- Hiking / Trekking
- Off the beaten track
The Quebrada de las Conchas is a 50 kilometre chain of rocky formations in bright orange and red colours with tones of ochre and gold. Along with Quebrada de Humahuaca, a little more to the north, these are my two favourite trips through the Northwest.
I love having a rental car so I can stop wherever I want along the Quebrada and go off to explore these marvels of nature in a bit more depth. It gives you a feeling of being on a road trip in the American wild west!
If you love trekking,my advice is to stay several nights in Cafayate so you can hike in the Quebrada and spend hours, or even a whole day, surrounded by this amazing scenery.
During my trip to Argentina I decided to visit the amazing Quebrada de las Conchas, to the north of Cafayate. As an extremely sporty person (yeah, I know, I'm blowing my own trumpet) I was planning to hire a bike and tour this 50km site. I discovered, however, that hiring a bike was more expensive than going on a guided (car!) tour with a local agency. I was a bit gobsmacked! So I killed two birds with one stone by saving some pesos and letting my legs off the hook.
Although it's an ochre landscape that lacks Quebrada de Humahuaca's myriad of colours, it's bigger and in many ways more impressive. We stopped off several times during my half-day tour. The first was at Los Castillos, where the closely set rocks look like huge, red castles. Further on there's La Ventana, a natural rock window. You've also got the lofty El Obelisco and El Sapo, which resembles a giant toad. Anfiteatro and Garganta del Diablo, however, are the real showstoppers. They form a sort of canyon that gouges the mountainside.
And at the end of this geological cul-de-sac we found a musician playing his guitar. The acoustics were incredible. So we sat down in this magical setting and enjoyed the concert until evening fell. It was a sublime moment. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
Deciding what to visit during a trip to Argentina can seem a bit daunting. The country has so many places to choose from and the distance between them can be vast.
Faced with all the options, I can highly recommend the Salta-Jujuy region, which boasts an almost surrealist landscape. If you do head here, you're bound to see the magnificentQuebrada de las Conchas, with it semi-arid scenery, geological strata and incredible rock formations. Indeed the route between Salta and Cafayate is well trodden! But don't panic - mass tourism hasn't as yet descended on the area. I toured the site by bike. I was dropped off and planned to spend a few hours cycling back to the town of Cafayate. I was running late and night began to fall. Fortunately I found a bus that took me, and my bike, back to town!
You can always hike to the site or join a guided tour. If your budget allows, you can hire a car and tour the area at your own convenience.