With its jagged cliffs and red-rock formations, Shells' Ravine (Quebrada de las Conchas) is one of Northern Argentina’s most impressive natural wonders. Located just outside Cafayate, the ravine is the star attraction of the Calchaquí Valley and is a must-see sight for first-time visitors and budding photographers.
Visit Quebrada de las Conchas on a day trip from Salta or Cafayate. The highway between the two towns runs right through the heart of the ravine, so most tours include plenty of photo stops to admire the otherworldly rock formations. Alternatively, combine being driven through the gorge with a wine tasting session in the Cafayate wine region, or if you’re an active traveler, explore the gorge on a bike tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There’s no admission fee for Quebrada de las Conchas—you can drive the highway for free.
- If you plan on walking through the gorge, hiking shoes are recommended.
- Prepare for the desert climate by bringing sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.
- There are a few restaurants and handicrafts stalls dotted along the highway.
How to Get There
The Quebrada de las Conchas gorge stretches for 31 miles (50 kilometers) along the Route 68 highway, which runs north from Cafayate to Salta; the gorge is a 15-minute journey from Cafayate by road. Though buses from Cafayate stop along the gorge, it’s far more convenient to visit as part of a tour, in order to spend less time navigating and more time enjoying the scenery.
When to Get There
It’s possible to visit Quebrada de las Conchas at any time of year. If you’re visiting in the summer months, it’s worth making an early start to avoid the midday heat.
Natural Wonders of Quebrada de las Conchas
Sculpted over millions of years by wind and water erosion, the landscapes of Quebrada de las Conchas—which translates from Spanish as the Shell Ravine—are named after the prehistoric marine fossils found embedded in the soft rock. Dating back 15 million years, the fossils are remnants from when the continent was still underwater. The otherworldly landscapes are also home to a number of distinctive rock formations, which include Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), El Anfiteatro (The Amphitheater) and Los Castillos (The Castles).