Hiking the Stunning Ruinas de Quilmes!

It took less than an hour on the paved road from Amaiche del Valle with my hitched ride given by a respectable retired Police officer to reach the turn off to the Ruines de Quilmes.  He dropped me at the road to the ruins – from there it was gravel for five kilometers. About three kilometers in on this very warm day I finally received another ride from a car full of three young men from Cordoba, a city I would visit in a few weeks. They took me to the Ruinas de Quilmes entrance where we pleasantly parted ways to each explore the ruins on our own.

There were several different routes one could take – paths all over the mountain. It was difficult to see the extent of the ruins from below, so I decided to take the route that would climb up the north side of the mountain ridge, cut across just below the top of the mountain to the south ridge line, and descend on that side.

Approaching the site from the bottom one could see a lot of rock walls …

… and holes in large solid rock made from humans grinding materials.

When I reached the first knoll on the northern ridge surrounding this site, the view opened up considerably! And there were walls structures even up here!

Looking across the mountain’s descending valley, one can see the wall structures climbing the side of the mountain!

The more elevation I gained, the more I was able to comprehend the size of this ancient city! It is estimated that it held a population of at least 5,000 people!

Reaching the second knoll of the northern ridge line, there were still more wall structures – big ones! These people had lived quite a ways up this mountain! These may have been look-out points!

Now I was high enough that I could look down on the two knolls I had already climbed!

If you look real hard, you can see a switch back trail and rock wall structures on the south ridge line. That is where I would be descending from this mountain walk.

The last knoll I passed had more greenery on it than the others! Can you see the old crumbling rock walls surrounding the rock mound in the middle?

Climbing higher still with the last rock wall and mound below me!

I was pretty close to the top of the mountain and there were STILL rock walls showing up! See the one in the middle of the photo by the cactus?

From this elevation one can see far out across the valley floor!

A large rock provided one side of this rock wall!

I had reached the maximum elevation of the trail. From here on the trail cut across to the south ridge line just underneath the top of this mountain!

The trail’s supportive foundation stonework looks very much like the Quilmes’ building wall stonework … don’t know if old stonework was utilized for the trail or if new was built to match!

A trail sign marked the end of a circuitous route.

Can you see the trail cutting across from one side to the other?

From this new vantage point I saw many new levels of rock walls below me! This site was so much larger than I had imagined!

Zooming in on it shows it more clearly!

The site continued much further to the south than I had realized!

The trail descended with switch backs, passing so many more structures it was unbelievable!

This is how they appeared when looking back up at them after having descended below them!

Simply astounding construction! This was thought to be constructed somewhere around 850 AD!

Looking to the south from this southern ridge line, I could see many indications that the site continued up into the un-excavated southern mountain valley! The rock wall pictured here is over ten feet tall!

Further down the ridge line, I saw a huge boulder that the Quilmes had built around! And some super large ‘plazas’ that may have been used to keep their llamas in, or hold public gatherings!

I just couldn’t get over how incredibly strong their construction was to have lasted so long! We’re talking roughly 1200 years of wind and rains and possibly snows and floods!

This picture is zoomed in a little tighter on the upper rock outcropping area! There is a person in a red shirt standing on the corner of one of the squares – do you see him?

In the building of the walls the Quilmes utilized large rocks that were already in the landscape by including them into their structures!

From below looking up!

In the lower elevations these large quartz rocks were embedded or on top of the walls in various places!

What an incredibly beautiful day it had been – hiking, reflecting on ancient history, being alive!

Here is just ONE of those many gigantic squares that were used as llama pens or public gathering spots!

And then I was back down at the base of this incredible site. Looking back up at the mountainside, once again I could hardly see a thing! Very well camouflaged, and, of course, that was part of the Quilmes strategy! For 1200 years ago, they had created an amazing masterpiece in the building and hiding of their fantastic city!

From the parking lot area I caught a ride with a lovely Swiss couple in their motorhome. They had been traveling for ten months – six in the U.S. and four in South America! They dropped me at the main road where they turned to head north to Cafayate. I turned south and stuck out my thumb! About a half hour later I received a ride from a lovely man in a gorgeous car who took me all the way back to Amaicha del Valle!

That evening I booked a hostel and bought my bus ticket for tomorrow’s ride and stay in Cafayate! It’s another gorgeous little town to the north – in more wine country! Yum!


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