Mirador del Hornocal: the secret of the North

The Quebrada de Humahuaca is, in itself, a whole collection of majestic landscapes, a valley crossed by the Río Grande and the gateway to the Puna (el altiplano, or Andean Plateau) where everything is color, tradition and history. Mirador de Hornocal is an example of the must-see natural marvels of this region: visitors can access the Mirador from the city of Humahuaca to an area where mountains and awesome colors lead the scene. The whole Quebrada (ravine) is an arid, stripped area, with scarce vegetation and lovely cardón cactuses. In any trail in this region, the colors of the mountains will always strike us. This feeling increases as we get to the Sierras de Hornocal, where colors multiply into a fascinating (even excessive) gamut.

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Serranía de Hornocal is another of the marvels of the province of Jujuy, a calcareous system made of different types of minerals that, when eroded, revealed a symphony of colors on the mountain sides. A landscape that entices contemplation that, when observed for a short or for a long while, will easily make everyone feel insignificant. In this observation point, we may see the streaks of colors and the triangular shapes of this unique rainbow (some assure that there are 33 hues). It is an example of strata sedimentation, where colors are formed from a type of limestone, ranging from ochre, to green, yellow and even white. Such strata were buried millions of years ago. Then, the long formation process of the Andean mountain range uncovered such colors. Today, the fractured rocks make up a frame for panoramic vistas. And our only impulse will be to contemplate it and take good pictures. One of the most famous observation points in this Serranía is some 25 km away from the city of Humahuaca, down Route 73. It is only a 40-minute car ride on a gravel road until we get to the mirador overlooking the hill. There, the view is silent and majestic….at 4,300 m above sea level! Another great breathtaking spot in the quebrada, although, in this case, less famous and less visited. Another aspect to be considered is to program tours to get there in the evening, when the sun will enhance the colors on the mountain sides. It is then that we will imagine the grandeur of all these landscapes when inhabited by the Incas. In fact, the whole of the Quebrada de Humahuaca made up a landscape overtowering a section of the Inka trail, made up of thousands of kilometers, from Ecuador towards the furthest south of Argentina. Nowadays, both the Inka Trail and the Quebrada de Humahuaca are UNESCO Heritage Sites, a recognition that may be easily explained by the combination of their cultural value and natural beauty. And, in spite of such splendor and such touristic growth, these landscapes have scarcely changed (or remain unchanged), wrapped in silence, overtowered by clouds and ruled by the sun cycles: a full-time show, to be enjoyed all through the year.

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