Located close to the Chilean and Bolivian borders in the northwest of Argentina, the Jujuy Province is where the otherworldly, rainbow colored rocks of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Quebrada de Humahuaca can be found. While this colorful landscape is the most remarkable feature of the region, visitors will also be delighted by the picture-perfect colonial towns that nestle into the mountains here.
Rapidly becoming an unmissable northern Argentine tourist destination, the Quebrada de Humahuaca can easily be reached with a short bus journey from Salta.
What is the Quebrada de Humahuaca?
The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a dramatic canyon, which is filled with the swollen waters of the Río Grande during the summer. But what makes this Argentine landmark so striking is the mixture of vivid colors daubed on the surrounding mountains; multicolored rock in stripes of deep, russet red and creamy white decorates their slopes and is a legacy of mineral deposits that formed millions of years ago.
This region is important for more than just aesthetic reasons. Using evidence from the remains of the different communities that have lived here over the past 10,000 years, archaeologists have proved that the Quebrada de Humahuaca was once on an important trade route.
In recognition of the region’s cultural and historical importance, on July 2, 2003, the Quebrada de Humahuaca was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to visit the Quebrada de Humahuaca
It is possible to take a private tour from Salta but it’s easy enough to board one of the public buses from Salta and Jujuy that pass through the Quebrada de Humahuaca, stopping at Purmamarca and Humahuaca.
If traveling from Jujuy, Purmamarca will be the first settlement as you enter the Quebrada de Humahuaca and your initial introduction to the magnificence of the region’s mountains.
Located underneath the Hill of the Seven Colors, Purmamarca is a pleasant little town of adobe buildings. From the center of Purmamarca, a short trek passes around the base of the hill, allowing the hiker to admire the barely-believable shades of the rock at closer proximity.
Purmamarca is also close to Salinas Grandes, the third largest salt flats in the world and another striking feature of the landscapes found in the Jujuy Province. Although it’s possible to visit the flats with your own rental vehicle, most tourists opt to take a tour from Salta, which also stop at the Hill of the Seven Colors.
The whitewashed, colonial-era center of Humahuaca makes this, the largest settlement in the Quebrada, a worthy place to visit for an afternoon. Visit the tiny cathedral on the main square – home to a selection of religious artwork – before climbing the steps to the top of the Monumento de la Independencia for views across the town and the valley. Just be aware that, as this town sits at just under 10,000 ft (3,000m) above sea level, you might want to take the steps slowly!
If you’re keen to pick up a memento of your stay – and have a chance to catch your breath – stop to admire the handicrafts at the local market.