Humahuaca Guide landscapes

The 8 Best Things To Do In Humahuaca (North Argentina)

Humahuaca is one of 3 small towns along the scenic Route 9 in Argentina’s north-west. The laid-back vibe of the town and beautiful arid landscapes surrounding it are the perfect escape for backpackers who want to get off the beaten track. Here’s everything you need to know about the town, including the 10 best things to do in Humahuaca.

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Is Humahuaca Worth Visiting?

Is Humahuaca worth it? If you’re looking for a unique and off the beaten track experience in Argentina, then a visit to this little town is a must.

 

The main attraction is Serranía de Hornocal (refered to as Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain) which offers stunning views of the colorful mountain range, with peaks reaching up to 4350m.

 

Overall, if you’re planning on visiting the north west of Argentina, I highly recommend a trip to Humahuaca for the unique vibes and stunning scenery.

Joe and a friend from 'Shall We Go Home Travel' at El Hornocal in Humahuaca (Argentina)

The Best Things To Do In Humahuaca

1. Visit Argentina's Rainbow Mountain (El Hornocal)

El Hornocal or the 14 Coloured Mountain, is just outside of Humahuaca and one of the main reasons for visiting this small town.

 

You can pay for a guided tour or drive there yourself if you have a car.

 

While the hike up may be a struggle due to the high altitude, the beautiful views at the top are definitely worth it.

 

Keep in mind that the excursion is best done in the afternoon, as the colors of the limestone formations stun in the golden light.

 

I think it’s well worth a visit. Not only is it cheap and easy, but the colours and view are just as good, if not better, than Peru’s famous Rainbow Mountain.

 

Make the trip, and you can judge for yourself!

Everything you need to know on how to visit El Hornocal is here in the complete guide:

 

 

El Hornocal hills - Joe and Alex from Shall We Go Home Travel

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2. Continue Along Route 9 To Visit Tilcara

Route 9 in Argentina runs from the border of Bolivia south to Salta and eventually to Buenos Aires.

 

Tilcara is the next town along Route 9 from Humahuaca.

 

It has the same laidback vibe of Humahuaca and is filled with artisan cafes, restaurants and shops. In the summer it is busy with Argentinian tourists escaping the big cities.

 

If you visit for the day, you can trek to El Garganta Del Diablos (The Devil’s Throat Waterfall) or the historical site of Pucara Del Tilcara.

There’s a lot of great stuff in Tilcara though so I recommend visiting after Humahuaca and staying a couple of days there as well. For more information on Tilcara:

 

 

horses passing through Tilcara, North Argentina

3. Visit Purmamarca & The Hill of 7 Colours

Just past Tilcara in the town of Purmamarca is Argentina’s second Rainbow Mountain – the Hill of 7 Colours.

 

Whilst it doesn’t sound as impressive as the 14-coloured mountain,  the hill is just as colourful and unique.

 

And you don’t need to take a tour to see this one – you can see it from anywhere in town.

 

I prefer seeing El Hornocal over this one if you’re short on time. However, if you’re visiting each town for more than a couple of days, it’s worth a trip to both.

Head here for more information on Purmarmarca:

 

 

Rainbow Mountain, Purmamarca (Argentina)

4. Explore Humahuaca Town

Humahuaca is a small town and can easily be explored in half a day. Here are a couple of sights you may want to star into google maps and use as a rough route:

 

  • Plaza San Martin – the central hub of the town where you will find the church and lots of pop-up stalls selling crafts. There’s a small park with benches if you want to sit down and take it all in or a couple of resto-bars if you want to grab a drink.
  • Archaeological museum – a small museum (only four rooms) with information on the native tribes that used to populate the north-west. You can also see some of the artefacts dug up in the region including ceramics, weapons, skeletons and even mummies.
  • Iglesia de la Candelaria – the oldest building in the town built-in 1631. You are free to enter and wander around. If you are here at noon, keep an eye on the clocktower to see a mechanical saint of the church come out and strike the clock.
  • Independence monument – an impressive statue dedicated to Argentina’s northern army and the indigenous tribes that fought alongside it. You will get a great view of the town when you climb the steps to the top.
  • Manos Andinas – the only place in town to buy fair-trade items and clothing made from llama wool. 
street in argentina - the rainbow mountains

6. Try North Argentinian Local Cuisine

The north of Argentina still has strong ties to the indigenous cultures and tribes that used to live here, which means you are spoilt for choice with excellent local cuisine.

 

Some of the best things to try in this region include quinoa, empanadas, locro (a filling stew of corn and meat), tamales and grilled llama meat.

 

Here are some places I enjoyed:

 

  • Pacha Manka is the go-to in town for delicious local cuisine
  • Aisito is another excellent second option.
  • If you are looking for an inexpensive but authentic eat, then try lunch at Mercado Municipal de Humahuaca. The market is great for picking up empanadas, chicken skewers, and smaller versions of lorco or llama meat for half the price of a restaurant.

The best thing about visiting this region of Argentina is that prices are closer to those you find in Bolivia rather than the prices in Buenos Aires.

 

This means you can enjoy a good steak and a decent bottle of wine for half the price and not feel guilty about it.

 

I had a huge steak and shared a bottle of wine with a friend at Pacha Manka and barely blinked when the bill came out.

 

If you are looking to treat yourself, then Humahuaca and the north of Argentina are the places to do it.

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:

 

 

Steak in Argentina
Wine in North Argenina

7. Experience Live Folk Music At A Peña

If you are spending a few nights in the region, then you should experience the traditional music of Northern Argentina. 

 

These communal gatherings are known as a “peña” and will have live folk music, dancing, and storytelling going on until the early hours of the morning.

 

They often don’t get started until after 9-10 PM so make sure you’re ready for a late night. You won’t want to leave once the music has begun.

 

Two places in town to check out are:

 

argentina flag in the rainbow mountains

8. Visit The Remote Village Of Iruya

Iruya is a remote little village set in the cliffside of a mountain. 

 

It used to be a popular stop for merchants and travelling caravans heading up into Bolivia and Peru but has now become a popular tourist destination due to the picturesque setting.

 

It’s around 80km from Humahuaca, so this may not be a single day trip. But you could easily travel there and stay the night. The journey also provides spectacular views so it may be best for those of you who have rented a car.

 

If you think Humahuaca and the towns along route 9 are hidden gems, then the beautiful remote village of Iruya will blow your mind.

 

From the town, you also have several great hikes such as Mirador de la Cruz and Mirador el Condor.

To see how Humahuaca and the other towns on Route 9 fit into a wider north Argentina itinerary, check out one of the posts below:

 

 

Iruya
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)

Is This The Best Backpack For South America?

I love the Osprey Farpoint 50-70L.

 

It’s reasonably priced and perfect for first timers visiting South America.

 

Read more here about why it’s so great or head to the official site below:

Do You Need A Car For Humahuaca?

Route 9 is an incredibly scenic road that’s perfect for extended road trips via car or bike.

 

I highly recommend renting a car to visit Humahuaca and the other towns along this route.

 

However, you’ll need to pick up a car in one of the bigger cities like Jujuy or Salta as there aren’t any rental agencies in Humahuaca.

 

The short distances between the towns of Humahuaca, Tilcara and Purmamarca, including all the incredible landscapes and scenery in the region, means having a car is a fantastic way to explore this part of Argentina.

cactus in Tilcara, North Argentina

How Many Days Do You Need In Humahuaca?

Two days is all you need in Humahuaca.

 

This is enough time to explore the town on your first day and to visit the Rainbow Mountain (El Hornocal) on the second. 

 

Here’s a breakdown of how to spend 2 days in Humahuaca:

Humahuaca 2-day Itinerary

Day 1

 

  • Wander the town
  • Lunch at Mercado Municipal de Humahuaca
  • Trek To Penas Blancas For Sunset
  • Dinner at Pacha Manka

 

Day 2

 

  • Visit El Hornocal
  • Dinner at Aisito
  • Live music at La Peña de Fortunato Ramos

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

 

 

cactus argentina - the rainbow mountains

Where To Eat In Humahuaca

I only spent two days in town so didn’t get a chance to try all these fantastic places, but here’s what I came across from research and recommendations from our hostel:

 

 

  • Pacha Manka – excellent local cuisine and steak
  • El Cabildo – local delicacies and hearty soups
  • Aisito – well priced regional cuisine

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 two week to one-month itinerary that also covers the entire country, head to the posts below:

 

 

El Hornocal or the 14 Coloured Mountain (Humahuaca)

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 La Quiaca (Bolivian Border) From Humahuaca

If you are heading into Bolivia after your north-west experience, you will need to get to the border town of La Quiaca.

 

Buses leave daily, are frequent, and cost between $5-9.

 

The bus station is a 5-minute journey to the border by taxi. Make sure you agree on the fare before getting it. You could probably walk, but it won’t be ideal with big bags and the heat. 

 

Once you cross the border, you can take a mini-bus to the nearest town of Tupiza.

 

The mini-bus costs around 20 BOBS and takes an 1h 15m. Or you can carry straight on through to Uyuni which should be a 5-6 hour journey.

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!

Alpaca in the north west countryside of Argentina

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Where To Stay In Humahuaca

  • La Humahuacasa – We stayed at Hostel La Humahuaca, 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. The hostel also offered tours to El Hornocal 

Booking / Hostel World / Website

 

  • Giramundo Hostel – Lively hostel with free WIFI and daily breakfast. Shared bathrooms.

Booking / Hostel World 

The path to El Hornocal, Humahuaca (Argentina)

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