Supposedly the Serrania del Hornocal has 14 different colors in the mountain range, however, according to our guide, people have counted up to 32, as more colors are revealed after it rains. This incredible colorful mountain range is found just 27km from the desert town of Humahuaca, in Argentina’s Jujuy province, and 4,761 meters (15,620 ft) above sea level.
This is a quick and easy trip, and one that is absolutely worth it! Here are all the details you’ll need to make it there!
HOW TO CATCH A RIDE:
The bus terminal in Humahuaca is right on the edge of the main town center, on the main road. It is very obvious, and if you take the bus to get to Humahuaca, well, then you already know! There are several men hanging around the terminal with signs saying “Serrania del Hornocal,” along with their phone numbers and tour times. In general, there are 4 fixed times: 10am, 12:30, 3pm, 5pm. I assume these times were created to match the arrival times of buses coming from Tilcara and Purmamarca.
You can choose the person you like best at the terminal, though I definitely recommend Ariel (+54 0388 461 5833), as he was not only a great driver, but full of tons of interesting facts and information he revealed to us along the way. Once you choose your guide, you just need to sign up by giving your name, and pay the 1500 pesos. If you would like to. use Ariel as your guide, just send him a whatsapp message and let him know when you’ll be arriving.
As I mentioned, there are 4 fixed leaving times: 10am, 12:30, 3pm, and 5pm. Though you should definitely not expect to leave on time. Each driver will wait until they have a full car, generally 4-5 people. Once the car is full (it’s a 4×4), they will set off along the Independence highway, which is a serpentine dirt road that winds its way up the mountain. There is one short stop where you’ll have a chance to get out and enjoy the view of the road you’ve just driven up. Our guide, Ariel, explained to us about the surrounding region, and the families who live in the valley, and the history of the Argentine gaucho of years past.
The road is 27km long, and takes about 45 minutes to reach the final destination. Once you arrive to the top, each person is expected to pay 50 pesos ($0.25), which goes to the community of families who own the land. After paying this entrance fee, the spectacular view is just a couple minutes away.
Once you arrive to the parking lot of the Serrania del Hornocal, you will be treated to an incredible view of these multi-colored peaks. The driver will give you one hour at the location. What you choose to do with that hour is up to you. You can stay up top at the view point if you’re not in the mood for a small hike.
However, if you would like to try and get a bit closer, head down the big dirt path. Just keep in mind that if you go down, you’ll have to come back up, and it’s quite steep. If you are easily affected by high altitude, or struggle with any mobility issues, you may prefer not to descend.
If you do choose to descend, it only takes about 10 minutes to reach the first lookout point, which is marked by a white sign telling you not to go any further in Spanish. If you would like to keep going a bit, look to the left where you’ll see another small path descending further. It takes less than 10 minutes to reach the second lookout point. If you’re able, I do suggest making it here. The views are incredible, and the photos you get are worth it.
It took me about 15 minutes to reach the very top once again, after leaving the most bottom lookout point. However, I hike quite a bit and am comfortable with high altitude. If you are not much of a hiker, plan for a little more time.
The return back to Humahuaca goes a little bit faster as there are no stops, and the guide drove a bit faster going down than on the way up, as he no longer needed to relay certain bits of info along the path. You’ll get dropped off just a block from the bus terminal. The entire trip took just over 2.5 hours. A fairly short trip, with a very big pay off.
WHAT TO BRING:
SPF– it gets sunny
Jacket – It can get pretty windy as you descend the path
Binoculars – if you have them. Our guide lent a pair to our group.
Money – 1500 pesos for the trip, and 50 pesos to the community
Camera– an absolute must!
Tripod – especially if you’re traveling alone.