Explore the sculptured mountain valley landscapes of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a UNESCO World Heritage–listed gorge, on this full-day tour from Salta. Traveling the same route as the Incans once did, marvel at the serrated canyons and the ever-changing array of colors rippling down unusual rock formations. Stop at indigenous villages dotting this valley, including Purmamarca, Tilcara and Humahuaca, and visit adobe churches and ancient ruins. See sights in San Salvador de Jujuy before returning to Salta via the scenic and adventurous Route 9.
The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a 95-mile-long (155-km) mountain valley and ravine in the Jujuy province of northwestern Argentina. The Río Grande flows through the gorge during the summer.After hotel pickup in Salta, travel north with your guide for about two hours toward the quebrada. During the ride, learn about how this UNESCO World Heritage site once served as a caravan road for the Incans, later as a pivotal commercial route during the colonial period and also saw battles during the Argentine War of Independence. When you arrive in the picturesque village of Purmamarca, walk by the church and note its organ-pipe cacti-covered roof, and peruse the jewelry and wool rugs at the craft market. The unforgettable sight here, however, lies at the end of the road, looming over town: Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven Colors Hill), with striated hues ranging from cream to green to a deep plum.
Continue north to Tilcara in the heart of the quebrada. Just outside the town, climb a hilltop to see the pre-Incan fortress ruins of Pucará, and enjoy sweeping views of the valley. Then head back to the town square to visit the archeological museum.
Pass through Huacalera, and while crossing the Tropic of Capricorn road, admire the multicolored La Pollera de la Coya hill. In Uquía, see 17th-century paintings by indigenous students of the Cuzco School, a Roman Catholic artistic institution founded in Peru.
Around midday, arrive at Humahuaca, your northernmost stop and the most densely populated town in the quebrada. Stroll past white colonial buildings lining the cobblestoned streets, climb a flight of steps to see the Monument of Independence built in 1950 and gaze out onto the Río Grande valley.
Visit the local cathedral and observe more Cuzco School paintings, and then enjoy lunch in town (own expense); feel free to ask your knowledgeable guide for recommendations on where to eat.
After lunch, head back south and pass by La Paleta del Pintor (Painter’s Palette), a series of triangular jags in distinct stripes of rose, green and ocher that form a natural tableau framing the town of Maimará.
Stop in San Salvador de Jujuy, situated at the southern end of the gorge. Visit the French-Baroque Flag’s Hall and see the flag bestowed by General Belgrano to the city following the Battle of Salta.
Inside San Salvador de Jujuy Cathedral, admire the wood-carved pulpit laminated in gold. Passing by the Government House, ponder over the allegorical statues by native Lola Mora.
Keep heading south via the narrow and winding Route 9 for views of subtropical vegetation, the Santa Laura Pass, the dam of La Cienaga (the Swamp), Las Maderas and Campo Alegre, and travel through Vaqueros before arriving back at your hotel in Salta.