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Tilcara - Uquía - Humahuaca - Hornocal - Tilcara

Breathtaking scenery

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I sleep well for six hours until 06:00, then wake up numerous times coughing, and suffering several horrid dreams and coughing fits as I try to get back to sleep again. I feel like a wet rag when I finally get up, so David kindly goes down to the restaurant and brings me breakfast back to the room.


Museo en los Cerros

Gastón has tried to find interesting things for us to see and experience along the new route that doesn't involve too much walking for me. This morning he is taking us to a photography museum.


The museum is located at the bottom of a pretty gorge, in huge grounds, set amongst hills, trees, and vineyards. A path leads from the car park to the low-level building that blends cleverly into the landscape.




The photographs are not all recent, and not all from the same photographer, and could best be described as being in a documentary style. While the photos are excellent and tell some interesting stories, the photographic judge in me (I am a fully qualified camera club judge) struggles to make positive comments on most of them from a competition perspective. The museum gets rave reviews online and I wonder what I am missing, as it leaves me completely cold.

In an adjacent building, a silent room plays music through headphones while you sit or lie on cushions on the floor.

I swear this cactus is giving me the finger on the way out as a result of my indifference to the exhibits.


Tropic of Capricorn

From here we head toward the hills again, passing the Tropic of Capricorn on the way, where, on the 21st of January, the sun casts no shadows.



We stop in the small town of Uquía to visit the church of San Francisco de Santa Paula from 1691. The small and unassuming white church with one-metre thick adobe walls, a cactus wood ceiling, and an impressive gold-plated altar; draws visitors, not for its architecture, but for the unusual paintings hanging on the walls.


These paintings are attributed to the Cuzco school of the 17th and 18th centuries, where the baroque style painters integrated Catholic iconography into topical motifs: in this case, angels carrying guns!

No photography is allowed inside, but you can see some pictures online here.

Known as the Arquebusier Angels, the images feature archangels dressed in the customary King's Guards style at the time, holding a traditional firearm known as an arquebus. Apparently, there are around 800 such paintings around the world.

Pachamanka Restaurant, Humahuaca

We stop in this little town to take lunch at this eclectic and colourful restaurant in the centre of town.


First, we are served some interesting rolls and fresh lemonade before letting Gastón choose some typical regional dishes for us.




The starter of Llama Escabechada con Pan Especiado. Yes, that is really a starter, albeit to share between David and me. I love the multicoloured bread!


For the main course, we have Cremosa de Quinoa con Hongos de Pino – a risotto-style dish made from quinoa with pine mushrooms.


Gaston also orders three empanadas de quinoa con queso (pasties filled with quinoa and cheese) for us to taste.


A delicious ginger lemonade

Serrania del Hornocal

I know I promised the doctor in San Pedro de Atacama that I would avoid high altitudes as much as possible, yet I find myself leaving the main road and travelling up a dirt track to Serrania del Hornical. I am making an exception for this, which is truly one of the highlights of the entire trip, as it will be a brief visit, and I don't have to walk more than a few metres. I also feel reassured that Gastón carries oxygen in the car, in case the altitude affects my chest. We leave Humahuaca, at 3012 metres above sea level, to climb slowly higher to the viewing platform at Hornocal, which is at an altitude of 4,350 metres.


As the air gets thinner, the excitement grows. I don't think anything of it when Gastón puts Nessan Dorma on in the car, as he plays some great eclectic music on our drives. As we pull onto the viewing platform at the top, he turns the sound up on the already rousing music and the track reaches its crescendo as this view opens up before us.


The view is surreal, mesmerising, and simply breathtaking, and I feel surprisingly tearful. Known as The Mountain with 14 Colours, some say there are up to 33 different shades visible here. This is what happens when two tectonic plates collide: horizontal sedimentation layers are pushed up, compressed and folded into incredible shapes.



As Gastóon says: "A special place needs special music".

While I could stay here all afternoon gazing at those unbelievable colours and shapes, we don't linger stay long at this high point for the sake of my health. I do feel a little light-headed but I am not coughing as much as I expected. Hopefully, the medicine is already starting to have an effect.

We see some vicuñas on the side of the road on the way down, but other than that, the journey back to Tilcara is pretty non-eventful.




I stay in bed while David and Gaston go into town for some food. Moments after they leave, the power goes out in my room. No big deal for me, I have a torch and my phone to light the way should I need it; however, someone from reception turns up and switches on the emergency light in the room for me. Power cuts are a frequent occurrence around here, and apparently not just at the hotel, but throughout the town.

David and Gastón, meanwhile, have a romantic dinner by candlelight in a restaurant in town

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for another day of another amazing trip. You guys are the best!


Posted by Grete Howard 11:32 Archived in Argentina Tagged church cactus museum argentina llama south_america tilcara humahuaca uquia vicuñas power_cut undiscovered_destinations photography_museum san_francisco_de_santa_paula angels_carrying_guns arquebusier_angels arquebus pachamanka hornocal 14_coloured_mountain nessan_dorma

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Wow, that view at Serrania del Hornical was definitely worth risking the altitude for! Was that on your original route? I think maybe not, which means it's great (if partial) compensation for having to change :) And I had a look at the link with the paintings from that church - bizarre!

by ToonSarah

Thank you Sarah (sorry, I have only just now seen your comment) ♥

by Grete Howard

now I know I have to go to Argentina some day to see Serrania del Hornical ... this is unbelievable! It is just so pretty!!!!

by Ils1976

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