Dating from about AD1000, Quilmes was a complex indigenous urban settlement that occupied about 30 hectares and housed as many as 5000 people. The inhabitants survived contact with the Inca, which occurred from about AD 1480 onward, but could not outlast the siege of the Spaniards, who in 1667 deported the remaining 2000 to Buenos Aires.
Quilmes’ thick walls underscore its defensive purpose, but clearly this was more than just a pucará. Dense construction radiates from the central nucleus. For revealing views of the extent of the ruins, climb as high as you can; there are trails on either side up to the remains of watchtowers that also offer great perspectives. Be prepared for intense sun with no shade, and a large fly population keen on exploring your facial orifices.
Legal battles between the Diaguita community and the government mean the hotel and restaurant are long closed, but the museum at the site is due to reopen: just as well, for it's difficult to interpret the ruins without it. Friendly folk selling local ceramics sell cold drinks and will look after your bags; there’s also a place at the main road junction that will do it, saving you lugging them.