Open any guidebook on Argentina and you’ll see a photograph of the unusual phenomenon that is locally known as Cerro de los Siete Colores. Translated in English to The Hill of Seven Colours, this colourful landscape is Argentina’s answer to Peru’s rainbow mountains.
Surrounding the small town of Purmamarca in the Northwest province of Jujuy, clapping eyes on this natural wonder is a must when you are travelling in Argentina. In this guide we’re going to give you all the information you need to visit Cerro de los 7 Colores.
Cerro de los Siete Colores, Purmamarca, Jujuy
The geological formation of Cerro de los Siete Colores was actually formed underwater. With each different coloured layer formed over different time periods from different minerals and sediments. Eventually becoming visible through erosion.
The green layers are the oldest at 600 million years and are given their color by shale and copper oxide. Next up, the white layers are limestone from 400 million years ago. The purplish colours are derived from lead and calcium carbonate, formed 80-90 million years ago.
The yellowish colours started 80-90 million years too and are sandstone with sulfur. Pinkish layers were formed 3 to 4 million years ago, caused by red clay and iron. And the youngest colour on the Hill of 7 Colours is brown, which is Manganese from 1-2 million years ago.
This colorful phenomenon is not the only one in Argentina, in fact it actually runs all the way along the Andes from Salta, Argentina through the Bolivian Altiplano and on into Peru. There’s another great viewing spot in a town slightly further north called Humahuaca.
How To Visit ‘Cerro de los 7 Colores’
There are essentially three ways that you can visit Cerro de los Siete Colores. The first is to take a tour from either the city of Salta of the city of Jujuy. The second is to rent a car and drive there yourself. Or the third option is to get there by public transport.
Take a Tour
As I say, you can either do this from the provincial capital of Jujuy, also called Jujuy. Or alternatively from the city of Salta, which the capital of the neighbouring province, also named Salta.
And although it’s simple enough to get there on your own steam, there’s plenty of reasons to opt for a tour. Maybe you’re not going any further north than Salta, maybe you have limited time, or maybe you just prefer to have the organization done for you.
Whatever the reasons, these are our pick of the bunch when it comes to taking a tour to visit Cerro de los Siete Colores.
- Includes visits to the coloured mountains in both Purmamarca and Humahuaca.
- Itinerary includes both coloured mountains plus also the salt flats near Purmamarca.
- Visits Purmamarca Hill of 7 Colours, the salt flats, mountain towns of Santa Rosa and San Antonio, plus driving along a section of famous Train to the Clouds
All tours listed include round trip transport with hotel pick up and drop off. Please be aware that taking a Cerro de los Siete Colores tour will involve a very long day. A very worthwhile long day though. Approximately a 12-13 hour long, because they include the numerous other sights listed too.
Rent A Car
If you have already rented a car or are travelling Argentina in a van, then great guns. You can just go ahead and rock up to visit Cerro de los Siete Colores in Purmamarca Argentina on your own wheels.
You’ll see the Hill of Seven Colors as you are approaching the town, literally can’t miss them. So just plug Purmamarca Jujuy into your GPS and off you go. From the city of Salta it will take you around 3 hours.
Or alternatively of you if you don’t already have a vehicle you can easily pick one up in either Salta or Jujuy. If you do this we’d recommend taking out your own separate insurance because it’s always so much cheaper. You can get a quote here with the company we use.
If you’re travelling further north in Argentina and perhaps on into Bolivia, this final option on how to get to Purmamarca Jujuy and the Hill of Seven Colours is the one. This is option we opted we for and it’s pretty straight forward.
There are buses per day running the route between Salta – Jujuy – Purmamarca – Tilcara – Humahuaca. The bus companies to look out for at the bus stations are Balut or Flecha Bus.
Or alternatively, because bus stations are usually a way out of town, you can book online as we usually do. Just don’t forget to get your tickets printed.
There is a some accomodation in Purmamarca, however when we checked it was relatively expensive and there’s really not much to do in the town other than see the Cerro de los Siete Colores.
So our advice would be to stay in the bigger nearby town of Tilcara, which is the next town along.
We took a bus from Salta straight to Tilcara. Then came back to visit both the Hill of Seven Colours and the nearby Salinas Grandes (salt flats) the next day so that we had more time and weren’t lugging our backpacks around.
Where To Stay In Tilcara
As we say, the neighbouring town of Tilcara is a little larger and has much more going on than in terms of restaurants and things to do on an evening.
Here’s our pick of the bunch of Tilcara accomodation.
Affordable Luxury: Vientonorte
Centrally located, this attractive Tilcara hotel features Andean architecture, a heated outdoor pool, a solarium and WiFi throughout. Rooms are spacious with large panoramic windows and some have balconies to boot.
Enjoy stunning views of the Cerro Negro hill from the terrace bar where you can enjoy both regional and international dishes. The delicious buffet breakfast includes fresh fruit and homemade bread and jams.
Mid-Range: Aguacanto Cabañas
Set a stones throw away from the main square, these Tilcara cabanas are fitted with heating, WiFi, separate dining areas and fully-equipped kitchens.
They overlook a lovely garden complete with hammocks to relax in. A yummy breakfast with homemade bread is included. And reviews consistently say that staff are friendly and welcoming.
Cheap & Cheerful: La Albahaca Hostel
As soon as you walk into this Tilcara hostel, it will immediately feel more like a home than a hostel. The staff are friendly and super knowledgable about the local area.
Breakfast is prepared fresh for you daily and there’s plenty of space both inside and outside on the patio or in the gardens to chill out. There WiFi throughout and you’re close by the everything you need.
If you prefer to return back to the city of Salta or Jujuy the same day, that’s totally possible too. Just book a return ticket. If you’re just going to see the Cerro de los 7 Colores, a few hours is enough.
If you’re going to put in a trip to the salt flats you’ll need all day so getting to Purmamarca and back to Salta on public transport probably wouldn’t be possible, depending on the times.
You’d be much better booking a Purmamarca and salt flats combined tour.
How To Get To Purmamarca From Tilcara
Buses leave from Tilcara to Purmamarca every hour and cost $30 ARG ($0.70 USD / £0.55 GBP) each. Just be aware that not all buses are direct. Some go straight through to Salta, but you can get them to drop you off on the highway at the turn off for Purmamarca.
From here it’s just a 3km walk into the town or alternatively you could hitch a ride, there’s plenty of cars going in and out. Or if you don’t fancy the bus, you can take a remise (shared taxi) for $200 ARG ($4.70 USD / £3.70 GBP) each one way.
Usually you have to wait until there are four passengers, but some are happy to go with two people.
Best Time To Visit The Hill of Seven Colours
To see the best of Cerro de los Siete Colores you should head to Purmamarca Jujuy in the morning. This is when the light is best and there isn’t a shadow over the mountains. If you have a few days to play with, check the weather forecast too.
The climate in Jujuy, Argentina’s most northern province is warm and temperate with dry winters and hot summers. And because the environment is semi-desertic, rainfall is rare. January sees the most rain, with the hottest month being December and the coldest July.
So the most comfortables times to visit the Hill of Seven Colours in Jujuy, when it’s not too hot or too cold, are September – November and February – June. However, there is generally good visibility all year round.
Best Views of Cerro de los Siete Colores
You can see the coloured mountains from anywhere in town, but there are two main vantage points. The first is in the town, up a small purple hill. But it’s very close to the main mountain range and difficult to get the full scale.
There’s a small $30 ARG ($0.70 USD / £0.55 GBP) charge to get up there. For the best views of Cerro de los Siete Colores, you need to head up the purplish/brown coloured mountains, across the highway behind Purmamarca town.
The path isn’t so obvious. But once you cross over the road and get into the dry river bed you’ll see a pink house on the mountainside. Besides this is a path that leads up to the top of the mountains overlooking Purmamarca Argentina.
From there you’ll get Incredible views of the whole town and can appreciate the full scale of the Cerro de los 7 Colores, plus fit them all into a photo frame. The path is quite long so you can walk for around 45 mins if you wish for different viewpoints.
It’s also extremely steep and quite slippery because it’s all loose stones so be careful, especially coming back down.
There’s no cost but there is a box that presumably belongs to the person whose house it is, asking for donations for the upkeep of the path. $30 ARG ($0.70 USD / £0.55 GBP) is fine.
Purmamarca Ethical Considerations
Tourism income is really important for the local economy in such a small place like Purmamarca Jujuy. The main attraction in town is the Cerro de los Siete Colores and to see it is really the only reason you would go Purmamarca Argentina.
But as soon as you arrive, you’ll see the multiple tourist buses lined up and people piling out of them. So we just hope it doesn’t get overrun and the environment damaged as has happened with the rainbow Vinicunca Mountain in Peru.
To help, be sure to make donations at the viewing points for the upkeep of the paths. Stay on the paths. Take rubbish away with you. And this should go without saying, I feel like a twat saying it, but sadly some people obviously think it’s okay, don’t draw on the mountains.
Purmamarca Mountains Altitude Sickness
The town of Purmamarca is 2,324 m.a.s.l. Which although is nowhere near as high altitude as some other places in the region, if you climb the mountain across the highway that overlooks the Cerro de los Siete Colores, you will likely be puffing a bit towards the top.
So take your time. Climbing up or down a steep rocky slope isn’t the best place to start feeling dizzy. If you suffer from altitude sickness, try the local remedy of chewing coca leaves.
If you’ve never tried them before, they taste pretty bitter. You may not like them, but we definitely think they help. The technique is to build up a small ball of them and keep it in your cheek, so you can keep sucking on them to release the effects. You don’t eat them.
What To Take To The Hill of 7 Colours
You really don’t need much to be honest. But even in summer, temperatures do drop really quickly as soon as the sun goes down. So if you’re planning an all day adventure, take a warm jacket with you. We use these packable feather down jackets and they are great.
Whatever adventure you’re on we always recommend taking a filter water bottle with you. That way you can drink the tap water and save on both money and plastic waste.
What Else To Do In Purmamarca
Purmamarca town really is very small. It’s just a few blocks by a few blocks of colourful colonial style buildings. There’s shops and markets almost everywhere selling traditional textiles, ponchos and clothing, etc.
Also lots of reasonably priced restaurants and places to get the local favourite snack tortillas relleno. If you haven’t tried these yet, you must. They are tortillas stuffed with cheese or ham and cheese or any number of ingredients really.
As I mentioned above, Purmamarca Jujuy is also where you get the tours to the Salinas Grandes from. They leave from the centre of town and you’ll hear the sales guys shouting shouting “salinas”. The price is $500 ARG ($12 USD / £9.50 GBP) per person.
The tour lasts 3 hours and they leave when the bus is full but around 11am. You can also get remises which are the same price per person. But you need 4 people for a full car. Same timings but more flexibility on where you stop and the vehicles can move a bit quicker.
Good Reads About Argentina:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
We never go anywhere without travel insurance – and neither should you. This particularly goes if you’re planning on adventuring in more remote destinations like Northern Argentina.
World Nomads is our preferred choice for great cover and a no bullshit approach, grab yourself a quick quote below:
If you have any unanswered questions about visiting the Purmamarca Hill of 7 Colours hit us up in the comments & we’ll do our best to help!
If you’re planning on visiting the wine region of Argentina while you’re in the area you may find these posts helpful:
- How To Explore The Mendoza Wineries By Bike
- A Complete Guide To Cafayate Wine Region
- Take A Relaxing Day Out At Mendoza Hot Springs