Jujuy is one of the 23 provinces in Argentina. It’s located in the very northwest of the country and borders both to Chile and Bolivia. The area is covered with unique nature, colored mountains, desert, jungle, and small villages. Jujuy also has a strong connection to the area’s indigenous heritage. Most of Jujuy is on an altitude from 1259 meters above the sea, where the capital San Salvador de Jujuy is. The highest peak in the province is at about 5000 meters. If you want to eat some traditional food, see incredible landscapes and learn about indigenous traditions, Jujuy is definitely the place to visit. In this article, I will let you in on what to see, do and where to stay in Jujuy, basically all you need to know to visit Jujuy.
So I didn’t know much about Jujuy when we first arrived there. After a couple of searches in google not much turned up either, but this is no reason not to visit. Tourism in Jujuy is growing every year, especially the local tourism. After spending 3 days in the area, I have to say that the beauty here definitely competes with some of the other, but way more touristic sights I’ve seen around South America. The difference is that you’ll get a lot of the sights to yourself. That means; without all the crowds, tourists trying to get the perfect shot or impatient guides.
It was one of the first places my boyfriend went when he first quit his job and decided to go backpacking, a decision that later led to the fact that we met (thank you, boring accounting job). Ever since he has been wanting to bring me to Jujuy to get to know this beautiful province. From the first moment I stepped off the bus, I felt the powerful energy of this place. The mountains, the silence, the super starry nights and the warm, warm days.
Traditional food of Jujuy
The north of Argentina is, as mentioned, the provinces most connected with the old traditions of Argentina. It has a lot of cultural aspects in common with Bolivia and Peru. This goes for the food too. In the north of Argentina, as well as in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia, you’ll be able to try llama, alpaca and cui meat. Cui is basically a guinea pig but has been used as food in South America for generations. In addition, Argentina has a lot of traditional dishes that originate from the north. Sure you can get it in a special restaurant in other parts of Argentina, but nothing beats trying it in the north where it’s actually normal food. Here’s a list of some of the food you absolutely shouldn’t miss out on. Disclaimer, it’s delicious!
Also, in all the towns we visited in Jujuy, they sold filled tortillas cooked on the grill. They were absolutely delicious and we had them for breakfast every day as they were most affordable too. Cost about 30-40 pesos, filled with cheese and tomato, cheese and salami, cheese and ham, and many more.
Towns in Jujuy
We spent most of our time in Jujuy along the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a 155 km long mountain range that first started to get populated 10 000 years ago. The Quebrada de Humahuaca has been on UNESCOs list of World Heritage Sites since 2003. It has lots of history, it used to be an important trading route for the Incas and several important battles for independence took place here throughout history. Apart from the capital San Salvador de Jujuy, the province is filled with small towns, all with the most amazing mountain views around.
About 1 hour from the capital of the province, you’ll find the little town of Purmamarca. Located on an altitude of 2,324 meters above sea level and with huge coloured mountains and desert all around it. It consists of one main street lined with bars restaurants and souvenir shops, named 9 de julio. Apart from that there are a couple of side streets with hostels and hotels. You’ll also find more affordable accommodations; locals offer you to stay in a room in their home for a lower price. We went for that option, the price where we stayed was 500 pesos (13$) for a private room, or 150 pesos (4$) for a bed in a dorm. If you’re planning to buy souvenirs in the north of Argentina, I recommend you to buy them in Jujuy. Purmamarca has a great selection of souvenirs in their shops, but also at every day market at the town square. From around 11-12 in the morning and until the last stalls pack up around 8 pm you can walk around, talk to the sellers and definitely don’t forget to negotiate.
Cerro de los Siete Colores and el Paseo de los Colorados
Purmamarca is located next to the famous “Cerro de los Siete Colores” the mountain of 7 colors. This mountain is located in the upper part of the village. To get the perfect overlook of the colours covering the mountainside, there is a hill called Cerro El Porito. For 10 pesos (0.25$) you get to enter. Here, at the end of the village, is also where the trail of “El Paseo de los Colorados” (the walk of the colours) start. There are signs, and it’s basically just to follow the dirt road with the village behind you. After about 20 minutes you’ll arrive to an area of desert landscape with bright red and orange mountain formations and a couple of roads to follow.
If you ask me, take a right and start the little climb to the top of one of the red mountains (you’ll know what I mean when you get there). On the top you’ll have a great view to the surrounding mountains. It’s the perfect sunset spot, but make sure to have a flashlight or battery on your phone to make your way back in the dark after the sun gone.
The best time to visit Cerro de los Siete colores and el Paseo de los Colorados
So, one of the questions for us was, when would be the best time to see the colours at the mountain of seven colours at its clearest and brightest? After asking friends and checking with locals in Purmamarca, we got told that sunrise is the best in general, but the mountain of seven colours will be good to visit from the early morning and until about 3 pm, as the sun shines directly on the mountainside at that time. The walk to the other part of the mountain is great to do at any time, as long as it’s a sunny day, there are so many mountains, and depending on where the sun shines, you’ll see something different at all hours of the day.
Uyuni might be the biggest salt desert in the world (it is), but it’s not the only salt desert in South America. 1,5 hours drive from Purmamarca, all uphill, you’ll find the Saltflat Salinas Grande of Jujuy and the neighbour province Salta. The Salinas Grandes has an average altitude of 3450 meters above sea level. It covers an area of 212 km, in other words crispy, salty, warm grounds as far as eyes can see.
How to get to Salinas Grandes
If you’re backpacking, the easiest way to get to Salinas Grandes is by taking a collectivo (a van) from Purmamarca. It’s located in the main street, “9 de julio” and it takes off whenever it’s full, from about 11 in the morning. We paid 400 pesos (10$) a person. The group will consist of about 14 people and the driver.
Our driver was super nice and had a lot of interesting information to share about the Salinas Grandes and the province of Jujuy. You’ll also stop a couple of times along the way to take in the scenery, snap some photos, as well as get the opportunity to buy some souvenirs. Regarding the souvenirs, I’m pretty sure the prices are more reasonable in town. They have a lot of the same stuff, but maybe you’ll find something unique. When you get to the salt flats, you’ll have about 1-1,5 hour there. Walk around, take photos, listen to the stories of the driver and soak your feet in the salty pools.
Our driver told us that during the rainy season the salt pools get as deep as 2 meters. If you want to, you can actually swim in them at that time. If you do decide to go for a swim, you’ll float like in the dead sea, because of the high concentration of salt in the water. Cause of all the salt crystals in the water, it doesn’t absorb any heat. Is actually super cold, so I’m not sure for how long you would want to swim in them though. I definitely want to go back to try it some day!
What to bring to Salinas Grandes:
- Sunscreen – it might not feel necessary, but the salt reflects the sun which makes the radiation stronger, in addition to the fact that you’re on an altitude where the sun is stronger as well.
- Water – and lots of it. After all you’re in a desert. Hydrating also helps your body cope with the altitude.
- Coca leafs – if you’re afraid you’ll react to the altitude, chew coca leafs like the locals. You’ll be able to buy it at a lot of the markets and stores in Purmamarca, and the other towns in Jujuy.
- Some snacks – the tour is about 3 -4 hours so bring some food. They do sell some stuff on the side of the road up at the salt flats though.
Tilcara is about half an hour from Purmamarca and two hours from Jujuy capital. It’s slightly bigger than Purmamarca and you can feel that it has more of a touristic vibe to it. It still has affordable accommodation and eating options, but also more restaurants, and cafes, with a more fancy vibe. It’s surrounded by lots of beautiful mountains and desert landscapes just like Purmamarca. You can visit Tilcara just for a day trip or stay the night here as we did. Tilcara has some beautiful hiking opportunities close by, in addition to some pre-Hispanic Inca ruins. The town lies on 2465 meters altitude, and as mentioned in a desert landscape. Definitely keep that in mind before heading out for a day of exploring.
Pucará de Tilcara Ruins
Pucara are some pre-Hispanic ruins located about 10 minutes walk from the bus station of Tilcara. It used to be a fortress, and has been partly rebuilt. Pucara is located on a hill and very well camouflaged. The ruins has a perfect view over the landscape below and la Quebrada de Humahuaca. Entrance is free every Monday, other days it’s about 80 pesos a person and special prices for Argentineans.
Hike the devilstroath – Camino a la Garganta del Diablo
The devilstroath is a hike to a canyon that was formed due to movement in tectonic plates in the area. The hikes includes a waterfall, lots of red mountains and desert landscape. If you plan on doing this hike, definitely consider heading out early or in the afternoon, as it gets really hot during the day. Also, bring lots of water and sunscreen. The hike should take about 3-4 hours.
The village of Uquia and La Quebrada de las Senoritas
Uquia is a small village located in-between Humahuaca and Tilcara. It’s known for it’s small church, San Francisco de Paula from the seventeenth century. The church contains 9 paintings, each one portraying an angel, dressed in clothes from the seventeenth century and all equipped with weapons of different kinds. It’s free to enter, and it’s worth a visit if you’re passing by anyway.
45 minutes to 1 hour up a path behind Uquia is home to la Quebrada de las Senoritas, the area is full of beautiful bright red rock formations. On your way out of Uquia you’ll pass the graveyard. We visited Uquia right after Halloween and were lucky enough to see the graveyard fully decorated with flowers and colourful decorations. The best time of day to visit la Quebrada de las Senoritas is midday when the sun is highest. That way more of the mountains will be in the sunlight. You can walk on paths in the ravines in-between the tall rocks, or climb up to get an overall view of the area.
The town of Humahuaca
Humahuaca at 3000 meter altitude is a small town, about 40 minutes from Tilcara. It’s a town in colonial style. At the main square you can get a hold of some souvenirs and admire the small white church. Follow the stairs that leads away from the main square to check out the monument of the heroes of the independence, a monument dedicated to the men and women who fought for the independence of Argentina. The main tourist attraction in connection to this town is definitely the mountain range El Hornocal.
Serranía de Hornocal
El Hornocal is popularly called the mountains of 14 colors. Yes, that’s right. Seeing it in real life, you’ll know why. Its a mountain range covered in shades of green, red, orange and yellow. The Hornocal itself reaches an altitude of about 4761 meters above the sea. You’ll get the perfect view from the mountain on the other side of the gorge, at 4600 meters altitude. From the parking lot you’ll have an amazing view and you should definitely walk down the path to get a closer look at the view. Going down is easy enough and done in about 10 minutes. The hike up will at least take you the double cause of the altitude.
How to visit the mountain of fourteen colors
The mountain range is about 30 minutes drive, 25 km from Humahuaca. Bear in mind that the drive up isn’t the easiest, and you should preferably have a 4-wheel drive to get up as the air is thinner on an altitude and the car engines reacts to this. If you plan on going in rental car, make sure to check the insurance included. Does it have an altitude limit for it’s coverage, or a type of climate or road that it doesn’t cover?
We went by ourselves. We took a bus from Tilcara to Humahuaca. There are plenty of drivers in town that will take you to El Hornocal. They were all driving for 350 pesos a person. What you should ask them, is how much time you will have there, and if they stop at viewpoints on the way. We ended up with a great driver and had 1,5 hour to take in the views on top.
Every day at 3 pm there’s also a big bus going up to El Hornocal. It charges 300 pesos a person. Keep in mind that the bus takes longer to get up, and the area will be more crowded. We went at 1 pm and we were there with about 5 other people. If you ask me, there is something magical about being almost alone with these kind of sights. If you go around 5 pm you’ll be able to catch the sunset on top and see the changes of colours as the sun shines on the mountainside. Depending on the season, be aware of the weather. If it’s cloudy, you will not be able to see the big range of colours on the mountains.
I hope this gave you some information about what’s to see in the Province of Jujuy. This is all you need to know about Jujuy to start planning your trip. If you have any questions or just want to say hi, please don’t hesitate to