years ago, has carved the stunning landscape of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. This part of Argentina, a world heritage site since 2000, is a geological wonder worthy of anyone’s bucket list.

Make your trip even more memorable by also booking a tour to the Cloud Forest of Calilegua with the expert guides at Poncho Tours.

How To Arrive To The Quebrada De Humahuaca

Most tour companies in Salta organize day trips to the Quebrada de Humahuaca, but as Nick from Poncho Tours tells us, that simply doesn’t give you enough time.

“We run a minimum two day trip taking in all the highlights of the Quebrada, and also making a side trip to the Salinas Grandes salt flats, which is in the Altiplano mountain plain, so offers a completely different landscape.

“Even that is a whistlestop tour. With an extra day here we can spend more time further west in the mountain plateau, or we can organise additional activities like horseriding, mountain biking, or even trekking with llama, following in the footsteps of the pre-Hispanic llama trains which crossed the Andes and linked the salt flats to the west with the Cloud Forest to the east.”

One of the best ways to explore the natural beauty of this area is by booking your experience with Poncho Tours. You will be able to have a worry-free trip where guides arrange everything for you. Their English-speaking team can provide a seamless experience when traveling to the region. We can also travel further north for longer hikes  mountain trekking in Iruya.

 

History Of The Quebrada De Humahuaca

The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a world heritage site that dates back more than 10,000 years. It was the home to pre-Hispanic communities that were part of ancient hunter-gather tribes in South America.

The landscape was also home to the Inca empire and Spanish colonizers, where many battles were fought during the War of Independence. This colorful landscape is now an attraction to visitors from all over the world who want to hike through layered geological strata painted like a rainbow with breathtaking views at every turn.

 Poncho Tours provides visitors with a unique experience that combines the colourful Quebrada de Humahuaca with Salinas Grandes salt flats in the Argentina Altiplano. You’ll be able to dive into the colonial history and indigenous culture that features the famous Seven-Coloured Hill of Purmamarca, and Hornocal and its Sierra of Fourteen Colours.

 

5 Highlights Worth Experiencing

When booking your tour to the Quebrada De Humahuaca, there are several activities worth considering.

1) Hiking Through Multi-Coloured Mountains

The top attraction at the Quebrada de Humahuaca is its colorful mountains. Mornings are best to see the Hill of Seven Colours at Purmamarca, and stroll round the colourful market stalls.

2) Feel Like A Local At The Village Of Humahuaca

Get a local feel by exploring Humahuaca located in the north of the Quebrada: this small city is filled with cobblestone streets and adorned by adobe houses. It’s named after the Omaguaca tribe who were living in this area and established city forts at least 500 years before the Spanish arrived. 

At the town square, you can visit historic buildings including the impressive clock tower at Cabildo. You can also climb the Independence Monument to get a great view of the whole valley, including the Fourteen Coloured Hill of Hornocal in the distance.

Enjoy a traditional lunch of llama, Andean potatoes, quinoa and sweetcorn before travelling up to Hornocal to see the hill in the perfect afternoon light. 

3) Take In The Historical Essence Of The Ruins At Pucará De Tilcara

Take a trip back to the 11th century by visiting the historic ruins at Pucará de Tilcara. Learn about the ancient Omacuaga who thrived in this dry climate and filled the region with agriculture.

The reconstructed village features tombs located at the entrances of houses. The tribe celebrated the passing of their loved ones by keeping them close to home. It is a place that takes you back centuries to a time of simply living before the Spanish colonization.

4) Enjoy Shopping At Purmamarca

Take in the variety of local artistic souvenirs and artisanal textiles in the charming little town of Purmamarca. Walk around the main plaza to find stalls run by locals offering woven creations such as scarves, bags, jackets, blankets, and other pieces worth taking home. You’ll also find indigenous traditions including clay artwork made into bowls and other artistic items.

5) Entice Your Palette With Llama Stew

A local delight is llama meat, which is one of the most popular specialties in the region. The Quebrada de Humahuaca provides many opportunities to try llama in the many restaurants along the valley. You’ll find a variety of local dishes prepared authentically with recipes that date back centuries.

 

Best Time To Visit The Quebrada De Humahuaca

Tours to the Quebrada de Humahuaca are available throughout the year. You can have a great time during any month. However, the best months to take a tour are from April to December because it is when the climate is the driest.

Since this part of Argentina is highly arid, you have a pretty good chance of having good weather any time of year. There are hardly any clouds in the sky, which makes it perfect for planning rain-free hikes.

When visiting during the months from June to August, be sure to pack warm clothes. Although the temperatures are fairly comfortable and sunny during the day, the night mountains tend to become chilly.

No matter when you visit the region, you are going to take amazing memories with you. For an unforgettable experience in the stunning landscape of Quebrada De Humahuaca, contact Poncho Tours and book your trip!

 

Duration
6 days
Group Size
1 to 3

Footsteps of the Conquistadores

A high altitude 4x4 adventure along the old colonial mining route: this Altiplano tour brings you into close contact with the mountain plateau wildlife of vicuña, flamingoes, and rhea.

This excursion combines the must-see highlights of the UNESCO-protected Quebrada de Humahuaca with little-explored sections of the Argentine mountain plateau.

Far from artificial light, enjoy the breathtaking night sky in remote hamlets places like Yavi and Santa Catalina, close to the border with Bolivia.

Click here to view map route.

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$900
Duration
4 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Fourteen Colours & Cloud Forest

Hike Argentina’s Inca trail, linking two completely different eco-systems, the dry canyon of Humahuaca and the Cloud Forest of Calilegua.

We take a narrow mountain road which was only finally completed in October 2019, tracing the footsteps of Inca explorers of northwest Argentina from the 15th century.

This trip can be extended to include a visit to the gorgeous mountain town of Iruya and the historic settlement of Yavi on the Bolivian frontier.

Available April to November.

Click here to view map route.

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$500
Duration
6 days
Group Size
Up to 4

Mountains to Cloud Forest trekking

This is one of our most challenging north west Argentina hiking trips, recommended only for experienced trekkers: covering 58km over four days, we climb to an altitude of 4,200m, gradually descending to 1,325m, following the contours of mountain tracks along the way.

This hike offers a complete change in eco-system during four days: starting in the mountains which enfold the Quebrada de Humahuaca, we descend into the Yungas Cloud Forest of the east, following the trail of indigenous traders who travelled between the salt flats and the sub-tropical jungle.

There is an extraordinary range of landscape in these four days, and a warm welcome for modern hikers from the families in the refuges where we sleep overnight.

Available April to November.

Duration
2 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Essential Humahuaca

Combine the highlights of the colourful Quebrada de Humahuaca with the other-wordly Salinas Grandes salt flats in the Argentina Altiplano.

Rich in indigenous culture and colonial history, the old trade route from Buenos Aires to Lima features the Seven Coloured Hill of Purmamarca, and Hornocal's lesser known sierra of Fourteen Colours.

A side-trip to appreciate the immensity of the Salinas Grandes salt flats makes this one of the most diverse two day trips available from Salta or San Salvador de Jujuy.

Click here to view map route.

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$250