I have a confession. When I went to the Grand Canyon on the tail end of my gap year, aged 19, I was such a brat that on the way there, I moodily declared: “So what, it’s just a big hole”. Cringe. This was mainly to annoy the very keen group of German girls on my minibus who wanted to stay there an extra day. This would have meant missing the gay pride parade in San Francisco and nothing was getting in my way of that. Still, to call the Grand Canyon a big hole is up there on my list of “Oh God, did I really say that?!”. There are plenty more, I assure you.
It was our trip to the Quebrada de Cafayate in Argentina that spurred this memory. The quebrada is often likened to the Grand Canyon and the landscapes of Utah. We first passed through it on the bus on the way to Cafayate from Salta. It took us by surprise, contrasting incredibly with the dusty hills of Salta and seemingly coming out of nowhere. We decided to book a tour to explore it further. Here’s our trip in photos.
First stop was this interesting rock formation. Our guide asked us what it reminded us of. Can you guess? It’s a locomotive.
The surroundings were beautiful with textured and colourful mountains in all directions.
This formation is called the obelisk. It’s by the side of the road so you pass it en-route to Cafayate from Salta.
As we walked, I came across this stone. It’s how I imagine the surface of Mars would look.
One of the most striking things in the Quebrada are the layered, multi-coloured mountains. They vary from subtle pastels…
…to bold purples and reds.
This is how they looked up close. It really brought our old science lessons on sedimentary rocks to life.
The penultimate stop was the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat).
It was a lot of fun to scramble through.
And the colours were spectacular as we delved inside.
Last up was the Ampitheatre, a natural concert space in the Quebrada. We were particularly lucky as an event was being held there that day. Before the show, people made offerings to Pachamama.
The concert included a local band who played one of the longest pipes we’ve ever seen. Food was also on sale including a delicious cheese pita for us vegetarians. It was a great end to the tour so we suggest checking for events before you go.
Useful information on the Quebrada de Cafayate
We went on a tour of the quebrada with El Balcón Hostel where our friend Erin was staying. It lasted around four hours and cost AR$80. Ideally, we’d have liked to hire a car and explore ourselves but that would have been more expensive. Another option is to hop off the Salta-Cafayate bus at the Garganta del Diablo, which is a designated bus stop. You can then explore for a bit yourself before getting on the next bus that goes past. With this option, unless you wanted to walk a lot, you would only be able to see the Garganta and the Amphitheatre (which are the highlights in our opinion).