A GUIDE TO ARGENTINA’S RAINBOW MOUNTAINS: HUMAHUACA VS PURMAMARCA

In the north-west of Argentina there’s not one, but two Rainbow Mountains. One known as the ‘Hill of 14 colours’ and the other as the ‘7 Coloured Mountain’. Here’s a rundown of both on how to visit them and what to expect, but they are only a few towns apart so why not visit both if you are in the region!

EL HORNOCAL VS CERRO DE LOS SIETE COLORES COMPARISON

El HornocalHill of 7 Colours
Where is it?HumahuacaPurmamarca
Elevation4300m2324m
Cost500 ARS for the tour
+ 15 ARS entrance fee
10 ARS entrance fee
Trek DifficultyEasyEasy

Prices as of February 2020 and based on visiting the mountains from the nearest town.

HOW TO VISIT HUMAHUACA'S RAINBOW MOUNTAIN - EL HORNOCAL

Known to locals as Serranias del Hornocal or Cerro de Los Catorce Colores. To us foreigner it’s the ‘Hill of 14 Colours’.

 

Why 14 instead of 7? Well, they wanted to try and outdo the rival rainbow mountain, Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of 7 Colours), in Purmamarca and draw more tourism to the town of Humahuaca. 

Where is El Hornocal?

North Argentina, Jujuy Province, the closest town being Humahuaca.

 

Everything you need to know about the town of Humahuaca can be found here in our guide:

 

 

How To Get To El Hornocal

It depends where you’re coming from but here are three recommendations:

 

  • Humahuaca – the closest town, it is only a 30-minute drive to the top – including stops for pictures the tour will take 2-3 hours – we recommend 3 hours, so you have time to enjoy the view
  • Tilcara – a bus to the town takes 45 minutes to an hour. Then you can do step one once you arrive in Humahuaca
  • Rent a car – the best place to rent a vehicle is in Jujuy or Salta. If you are visiting from Salta, it is a 4-5-hour drive, and you can drive to the viewpoint yourself

 

We go into a lot more detail on each of these options and more in this post:

 

 

 

How Much Does It Cost To Visit El Hornocal?

Here’s how much it should cost for the three options we have laid out:

 

  • Humahuaca – 500 ARS (£6.39/$8.30) for the tour + 15 ARS (£0.19/$0.25) entrance fee
  • Tilcara – the bus from Tilcara will cost around 140 pesos (£1.80/$2.40) each way, total 280 pesos (£3.60/$4.80) and then the cost of the tour on top
  • Car rental – start at around £40/$53 per day. If renting with 3 or 4 people, this is perfectly reasonable, especially if only for a few days.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Humahuaca & El Hornocal

The best time to visit Humahuaca is in dry season – April to October.

 

Northern Argentina has a subtropical climate, so it remains warm all year round. The rainy season is December to March, but this is also summer, meaning it can be hot and humid.

 

To be honest, you can visit all year round. We went in February and the weather was terrific. You might just have to be lucky or patient with the weather and visit when it isn’t rainy.

How High Is El Hornocal?

The viewpoint is at 4,300m (14,108 ft). 

 

Take it slowly once you arrive, especially if you are feeling the effects of altitude sickness.

 

You will only walk for around 5 minutes down the path and then 10 minutes back up, so you won’t be exerting yourself too much, and before you know it you will be back down in town at a much lower altitude.

Is El Hornocal Difficult To Climb?

There’s no trekking involved so visiting El Hornocal is super easy on the legs and lungs.

 

You drive all the way to the viewpoint, and there is one short path to a clearing for photos. The walk back is more demanding, up a small hill, but it’s not too long or difficult.

Recommendations

  • Get a tour with a long stop at the top (aim for at least an hour to enjoy it properly)
  • Check the weather before you go to ensure you get the best views and that it’s not going to rain
  • Sunset can be lovely but depends on the time of year, in rainy season December to March the weather can turn in the afternoon.

 

Check out our Humahuaca city guide for the best places to stay and eat if you decide to stay in town:

 

 

PURMAMARCA'S RAINBOW MOUNTAIN - THE HILL OF 7 COLOURS

Known as Cerro de los Siete Colores which means the Hill of 7 Colours. The second Rainbow Mountain in the region is just as colourful and just as easy to visit.

Where Is It?

North Argentina, Jujuy Province, in the town of Purmamarca.

How To Get To Purmamarca

Similarly to El Hornocal, it’s possible to visit from several towns, we’ve given three recommendations below:

 

  • Purmamarca – from the main town, it’s only a 10-minute walk! You can see the mountain from everywhere in town, so just head towards it to find the paths.
  • Tilcara – the bus to Pumamarca is only 30-45 minutes allowing you to make a day trip out of it from Tilcara adding on the step above
  • Rent a car – 3-hour drive from Salta 

 

You can also book a tour from Salta if you wish. Most tours will stop at Pumamarca, Tilcara and Humahuaca but be warned, most of the day will be spent on the bus.

 

Again, we’ve covered a couple of these tours in our post on visiting El Hornocal as most tours will take you to see both mountains:

 

 

When Is The Best Time To Visit Purmamarca?

From town it’s possible to hike up the mountains as well as to viewpoints. These treks range from 10 minutes to an hour depending on which you take. It’s also possible to hike up the mountain itself which takes an hour or so.

How High Is Cerro De Los Siete Colores?

Purmamarca is 2,324 m (7,625 ft) above sea level, and it’s possible to see the mountains at this altitude.

Is Cerro De Los Siete Colores Difficult To Climb?

Nope it’s extremely easy. Hiking the trails will lead you to climb between 20m to 1,000m (66 ft to 3,300 ft) which at this altitude should be manageable. 

 

From town it’s possible to hike up the mountains as well as to viewpoints. These treks range from 10 minutes to an hour depending on which you take. It’s also possible to hike up the mountain itself which takes an hour or so.

What To Expect

  • A beautifully coloured mountain next to a small peaceful town. This is less touristic.
  • Smaller crowds. 
  • Not as spectacular as El Hornocal
  • If visiting on a tour, it will likely be rushed. Visiting by yourself in the morning, you may be lucky enough to have it to yourself.

Reccomendations

  • DO NOT BOOK A TOUR. The Hill of 7 Colours is walking distance from the bus and easy bus connections make this totally doable on your own from anywhere in the region, including Salta. In our opinion it’s best to stay overnight in each town and enjoy the beauty of Argentina’s north-west.

If you are staying in Salta you can take a day tour to see both mountains. Check out our guide for all the information you need: