Dating from about AD 1000, 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 sprawls both north and south from the central nucleus, where the outlines of buildings, in a variety of shapes, are obvious even to the casual observer. For revealing views of the extent of the ruins, climb the trails up either flank of the nucleus. Be prepared for intense sun with no shade, and a large fly population keen on exploring your facial orifices.
In theory, there is a beautiful hotel and confitería at the site, as well as a museum. However, at the time of research, the government, local Diaguita community and concession holder were embroiled in a prolonged legal battle, so it was all closed. 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.