Humahuaca Guide mountain

How To Visit El Hornocal [Humahuaca’s Rainbow Mountain]

The complete guide on how to visit El Hornocal (Argentina's Rainbow Mountain) from the town of Humahuaca.

Contents

Where Is El Hornocal?

Serranias El Hornocal can be found in the Quebrada de Humahuaca mountain range.

 

This is in the north-west of Argentina in the Jujuy province, just south of 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 do 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.

Humahuaca's Rainbow Mountain (Argentina)

How To Visit El 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, I’m going to stick with El Hornocal. 

 

You will need to get to the town of Humahuaca to then reach this beautiful mountain.

 

There’s multiple ways you can do this if you are in the Jujuy region. Here are the ways we cover:

 

  • Guided Tour Humahuaca
  • How To Visit From Tilcara
  • How To Visit From Purmamarca 
  • Guided Tours From Salta
  • Self-Guided / 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 from town is by tour.

 

When I arrived at the bus terminal in Humahuaca, I was inundated with tour offers to see Hornocal.

 

However, I recommend ignoring these and booking through your accommodation to get a local take on the best deal.

 

I 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, I’d recommend it.

 

 

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How Much Does A Tour To El Hornocal Cost?

Tours shouldn’t cost more than $10. However, it’s always difficult to keep up to date prices due to Argentina’s constantly changing economy.

 

Ask your hostel for the most up to date prices and for the best times for visiting. 

 

The tour is basically transport. A local with a 4×4 will drive you up to the viewpoint, wait for an hour or so and then take you back to Humahuaca.

What To Expect On A El Hornocal Tour

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 a small entrance fee 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. 

 

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.

How High Is El Hornocal?

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 isn’t walking involved, so don’t let the altitude put you off from visiting

Travelling through the north-west is one of the highlights of a trip to Argentina. But there’s so much more to see in this incredible country.

 

To see how to combine the north-west into a three-week or one-month itinerary that also covers the entire country, head to the post below:

 

 

The path to El Hornocal, Humahuaca (Argentina)

How To Get To El Hornocal From Tilcara

Tilcara is the closest town to Humahuaca, a 44km drive south 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 roughly $2-3.

 

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. 

 

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.

Visiting El Hornocal From Tilcara: Self-Guided

Booking a tour will save you having to organise your own in Humahuaca and you’ll get picked up and dropped back off in Tilcara.

 

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

 

TOP TIP:  Tours 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 $25, it's much cheaper to visit on your own and more of an adventure, 

Booking tours online is often far more expensive in South America as companies add a mark up. I experienced this several times with honourable mentions to the Pampas tour in Bolivia and various day trips in Argentina. If you can, look at booking in person of doing it yourself

Alpaca in the north west countryside of Argentina

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 Humahuaca and do the day tour yourself.

 

Due to the slightly longer journey, I’d recommend staying the night in town and packing a small backpack to take with you.

 

Purmamarca is a great town to stay in as it’s close to Salinas Grandes – Argentina’s Salt Flats.

If you want to combine a trip to Chile alongside Argentina, then there are several ways to do this with a simple border crossing. The three itineraries in the post below can help you cross the borders a 3 different points in Argentina to see Chile:

 

 

El Hornocal or the 14 Coloured Mountain (Humahuaca)

How To Visit El Hornocal From Salta

Salta is one of the largest cities in the north west of Argentina and it’s a great city to use as a base to explore this beautiful region.

 

However, I would recommend either renting a car or booking tours to visit El Hornocal due to the long drive.

 

Salta is:

 

  • 5 hours from Humahuaca
  • 4 hours from Tilcara
  • 3 from Purmamarca

Here’s one of the best tours that can takes you to El Hornocal from Salta, along with some other great stops along the way:

The price of the tour above is $45 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) and 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 and accommodation in Humahuacha under $15 a night, so I 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.

Visiting Rainbow Mountain is one of 10 great reasons why I think you should visit Argentina. For the other 9, head to the post below:

 

 

The colourful mountains of Quebrada de Humahuaca (Argentina)

Renting A Car To Visit El Hornocal

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 the post below to see how to plan an incredible road trip route in Argentina’s north-west:

 

 

Cacti in the north west of Argentina

What To Bring To El hornocal

If you take a guided tour then you don’t need much. 

 

Just bring some warm clothes as you’re up high and the wind is pretty powerful. And if you’re visiting in rainy season, bring a waterproof.

  • Mid-layer fleece – a fleece is lightweight but warm, perfect for whipping on and off when trekking to regulate your temperature. Great in the evenings as well when it’s much colder. I go with R1 Zip-Neck from Patagonia. Mens | Womens
Best Mid-layer Fleece For South America: Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover
  • Waterproof windbreaker – much needed when trekking in the Andes to deal with the biting winds and rapidly changing weather. I like to use the Patagonia TorrentShell 3L. Its lightweight, warm and packable. The jacket self-stuffs into one of the handwarmer pockets with carabiner clip-in loop. Mens | Womens
Best Waterproof for South America: Patagonia 3L Torrentshell Waterproof
Route 9 going towards Humahuaca (Argentina)

When Is The Best Time To Visit Humahuaca?

The north west of Argentina is blessed with sunny days and ideal temperatures most of the year, especially from November-April.

 

However, the rainy season in the north is between Dec-Jan. It will be hot, humid and there’s a higher chance of rain. Averages temperatures are around 28°C.

 

This is also the summer holidays for locals so it will get busy.

 

However, I recommend visiting Humahuaca in shoulder seasons (September-November and March-April). You’ll get cooler temperatures and to avoid the big crowds.

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How To Get To Humahuaca

Route 9 is one long road that runs from the north down to the city of Salta.

 

Navigating this part of the country is super easy and laidback, and can be done by just hopping on cheap, local buses whenever you want to move to the next town.

 

Humahuaca’s bus station can be found on the corner of Av. Belgrano and Av. Exodo.

 

Ask your hostel for directions if you can’t find it on Google maps.

How To Get To Tilcara From Humahuaca

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

 

Buses are relatively frequent. The bus station is in the middle of town, next to Plaza San Martin on Av. Belgrado. There are multiple bus companies, so we just picked the one with the next earliest time.

 

When arriving at Tilcara, the bus will drop you off at the YPF garage across the bridge from the town. You will need to talk from there.

How To Get To Salta From Humahuaca

The bus journey from Humahuaca to Salta is 3h 45m and you may have to change buses in Jujuy.

 

The bus can be booked on the day at the station and run frequently.

 

I didn’t book anything online and just turned up on the day at the bus station.  However, if you want to look at times, check Busbud.

If you are heading to Salta after seeing the smaller towns of the north-west, then be sure to check out our guide:

 

 

How To Get To Humahuaca From Buenos Aires

Most adventures in Argentina will start from Buenos Aires.

 

To get to the north west and Humahuaca, the best thing to do is to fly to Salta.

 

From Salta you can the get a public bus up to Humahuaca or rent a car. 

 

I use Way Away Plus to book my flights whilst travelling. Not only do they find you the best deals, they also give you cash back on any flights booked!

The road leading to El Hornocal, Humahuaca (Argentina)

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