What to see & Do

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The main thing to see in the Quebrada de Humahuaca is the Quebrada itself. Every twist in the road unveils a new mountainside, a new rock formation, a new range of colors. Let the majesty of the place sink in, whether you’re driving through or sleeping in one of the towns; the atmosphere of these millennia old mountains is unique.

The villages in the Quebrada are worth a visit. Often, you can see several in one day, as the buses run continuously. They all offer the necessary sleeping and food accommodations, although Tilcara in particular has made an effort to develop its tourism resources. It has even created a website, although it is only available in Spanish. Going northwards, from San Salvador de Jujuy:

Purmamarca and Maimará

PurmamarcaRoughly on either side of the road, Purmamarca and Maimará are your first stop along the Quebrada, at an altitude of 2,200 m. The Cerro de los Sietes Colores (the Hill of the Seven Colors), in the first village, and the Paleta Del Pintor, the Painter’s Palette, in the second, are awe-inspiring mountains that reflect precisely what their names describe.

Tilcara

TilcaraAt 2,500 m, Tilcara is the only town in the Quebrada to the left of the Río Grande, which according to one Tilcareño accounts for the unique spirit of its people. It is a village with a thriving musical scene; in fact, it is sometimes said that there are more musicians there than regular people. On the outskirts of town, there are unique archeological ruins, the Pucará, the remains of a pre-hispanic town now overgrown with cacti. To the north of Tilcara, a dirt road takes you to the laguna, which despite appearances is not connected to the river – it is actually a break in the mountain over 10 meters deep, filled by the water table. In the spring time, it is a surprisingly green village, surrounded by trees and bushes on all sides.
http://www.tilcara.com.ar/

Humahuaca

TilcaraReaching 3,000 meters, Humahuaca is decidedly less green than the previous villages. From the hill topped by a monument to the Héroes de la Independencia, you have a view of the town and its surroundings. Tourism here is organized mainly around the handicraft market. You can catch a bus eastwards to the beautiful village of Iruya, built on the lower slope of a mountain. The road between the two towns in itself is worth the ride.

La Quiaca

Much higher in the altiplano, you finally reach the border with Bolivia. At an altitude of close to 3,500 meters, make sure you don’t over-exert yourself and give into the temptation of running to the border with the daily stream of Bolivians carrying 10kg sacks of sugar and flour from Argentina. The city has a nice plaza, some quaint streets – not very much by way of accommodations, but a possible pit stop on the road between two countries.

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