Tilcara: The Perfect Home Base for Your Jujuy Itinerary

Tilcara, Jujuy is the perfect place to step into the desert wonderland that is Northern Argentina. In this post, we’ll go over the absolute best things to do in Tilcara and the surrounding areas.

Tilcara is 100% the best place to base yourself to make the most out of your Jujuy itinerary. While we highly recommend spending the night in other towns like Humahuaca and Purmamarca, we understand many people are pressed for time.

From the popular attractions like the Rainbow Mountain and the Salt Flats to hidden gems like the Quebrada de las Tres SeñoritasJujuy has it all. The cuisine, the culture, and the nature make Jujuy an amazing destination for those traveling to Argentina. Add in the lack of crowds and extremely low prices and this is the dream vacation or backpacking trip!

Let’s get into the most amazing things to do in Tilcara and Jujuy!

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Tilcara: The Best Home Base to Explore Jujuy Argentina

The Most Amazing Things to do in Tilcara and Jujuy, Argentina

1. Visit Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain

The gorgeous Rainbow Mountain, also called the Mountain of 14 Colors, “Hornocal” by locals, and a few other names is Jujuy’s main attraction. We’re here to tell you there’s good reason for this. Unless you’ve seen the rivaling rainbow mountains in Peru, chances are you’ve never seen anything like this! Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain is absolutely spectacular.

The best time to visit the Mountain of 14 Colors is in the afternoon, when the sun shines beautifully on the peaks, exposing the many colors. The entrance is less than a dollar, almost the entirety of the cost is in the transportation.

Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting Argentina's Rainbow Mountain

How to Get to Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain From Tilcara

From Tilcara, the tours to the rainbow mountain are around $20. If you choose to get yourself from the Tilcara Bus Station to Humahuaca, the bus costs $2-3, and you’ll pay the $8.50 for the tour from Humahuaca.

Check out all of our tips for visiting Argentina’s Rainbow Mountain

Jujuy Itinerary: Argentina's Rainbow Mountain

2. Salinas Grandes: Argentina’s Salt Flats

The Salinas Grandes are Argentina’s amazing salt flats, a must-add to your Jujuy itinerary. This is the perfect place to take fun pictures, take in the views, or grab a coca tea or just walk around. Although Bolivia’s salt flats are much bigger in size and more popular, the Salinas Grandes are not to be missed!

Jujuy Itinerary: Argentina's Salt Flats

Make sure to bring a windbreaker or heavy coat, coca leaves, props for pictures, and pesos! If you don’t have any props, don’t worry, the local guides have props and are amazing photographers. The cost of entry is around $2 and you tip the guides for taking fun pictures!

Read all about visiting Argentina’s Salt Flats!

Jujuy Itinerary: Argentina's Salt Flats Fun Pictures

How to Get From Tilcara to Purmamarca by Bus

You can take the bus from Tilcara to Purmamarca for around $1 which takes 30 minutes. From the bus station, head over to this intersection. People will be shouting out “Salinas” or talking to other tourists. This is who you want to approach to inquire about transportation to the Salinas Grandes! The round-trip ride from Purmamarca to the Salinas Grandes costs around $13.

How to Get From Tilcara to Purmamarca by Tour

If you wish to go as part of a tour, you can go with ADN Travel in Tilcara. They have an office in Tilcara, but their van also passes through the Tilcara bus station around 10. They’ll be yelling out “Salinas” and will stop if you wave them down. Make sure to confirm the price and whether or not a stop in Purmamarca town is included in this tour!

How to Visit Argentina's Salt Flats

3. Quebrada de las Tres Señoritas / Cañón de Las 13 Vueltas Hike

The Salinas Grandes and Rainbow Mountain are absolutely amazing, and the main attractions of Jujuy. Unfortunately people only visit these attractions and forget about this beauty. The Quebrada de Las Tres Señoritas and Cañón de Las 13 Vueltas Hike is criminally underrated, and one of the best things to do in Jujuy. The Quebrada de Las Tres Señoritas is this tri-color mountain range, which has a huge spiritual significance for the indigenous people in the area.

The Cañón de Las 13 Vueltas, or “Canyon of the 13 Turns” is a trail that snakes through these towering red-rock cliffs. It’s one of the most beautiful an unique things we’ve seen on our travels. The guides are amazing photographers and will set aside time for taking pictures!

Check out our post about visiting Quebrada de las Tres Señoritas and Cañón de Las 13 Vueltas

Canyon of 13 Turns and Quebrada de las Tres Senoritas: The Best Hike in Northwestern Argentina

How to Get to the Quebrada de las Tres Señoritas

From the Tilcara Bus Station, take the bus heading to Humahuaca and get off in Uquia. Cost is around $2 and this takes around 30 minutes.

If traveling by car, you can drive right up to the trailhead parking lot. The road is gravel, but in decent condition. The most common way to rent a car is in Salta, and drive it up through Jujuy. Book your cheap car rentals here!

4. Taste the Regional Cuisine

Jujuy has some of the best food in Argentina, which is saying a lot. It’s very similar to the Salta cuisine, with a heavier focus on llama dishes like llama stew and steak, tortillas rellenos (grilled tortillas stuffed with meat, cheese and onions), tamales, and humitas. Humitas and tamales are very similar, both being corn-based dough, except tamales are stuffed with a combination of meat, cheese, sauce and vegetables.

When in Jujuy and particularly Tilcara, make sure to try Api, a warm tea-like drink with a purple corn base. It is insanely delicious and my mouth is watering just thinking of this!

5. Garganta del Diablo Hike

The Garganta del Diablo is a waterfall located in a beautiful canyon outside of Tilcara town. The hiking trail, which is the fastest way, takes about an hour. The gravel road to the Tilcara Lookout takes a bit longer, but is worth it. We recommend taking the windy gravel road up to admire the lookout of Tilcara and the amazing mountains.

Best Things to do in Tilcara

Once you’ve hiked to the trailhead, there is another 20-30 minute round-trip hike to the waterfall. After visiting the waterfall, take the fast trail back, stopping at Terrazas Respiro, a really cool café. You can also drive to the trailhead and do the short hikes to the waterfall. Cost is just a $2 entry fee!

Garganta del Diablo Tilcara Argentina

6. Enjoy Dinner, Drinks and a Show at a Peña

Peñas are restaurants with live music, delicious food, and lots of beverages! A night at a Peña is one of the best things to do in Tilcara and greater Jujuy. The dishes are usually regional food, and the atmosphere is unbeatable. The songs being played are usually tributes to gauchos (Argentine cowboys), and the crowd sings along.

The band the night we played went around asking people where they were from, then gave great recommendations for what to do in the area (which you won’t need because you’re reading this awesome blog!). It’s customary to tip the band at the end of the night if you had a good time! We recommend going to Peña a La Payla in Tilcara for great food and music!

Where to Eat in Tilcara: Pena a la Payla

7. Pucará de Tilcara

The Pucará de Tilcara ruins showcase the pre-hispanic life in what we now know as Tilcara. The archaeologists happened to do a terrible job of preserving the ruins, and you can’t help but laugh at the exhibits. The most impressive structure at the Pucará ruins is a pyramid-like structure that not only never existed before, but was built by the archaeologists to honor themselves, knocking down some centuries-old ruins in the process!

Best Things to do in Tilcara: Visit Pucará de Tilcara Ruins

That being said, the archaeologists did rebuild and preserve much of the town, so it’s definitely worth a visit. There’s also a cool botanical garden consisting of cacti and other plants that grow in the altitude of the Jujuy desert-climate. If nothing else, the ruins yield stunning views of the surroundings! It costs $6 for general entry and ~$1 for the archaeological museum. They have an English guide booklet, and most signs are in English!

Pucará de Tilcara Ruins

8. Los Colorados Hike in Purmamarca

Los Colorados Hike in Purmamarca is a short, 45 minute to 1 hour hike that showcases the best of the best of Purmamarca.

To get to the trailhead, you walk through the artisanal fair, where you can buy everything from slippers to blankets made with alpaca and llama fur. Stop at Cerro El Porito lookout, where you can admire Purmamarca’s Rainbow Mountain (Mountain of 7 Colors), as well as the Purmamarca town. After the lookout, you’ll walk through nature that makes you think you’re in the middle of nowhere. My American mind still cannot understand that this is accessible with public transportation and a short walk!

Finally, you can see how far back the Mountain of 7 colors stretches. While the first peak serves as a miraculous backdrop to the Purmamarca town, we really enjoyed the views from the Los Colorados Hike!

How to Get to Los Colorados Trailhead

To get from the Tilcara Bus Station to Humahuaca, take the bus which costs $2-3, and takes around 45 minutes. From here, it’s around a 10 minute walk to the trailhead.

9. Drink Wine in Maimará

Maimará has a huge cemetery proportionate to its size, but it’s not all morbid over there. There are loads of bodegas, or wineries that you can stop in at and take a tour, tasting, grab a bite to eat, or buy a bottle of wine! Maimará is Jujuy’s response to Salta’s Cafayate and the Mendoza province, both areas where Argentine wine is the biggest attraction!

10. Humahuaca Peñas Blancas

While Humahuaca is best known for being the gateway to the Rainbow Mountain, it has some impressive mountains surrounding the town. Peñas Blancas, or “White Rocks” is a lookout on the edge of Humahuaca that is 100% worth doing. It’s a great introduction to the crazy beautiful landscapes in Jujuy. The walk is slightly uphill, and there is some climbing involved, so be careful and don’t push your limits! Here’s a drone shot of us on the beautiful Peñas Blancas.

Peñas Blancas in Humahuaca, Jujuy, Argentina

Bonus: Overnight in Iruya

Iruya is a super small, mostly indigenous town in the Salta region that is very close to the Bolivian border. Tucked away in a valley, it makes the perfect overnight trip from Tilcara. There are phenomenal vistas in the mountains right outside of town, a gorgeous hike to San Isidro, another indigenous town, delicious food, great history and super nice locals.

Check out our post on How to Spend 24 Hours in Iruya, Argentina

How to Get to Iruya from Tilcara by Bus

Panamericano leaves for Iruya every day at 8 am. Make sure to check the Panamericano booth at the Tilcara Bus Station and purchase your tickets the day before! This costs around $8. If you want to leave later than 8 am, you can take the bus to Humahuaca and take the 10:30 or 4 pm bus.

How to Get to Iruya from Tilcara by Car

The roads to Iruya are very windy, and almost completely gravel. Only the first hour or so from Humahuaca to Iruya is on a paved road. You can definitely do this drive without a 4×4, but you may have to go much slower. Also, if you rent a 4×4, you’ll be able to get to San Isidro without a guide. We recommend renting a car in Salta, and using it to get travel between the Salta/Jujuy towns.

Iruya Argentina

Where to Eat in Tilcara

Tilcara does it right with restaurants; great food, great ambiance, and tons of live music. There are tons of other places in Tilcara and Jujuy worth visiting, but these are some of our favorites:

  • Casa de Champa: For a delicious breakfast – a nice switch up from bread and dulce de leche!
  • A la Payla Restaurant: For llama curry, stew, and live music!
  • La Chacana: For delicious, healthy smoothies, gnocchi with llama ragu, ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and goat cheese, and quinoa ceviche!
  • Parrilla lo de Nico: For a family-cookout style, barbeque lunch.
  • Palmira Ensaladas: For a build your own salad bowl!
  • Sirviñacu: For purple corn crust pizza!

If you want to learn how to cook some amazing northern Argentinian food, check out this 3-course cooking class!

Best Time to Visit Tilcara and Jujuy

The best time to visit Tilcara and the Jujuy region in general is between March and May or September and November, when you’ll have the best weather for exploring the outdoors and enjoying the nearby attractions! Though it can be visited any time with generally pleasant weather year round, we recommend avoiding December and January, as those are the hottest and wettest months.

Where to Stay in Tilcara

The best place to stay in Tilcara is downtown, close to all of the restaurants and bars! This area comes alive at night and is also conveniently close to the bus station.

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How to Get to Tilcara

The biggest airports near Tilcara are in Jujuy (JUJ) and Salta (SLA). Aerolineas Argentinas, FlyBondi, and JetSmart are the more popular airlines that fly in and out of these airports. Book your cheap flights with Skyscanner!

How to Get to Tilcara from San Salvador de Jujuy

From San Salvador de Jujuy, you can take any bus heading to Tilcara, Humahuaca, or La Quiaca from the San Salvador de Jujuy bus station. Evelia and Balut are two of the bus companies you can use to get from San Salvador de Jujuy to Tilcara. This will cost around $5-6.

How to Get to Tilcara from Salta

From Salta, you can take the Andesmar bus at 4:10 am that should get to Tilcara at 7:45 am. This costs $13. If you can’t catch this bus, you can take any bus to San Salvador de Jujuy, and then follow the instructions above.

How to Get to Tilcara by Car

Renting a 4×4 will definitely give you the most flexibility when moving throughout Jujuy. You won’t have to rely on a tour, and you’ll be able to stop wherever you want while doing these amazing activities. The most popular way to road trip Jujuy is renting a car in Salta, then driving up north through beautiful Jujuy.

Keep Exploring Jujuy…

Our Favorite Travel Resources

Accommodations: We use Booking.com for hotels and HostelWorld for hostels. We also use VRBO or TrustedHousesitters for longer stays.

Flights: We recommend using Skyscanner to find the cheapest and best flights.

Ground Transport: We use 12Go and Omio for buses and private transfers, and rentalcars.com and Discover Cars for rental cars.

Activities: GetYourGuide and Viator are the best websites for booking organized tours.

International Medical Insurance: We highly recommend SafetyWing for Digital Nomads and HeyMondo for those not traveling full-time, or who frequently engage in higher-risk adventure activities.

eSIM: We recommend Airalo or Holafly for getting data internationally.

Check out our Travel Resources Page for more of our favorite travel-related products and services!

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