Tilcara & La Garganta del Diablo

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Tilcara is not a big town, but it definitely has all the conveniences of one: Supermarkets, hotels, hostels, Western Union (Yayy), restaurants, cafes, etc. I was only here for a day, but it seems like a fantastic place to make as a base for a few days. Tilcara is only a 35 minute (120 pesos – $0.60 usd) ride from Purmamarca, where I’m staying, and the buses go between the two towns quite frequently.

You can check the bus times on the window of the bus terminal in Purmamarca. As of today (June 10, 2022), the schedule to Tilcara from Purmamarca (M-F) is:
6:35, 8:10, 10:25, 11:15, 11:40, 13:10, 16:40, 17:15, 18:40, 21:00, 22:10, 23:40.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Tilcara was to see the waterfall at La Garganta del Diablo. It is surprisingly difficult to find the start of the route from the center of Tilcara. If you too would like to climb up to see this waterfall, I’ve got the details for you!

BASIC INFO:
Distance: 4km walk from Tilcara town center (8km for cars- different route)
Time: 1-1.5 hours up, 45 minutes down, 1 hour there. Expect 3-4 hours round trip.
Cost: 150 pesos to enter La Garganta del Diablo (you pay at the top)

WHAT TO BRING:
SPF – it gets very sunny
Sweater – if you go in the morning, it’s very shady on the way up
T-shirt – Once the sun comes out, it gets very hot!
Sunglasses – hello, sun!
Tripod – especially if you’re going alone!
Water bottle – I finished mine early and wished I had more
Camera/phone – you’re definitely going to want to take photos
Money – at least 150 pesos for the entrance

short cut: Turn left when you see this sign/pole

HOW TO GET THERE:
(1) From the bus terminal, turn left and walk down Belgrano street until you reach the main plaza. (2) Right after the plaza, turn right on Rivadavia, and follow the street all the way to the top until it dead ends. (3) Turn right and follow the path that curves around to the left until you reach the red bridge (note: you can turn left down an alleyway if you’re looking for a small short cut – check the photo on the right to see where to turn). (4) Once you reach the bridge, turn left at the path. DO NOT CROSS THE BRIDGE. (5) Follow this path. After about 10-15 minutes, you’ll finally see a sign directing cars to go left (for 8km), or pedestrians to go right (for 4km). (6) From here, the path is obvious. Follow it all the way to the top!

THE ROUTE:
The first half of the route is tiresome. Be prepared. There are large rocks and stones that form stairs that you’ll need to walk up, as you walk along cliffs and ledges. It is quite rocky. If you’re not accustomed to the altitude, consider bringing cocoa leaves or candies. If you go in the morning, you can expect this side of the mountain to be shady, so dress appropriately. It was fairly cold. If you go in the afternoon, it will be very hot.

The second half of the route flattens out a bit, as you walk along dirt paths that pass through fields of cacti and bushes, with mountains to your left and right. Once you reach one giant cactus on the left side of the path, you’ll know you’ve got just 600 meters to go. This is also the point where the car road and the pedestrian path meet. Follow the path around the curve, looking down on the giant canyon to your right side.

Once you reach the entrance, you’ll see a small hut where you’ll pay the 150 peso entrance fee. You’ll also need to sign in (and out when you leave). After paying, you start heading down into the canyon. There you’ll see a sign with arrows that points you to the ‘mirador’ (look out) to the right and the ‘cascada’ (waterfall) to the left. I suggest going right first. It is actually one giant circuit so you won’t need to double back. Go right in the direction of the mirador, which will allow you to look down into the canyon. You’ll then reach a small yellow ladder. Climb up the ladder, and then keep going straight and follow the signs to the waterfall.

It’s about a 15-20 minute walk to the waterfall through rock beds, and crossing small streams. Follow the river bed around to the left, and before you know it, you’ll see the waterfall. It’s not a massive waterfall, but it is quite pretty. The area feels really peaceful. Every person I met there along the way was incredibly kind.

GETTING BACK TO TOWN:
You’ll get out the exact way you came up. Don’t forget to sign out before leaving the hut. Though going down is quite a bit quicker and definitely not as strenuous as going up. You’ll probably pass by several people on your way down who are making their way up, and they’ll want to know how much further!

Getting back to Purmamarca: As of June 10, 2022, the bus times from Tilcara to Purmamarca are as follows: 5:40, 7:00, 8:40, 10:15, 12:30, 12:45, 14:15, 14:45, 15:50, 18:10, 20:15, 21:00, 23:10.

TOWN OF TILCARA:
If you went up to La Garganta del Diablo in the morning, you’ll get back to town just in time for lunch. There are several restaurants surrounding the main plaza. The restaurants next to the plaza on Rivadavia street have outdoor seating, which I loved, enjoying my chicken and potatoes al fresco. In the center of the plaza are several market stands set up if you’re looking for a few souvenirs.

I also suggest trying out the street food in Tilcara. I had the best tortilla rellena here, filled with onion, cheese, and tomato. There is also a warm drink called ‘api’ which is similar to the chicha morada in Peru, made of purple corn. Though the api is slightly thicker, and has a more cinnamon taste than that of Peru.

My lunch spot: A La Payla, highly recommended


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