How To Get To Quebrada De Humahuaca & Visit El Hornocal (Argentina)

Argentina has its very own Rainbow Mountain - Serranias del Hornocal or the ‘Hill of 14 Colours’. El Hornocal is a spectacular mountain, bursting with colour and it’s half the price of visiting the one in Peru, and half the effort too. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get to the town of Humahuaca and organising a trip to El Hornocal.

WHERE IS QUEBRADA DE HUMAHUACA?

The Quebrada de Humahuaca mountain range is in the north-west of Argentina in the Jujuy province, just across the border from Bolivia. 

 

The closest town is Humahuaca which is a short drive away. The closest big city is Jujuy and then Salta. It’s possible to do day trips from these two cities but you can also doo day tours from other small towns in the north-west such as Tilcara and Purmamarca.

 

The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a World Heritage site due to the colourful nature of the expansive mountain ranges as well as the historic Inca presence in the region.

HOW TO VISIT SERRANIAS DEL HORNOCAL

Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain has lots of different names including Serranias del Hornocal, El Hornocal or Cerro de Los 14 Colores which means the hill of 14 colours. For the ease of writing this article, we are going to stick with El Hornocal. 

 

You will need to get to the town of Humahuaca to then reach the mountain. There’s multiple ways you can do this if you are in the Jujuy region. Here are the ways we cover:

 

 

  • Visiting From Humahuaca
  • Visiting From Tilcara
  • Visiting From Purmamarca 
  • Tours From Salta
  • Renting a Car

How To Get To El Hornocal From Humahuaca

El Hornocal is located 25km (16mi) outside the town of Humahuaca.

 

The most common way to get there is by tour. When we arrived at the bus terminal in Humahuaca we were inundated with tour offers to see Hornocal. However, we recommend ignoring these and booking through your accommodation to get a local take on the best deal.

 

We stayed at Hostel La Humahuacasa, which is a chilled hostel with a hippy vibe about it. There were lots of people making arts and crafts and generally taking life easy, we’d recommend it.

 

 

Tour Price

The hostel offered a tour for 500 ARS (£6.39/$8.30) with three times, 10 AM, 2.30 PM and 5.30 PM for sunset.

Best Time To Visit

We visited Humahuaca at the end of January 2020 which is technically summer but also the rainy season.

 

When we arrived at our hostel at 3 PM, we were told not to bother with the late tour as the weather isn’t great in the afternoon.

 

This advice turned out to be sound as it rained shortly thereafter. However, the sunset tour would be fantastic if the weather is right. The low intensity of the sun at dusk would illuminate the colours in all the right ways. Going in the midday sun with a clear sky means the sun is very bright and which has a slight whitening effect.

 

Speak to your hostel about the best times for visiting. 

Altitude

The viewpoint to the mountain is located 4,300m (14,108 ft) above sea level, so be warned you may suffer from altitude sickness if you’re not already acclimatised.

 

However, as your time at the top is short and there is much not walking involved, the height should not put you off visiting. 

What To Expect

We were picked up in a 7-seater minivan at 10.15 AM and headed straight for the mountain. The road was a typically rocky road that wound up the mountain but was wide and safe.

 

The 25km drive took us 40 minutes to get to the viewpoint. The drive itself is scenic and you there are mountains either side of you as you reach the winding part of the drive. 

 

Once you arrive at the viewpoint, you will need to pay 15 ARS entrance (£0.19/$0.25) unless this is included in your tour price.

 

We were given 45 minutes to walk down the path towards El Hornocal and take pictures. At the viewpoint, you should head down the path to where the mountain drops off. This is the best spot to take pictures of the mountain range. 

The climb back to the car was steeper than we thought, and we were out of breath by the time we got back to the jeep. Take it slow.

 

All in all, the walking time was about 5 minutes to the end of the path and then 10 back. The track is a gravel path and is doable in trainers, hiking boots aren’t required. You could even walk in flip flops if you are feeling casual, but your feet might get cold.

 

Once our group reconvened, we hopped in the car back to Humahuaca, stopping at one final viewpoint over the town at 4,200m for 10 minutes to take more pictures. Then another 40 minutes drive back to our hostel.

 

We returned by 12.15 PM. In all honesty, this was a whistle-stop tour, and we would have preferred more time to take in the view. We recommend making sure you take a tour which is 3 hours long in total, this ensures you have time at the top to take it all in. 

 

For more information on the actual town of Humahuaca:

 

 

How To Get To El Hornocal From Tilcara

Tilcara is the closest town to Humahuaca, a 44km away along Route 9. 

 

Tours will be coming from Salta and other cities in the north, so we recommend leaving early from Tilcara or booking the earliest tour you can to avoid bigger crowds at the viewpoint.

Visiting El Hornocal From Tilcara: Self-Guided

Tilcara is only 40 minutes by bus to Humahuaca and the tickets costs around 140 ARS (£1.80/$2.40).

 

It is easy to make a day trip by yourself. Buses are relatively frequent between the two towns. 

 

Once you arrive in Humahuca, you can arrange a tour with an operator in the town. As mentioned, there will be tour guides in the bus station trying to sell tours as well. You can go with these if you feel comfortable and you should be able to haggle with them to get the price down. Don’t pay more than 500 ARS.

 

Making the return trip to Tilcara is perfectly doable in a day, but Humahuaca is a lovely town so we recommend staying for a night at least if you can.

 

Read our full guide here on the town and what else to do whilst there:

 

 

Booking A Tour To El Hornocal From Tilcara

Booking on to a tour will save you having to organise your own in Humahuaca.

 

Here’s an online option to give you an idea:

 

 

 

The tours we found online range from an eye-watering $40-$75 for a half-day tour.

 

When you consider the total price if done on your own would be around 800 pesos (£10 / $13), excluding food and water, that’s a good slice of profit the tour company is making.

 

It’s much cheaper to visit on your own and more of an adventure, in our opinion. Local tour operators may offer a better deal but a reasonable price for a day trip should be under £30 ($40).

 

Traveller Tip: Booking tours online is often far more expensive in South America as the unknown is used against you. We have experienced this several times with honourable mentions to the Pampas tour in Bolivia and various day trips in Argentina. Make sure you read blogs before booking anything online to ensure you’re not overpaying.

How To Get To El Hornocal From Purmamarca

This is the most southern city on Route 9 before reaching Jujuy.

 

Purmamarca to Humahuaca is 2 hours by bus. It’s perfectly doable to take the local bus to Humahuacha and do the day tour yourself.

 

We’re not even going to bother listing online tour prices as we’re confident we’ve proved it’s not worth it from any of these towns which are under 2 hours away. Due to the slightly longer journey, we’d recommend staying the night in town and packing a small backpack to take with you.

 

There is also a Rainbow Mountain in Purmamarca as well, so be sure to check out our comparison of the two before you decide to just one:

 

 

  • Purmamarca Vs Humahuaca: Which Rainbow Mountain Is Better?

Tours To El Hornocal/Humahuaca From Salta

Salta is 5 hours from Humahuacha, 4 hours from Tilcara and 3 from Purmamarca.

 

It is possible to do a day tour from Salta that will stop at some or all of these towns but be warned, it’s a long day. Tours start at 7AM and last 14 hours returning to Salta at 9PM.

 

 

 

The price of the tour above is $35 and you visit the following:

 

 

  • Purmamarca – The Hill of 7 Colours
  • Tilcara town – optional extra to visit Pucará de Tilcara archaeological site which costs 400 pesos for foreigners unless visiting on Monday when it is free to all
  • Humahuaca – El Hornocal (14 Coloured Mountain)
  • Humahuaca town
  • Maimara and Paleta del Pintor (painter’s palette) viewpoint, another colourful mountain

 

A bus ticket from Humahuacha to Salta will cost less than £15 ($20) and accommodation in Humahuacha under £10 ($13) a night, so we think making the trip by yourself and staying overnight is still worth it.

 

Furthermore, the amount you are seeing in one day on this tour is excessive. You probably won’t be able to absorb it all, and you’ll spend a lot of time on the bus.

If you are staying in Salta and exploring the region from there , then be sure to check out our guide:

 

 

Renting A Car & Roadtripping Route 9

There’s no reason you can’t drive to the mountain yourself. The road is safe and wide enough for two vehicles at all points.

 

Vehicle rental is popular in the north of Argentina, and so this is a great option to do things on your own terms. The biggest hub for renting a car is from Salta, but you will also be able to find companies in Jujuy.

 

 

 

Renting a car is also a great way to explore the entire north-west region of Argentina and visit the other unique towns along Route 9 such as Tilcara and Purmamarca.

 

Head to our post on how to plan an incredible road trip in Argentina’s north-west to find out more:

 

 

  • How To Plan A North-West Argentina Road Trip

For more great towns to visit in the north of Argentina, why not check out Cafayate. Cafayate is the wine producing region of the north and perfect for wine lovers looking to tour vineyards and go on tastings.

 

For everything you need to know about Cafayate, head to the post below: