The incredible landscapes that can be seen when visiting this stunning valley, which is peppered with typical towns, makes this corner of Jujuy a must-see in any trip around Argentina. Below, you’ll find a snapshot of what this colorful and charming destination has to offer, so you can embark on your journey to discovering its magic.
In the far North of the province of Jujuy, in a valley carved out by the Río Grande (Spanish for ‘Great River’) and over 150 kilometers in length, is where you’ll find Quebrada de Humahuaca (Humahuaca Gorge). Despite being one of the most visited corridors in the country, its mystique has remained intact, which it won’t take long for anyone who comes here to see for themselves. This is because this destination, which was classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, is home to much more than sublime natural landscapes. It also harbors an impressive cultural and archeological richness, with more than ten thousand years of history that can be felt in all of its towns and landscapes. Through the beliefs and customs of its inhabitants, the delicious local cuisine and the traditional architecture, it’s possible to set off on an unforgettable journey towards the origins of pre-Columbine civilization.
Between Mountains, Salt Flats and Ruins
In general, a trip around Quebrada de Humahuaca will start from the province of Salta, only a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires, where the adventure towards Quebrada de Humahuaca kicks off. Then, the course of your trip can take different routes and make varying stops in some of the main attractions of this stunning red, purple, ochre and brown mountain range. One option is taking Route 51 to cross the narrow gorge of Quebrada del Toro and come out in San Antonio de los Cobres, a town four thousand meters above sea level, famous for its mining and artisanal materials.
From there, after traveling on a bit further, you’ll arrive to another of the area’s great attractions: Salinas Grandes, an awe-inspiring salt flat of twelve thousand hectares squared. The following descent through Cuesta de Lipán will allow you to come out in Purmamarca, one of the most popular destinations in Quebrada de Humahuaca and an ideal place to spend the night. In this town, at the foot of the majestic Cerro de los Siete Colores (Spanish for ‘Mountain of Seven Colors’) and with an unmissable artisanal market in the main plaza, travelers will be able to slowly but surely continue discovering the ancestral culture of the north.
And an excellent way to do just that is by sampling the typical cuisine. Empanadas, special stews known as locros and guisos, steamed corn cakes known as humitas and tamales, lamb and llama meat are just a few of the specialties that can be enjoyed in this region, as well as in the neighboring ones.
And, in Tilcara and Humahuaca, the perfect vacation formula is repeated: beautiful landscapes with a large dose of history and a strong local identity. In the first, Garganta del Diablo Canyon and the Pucará Ruins, a reconstructed fort, are two excursions which mustn’t be neglected. In Humahuaca, a visit to Los Héroes de la Independencia Monument, located right in front of the main square at the top of Santa Bárbara hill, is unmissable stop on any itinerary. It’s a tribute to the Argentinian Army and indigenous squadrons that fought in the war of the same name, that will help you delve a little deeper into the fascinating history of this part of the country. Between both points on the map, Uquía Chapel, a spot with only a few adobe houses and little affluence from tourism, is home to one of the rare collections of paintings of the Arcabuceros Angels that’s still conserved in the country.
These particular representations of the winged beings were produced by the cuzquen school of art. For the perfect combination of nature and culture in all its forms, Quebrada de Humahuaca is one of those few incredible places that there’ll always be reasons to come back to.