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Puente Del Inca

Puente del Inca (Inca’s Bridge) is the smallest community in Mendoza’s Alta Montana zone, but it is easily the most historic and famous. While fewer than 10 people call the small community home, endless streams of travelers visit the site each year to capture an image of the natural arch bridge that spans the Rio Las Cuevas. It has been an active settlement since the Inca Empire laid down roots here, and famous naturalist Charles Darwin made the lengthy trip to see the mineral-rich zone.

The yellow- and green-hued soils reveal a wealth of minerals that naturally bleed from the earth. Aside from the impressive bridge, Puente del Inca also has several natural hot springs and a colorful palette of seeping waters. The Inca believed the hot springs contained natural healing powers and this belief lasted through the centuries. In the early 1900s, the Trans-Andino train lugged passengers above 2,900 meters (9,515 ft) to a thermal resort, which advertised unique healing of illness and injury. Unfortunately, the first signs of wear appeared on the bridge in 2006 and tourists are no longer allowed to walk across. This makes exploring the abandoned bathhouse impossible, but shouldn’t deter visitors from making the trip because the view itself is spectacular.

In town, both Hotel Mas Blanco and Hosteria Puente Del Inca have inexpensive and basic accommodations. Aconcagua Bar is the only dedicated restaurant; its menu is made up of Argentinean staples like milanesas and choripans (sausage sandwiches). Next door, a pair of kioscos offer basic sandwiches along with the usual stock of chocolates, soft drinks, and alfajores.

A large artisan market stands at the town’s entrance. While the majority of goods are identical to those found in any Argentinean market, scores of yellow mud-coated products make memorable keepsakes. Their construction is surprisingly simple, yet reveals how the bridge was likely formed. Various products, including shoes, mate gourds, and hand carvings are placed in the mineral rich waters of the bathhouse. A few days later, they come out permanently coated in the same sulfur-rich sediment that covers the bridge.

Most visitors make the journey to Puente del Inca with an Alta Montana day tour from Mendoza, but those looking to spend a night will find a few sights to keep them busy. It’s a short hike to the Cerro Aconcagua trailhead. While a journey into the park requires an overnight stay, the short Laguna Los Horcones circuit can be completed in a few hours. Hikers can cross the Rio Las Cuevas on an old train bridge, located roughly halfway between Puente del Inca and Parque Provincial Aconcagua. Once across the river, a closer look at the abandoned hot springs, church, and bridge is possible, as are several unguided walks into nearby valleys.

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Other places nearby Puente Del Inca: Cacheuta, Las Cuevas, Uspallata, Potrerillos and Los Penitentes.







01 Jul 2010

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