Argentina is one of South America’s most beautiful and truly diverse countries. And this is evident if you spend any time in Northern Argentina. One of my favorite scenic trips was through the Quebrada de las Conchas, right outside Cafayate.
Cafayate is a famous small town south of Salta known for its wine. The red rocks and desert scenes are similar to those of Arizona and Utah but with a twist.
If you’re looking for a truly magical ride, keep reading to figure out the details of how to see this area on your own.
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Where is Quebrada de las Conchas?
Quebrada de las Conchas, Shells’ Ravine in English, is located in the Calchaquí Valley. This valley is located right outside of Cafayate and 1.5 hours south of Salta.
Argentina is home to a lot of unique landscapes, and this is definitely on that list, too.
How to Get to Cafayate
If this isn’t feasible, taking the bus is another easy option. Head over to the bus terminal in Salta and look for Flechabus. They are one of the only companies that stops by this town.
Tickets are cheap (currently around ~4.5k pesos). I like to check the potential routes on Busbud before heading to the station.
You can buy the tickets online, but the conversion rates for websites like this that aren’t Argentinian might give you the wrong rate.
Best Spots to See Along the Quebrada de las Conchas
This area is similar to that of Jujuy in the north. The colors are vibrant, and you’ll certainly enjoy the landscape as you drive along this route.
I wouldn’t say it’s as colorful as places like El Cerro de los Siete Colores, but it’s still worth the visit.
Below are the top stops to make along the Quebrada de las Conchas.
La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat)
If you’re coming from Salta, this would be the first stop on the list. We were coming from Cafayate and our driver told us we would be going to the beginning and heading down.
This area is wildly different than the other La Garganta del Diablo in Tilcara, Jujuy.
There is no waterfall here like the one in Jujuy but it’s still a unique site to see. You start out on a flat service and go inside this open red tunnel. It’s large but you feel small.
A ledge then appears and there’s a sign that says don’t go past this but our tour guide said it was fine. Sure enough, everyone else was up there with us.
The next stop on our journey was El Anfiteatro. This is where I’d expect all musical performances to be held back in the day.
It’s a similar feeling to the La Garganta del Diablo with the walls surrounding you but a much smoother design. The acoustics bounce off the walls and sound amazing.
There will be someone playing music there and it’s something that I could sit there and listen to all day.
There isn’t much of a hike for this one, and there are souvenirs at the entrance here!
This is a smaller area with a couple minutes of an incline walk to arrive at this spectacular viewpoint.
The overlook into the valley is one that you won’t want to forget, and it’s worth stopping to take a few photos.
There weren’t any vendors or really any people at all here when we stopped. I heard there should be some vendors here during peak season, at least if you’re looking for things to buy.
The next formation we didn’t stop but drove past. It’s called El Sap and it looks something like a toad of sorts.
It’s a rock formation, and from a certain single, you can clearly see a head and its tiny little feet below it.
We were driving, so I don’t have any photos for you on this one.
This next area is where we got out and did a 30 to 40-minute hike. It’s home to many types of fossils and Los Estratos.
Los Estratos is the best spot to see the most colors in the mountains. There are some viewpoints along the way and it was one of our favorites along the route!
Las Ventanas is a quick but cool stop! This is one of my favorite photos, as the mountains in the background go extremely well with the so-called “window” formation.
There isn’t much to see after that, so it only takes a few minutes.
The last stop we made was Los Castillos or “the castles”. There’s a good photo opportunity here. The mountains in the background look like a castle. Right below it is a small river and lush vegetation.
This spot seemed like something out of the movies. I could defiantly see myself camping here.
How to Get to Quebrada de las Conchas
Getting around this area is of key importance when determining how much you’ll enjoy it. There are cheap ways, and then there are other, more adventurous ways.
Renting a car from Salta and heading south is one of the easiest and best ways to see the Quebrada de las Conchas.
The entire area of Northern Argentina is an excellent area to do a road trip through. I plan on coming back to experience this area in that manner.
This is the option we chose as we didn’t have a car and it was too late in the day to rent bikes. During our self-guided wine tour, we used a taxi service through WhatsApp.
They were extremely efficient and I highly recommend them. We also used them to book a tour with a driver for four hours through the Quebrada de las Conchas.
It cost us around 9k pesos each, which at the time was around $10 USD. This was an excellent deal and we LOVED our driver.
If you want to use this taxi service in Cafayate too, here’s their number: +54 9 3868 9195
I have heard about a lot of people opting for the bike method. This creates a unique workout experience unlike any you’ve had before.
If you want to rent a bike, then check out RuralBikeCafayate.
Things to Know Before
This area of Argentina isn’t like other areas of the country. You want to come prepared for anything. Below are some things you should know before going on this scenic route.
Things to Bring
Keep in mind that this area of Argentina is a desert. If you come here during the summer, expect hot days with a lot of sun. It can get cold in the morning but usually warms up in the afternoon.
Here are some things to bring that I never leave without:
Go Closer to Sunset
If you have the opportunity to choose the exact time in which you travel along the Quebrada de las Conchas, I highly suggest closer to sunset.
Areas like Los Estratos are much better viewed when the sun is setting. The way the sun hits this area at this time of day is unlike anything else.
It will also start to get a little cooler out compared to going in the middle of the day.
Distance of Quebrada de las Conchas
- Distance: This hike is around 100 km or 60-mile loop bike ride. This is coming from Cafayate to the last stop and back.
- Duration: On average, it will take 6 hours to go around and see the sites.
- Difficulty: I’d rank this bike ride as moderate to difficult due to its extreme distance.
- Incline: N/A
- Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public
Best Places to Stay in Cafayate
- Hostal Tierra de Vinos: One of the top-rated places to stay in Cafayate is also a fantastic price! No need to hesitate if this accommodation is open!
- Villa Vicuna Wine & Boutique Hotel: If you’re coming to Cafayate to relax and enjoy the many great wines of the region, look no further than this boutique hotel!
- Kallpa: Looking for a calm, relaxing hotel with free breakfast? Kallpa has you covered!
Is Visting Quebrada de las Conchas Worth It?
I was hesitant at first when deciding to visit this famous route outside of Cafayate. Was it going to be worth the trouble? Absolutely!
This area of Argentina is one of my favorites, and it wouldn’t be without the experience I had here. Our tour guide was amazing and truly made the moment special.
Final Thoughts about Quebrada de las Conchas
If you are either staying in Salta or Cafayate, then you MUST visit this area. There’s so much to see, you won’t regret it. Bring some snacks and water, and get your camera ready! There are so many picture-perfect areas that you don’t want to miss out on.