Crowds of people travel miles out of their way every day to visit this magnificent piece of Argentina’s past – Puente del Inca. The “Bridge of the Inca” as it is called, is exactly that, a bridge. However, I highly doubt that you will find another bridge quite like this one on your travels.
Evidence of the past lives of the Incan people has been left all over the vast South American lands. But this bridge is particular to Argentina and it is a common destination full of history. It sits at about 2700 m above sea level but is only a few kilometers away from the extraordinary Andes Mountains and the highest peak in the western hemisphere – Mount Aconcagua.
The second I stepped onto the arid grounds leading up to the bridge I was intrigued. A line of tents were set up from the bus drop-off spot all the way to the very edge of the viewing areas. Beneath these tents one could buy every form of souvenir imaginable. Each was unique and captured the essence of Puente del Inca and its history, but first I had a goal in mind.
I carefully walked down the hallway of temptations that was formed by the tents and forced myself to keep my eyes down to avoid being distracted by these goods. One glance to the side and I knew that inevitable urge to browse around and lose myself within the products would take over before I even had a chance to see the bridge. I felt a sense of relief as I reached the end of the vendors and finally took a deep breath. As I lifted my eyes I was grateful for this decision and instinctively approached the wooden railing to get as close as I could to the natural wonder before me.
The first thing I noticed was the bright yellow color that appeared to have been painted onto the side of the rocks. Throughout the years a transformation in coloring was triggered by the sulfur compounds and numerous minerals within the hot waters that flow through the ruins. This bright yellow was contrasted by the chocolately brown river – Rio las Cuevas – that ran along the base of the bridge and carried the mineral deposits from the mountain glaciers up the road.
This postcard perfect landmark is especially impressive to visit due to the fact that the ruins and bridge itself have held up so well over the years that one can still walk across it. Nestled beneath the bridge is a once sophisticated spa resort that was swept away by a flood. It was said that the Incan people once considered these hot springs to be healing waters and brought the sick here when seeking a cure. There are still individual rooms and windows that are a mind blowing example of the advanced skills of the Incan people in the construction of this landmark.
I walked along this magnificent piece of history to view the area from every angle possible, and on the opposite side I noticed the small church building that sits behind it. The geological formation is both absurd and intriguing at the same time – surely an interesting place for any curious traveler. The hot springs in the local waters are still open to sit in, and of course the yellow stones are used to create many interesting crafts and products that the locals set up for their daily visitors.
While walking away from the bridge I finally allowed myself to stop and soak up the small market. Any Argentine gift is well appreciated but a gift with a story is much more exciting. I took my time looking around and making my purchases that were later given away as fantastic gifts to friends and family who appreciated the enlightening piece of Argentina’s past.