Our visit to Quebrada de las Conchas wasn’t just a highlight of our time in Argentina, it was a highlight of the trip so far.
Quebrada de las Conchas Tour
Organised through the hostel, we were picked up by Walter, a local Cafayateño (a Cafayate born local) and set off for a breathtaking afternoon. Being a desert town, there was little worry of rain or clouds – we had a beautiful blue-sky day for our adventure.
We started the afternoon by stopping just outside of town at some of the key sites along the way, before we reached our main destination for the day – the start of our 6km hike which would take us through canyons, to the tops of hills, and down mountains, all the while surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve ever seen. Walter claimed he was taking us on the most beautiful hike in Cafayate, and it’s hard to see how it could have been any better. We entered the rocks through a narrow passage and found ourselves walking through a canyon surrounded by towering terracotta-pink rocks.
Our guide Walter told us the canyon passage we were walking through was where the indigenous people had fought and stopped the Spanish from reaching the town on so many occasions. The Spanish would be seen coming from the higher ground surrounding the valley, and stopped before they could reach the end of the canyon. In the end it took the cunning of a Spanish general who sent one of his Peruvian soldiers into the town, pretending to be a local, that lead to the town being taken by the Spanish through his deception.
Walter told us the entire indigenous community was almost wiped out by the Spanish in the fighting. Since that time, and until recently, you were looked down on if you had indigenous heritage. Thankfully, things have slowly started to change and the countries indigenous history is being taught in schools for the first time, not just in Cafayate but across Argentina, which is helping to grow the pride in the community.
As we walked through the passage, it was hard to know whether to look up or down, as the ground of the canyon was just as stunning as the mountains above. The passage was littered with so many different kinds of rocks, all different colours and types. There was black volcanic rock, huge pieces of white and rose quartz, sparkling silver shale and other colourful rocks I don’t know the names of.
After leaving the canyon, we came out at the top of a red dirt hill and the view was breathtaking. The mountains in front of us were a rainbow of red, pink, orange, yellow, white and green.
We then walked down the red dirt hill, which took us below into the valley – the dirt kicking up on our heels reminding us of Western Australia with it’s deep red colour.
At the bottom we were greeted with yet more bizarre landscapes, this time wavy rocks in a rainbow of brown and orange.
And around another corner, yet another surprise, this time the rocks looked like a rainbow cake.
As the finale for our hike, we headed uphill again for views of the rainbow walls from above, before it was time to get back in the car and head to our final stops for the day.
We drove further down the main road to take in some other sites in the region. We visited the Anfiteatro (amphitheatre), where you could do your best impression of an opera singer and listen to the vocals crashing back off the walls towards you. I’d like to say we tried it but our visit was accompanied by a local musician, whose soft vocals and guitar added a haunting and beautiful element to the place we didn’t want to disturb. Equally impressive was Garganta del Diablo (the devils throat) a cleft through the rocks, which resembles a throat where you can indulge in a touch of Matrix style magic.
I believe I have a talent for seeing animals or similar shapes in rocks, but Kristen isn’t convinced. Despite my best efforts, she couldn’t see any of the animals I had pointed out during the day – she has no imagination. That was until Walter drove us to El Sapo. Without knowing the Spanish translation of the word sapo, it was immediately obvious it was a toad – even Kristen could see it!
As our last stop for the day, we visited a viewpoint which looked back across the valley before heading home after a long afternoon. Feeling great after such a special day.
Before coming on this trip we had never heard of the Quebrada de las Conchas and it’s ended up being one of the best experiences of our trip.
A magical place, full of wonder and history. As Walter spoke about the land and its history, his pride was obvious – we felt privileged to be there.
If you’re in the area, we highly recommend the tour with Walter. Our tour of the Quebrada de las Conchas was organized through our hostel, Rusti K Hostel.