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Introducing Quebrada de Humahuaca

North of Jujuy, the memorable Quebrada de Humahuaca snakes its way upward toward Bolivia. It’s a harsh but vivid landscape, a dry yet river-scoured canyon overlooked by mountainsides whose sedimentary strata have been eroded into spectacular scalloped formations that reveal a spectrum of colors in undulating waves. The palette of this Unesco World Heritage–listed valley changes constantly, from shades of creamy white to rich, deep reds; the rock formations in places recall a necklace of sharks’ teeth, in others the knobbly backbone of some unspeakable beast.

Dotting the valley are dusty, picturesque, indigenous towns that have a fine variety of places to stay, plus historic adobe churches, and homey restaurants serving warming locro (a stew of maize, beans, beef, pork and sausage) and llama fillets. The region has experienced a tourism boom in recent years and gets very full in summer, when accommodation prices soar.

There are many interesting stops along this colonial post route between Potosí (Bolivia) and Buenos Aires; buses run every 40 minutes or so, so it’s quite easy to jump off and on as required. The closest place to hire a car is Jujuy. The Quebrada shows its best side early in the morning, when colors are more vivid and the wind hasn’t got up.