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Population: 388

Altitude: 2192m

Itsy bitsy Purmamarca is made up of exactly 13 blocks, all of which ooze small town charm. No building numbers here; there is simply no need. Restaurants, hotels, and shops seem to equal homes in number, a testament to the town’s popularity, especially among Argentines.

The small but pretty plaza at the center of town is filled daily with artisans selling crafts and locals always have a smile or a friendly word, but what steals the show in this town is neither its quaint size nor its lovely residents. Neither stand a chance be with the Cerro de Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors) blazing in the background. Its vibrant colors—from deep purples to vivid oranges—make a picturesque contrast with the earth-toned adobe buildings.

Purmamarca was founded in 1594 and is proud of its rich heritage, particularly of the historic Iglesia de Santa Rosa, which was named a National Historic Monument in 1948. Of equal (if not more) significance to residents is the algarrobo tree near the church, which is thought to be around 1000 years old and the site of many historic events. According to legend it was underneath the algarrobo that Viltipico, the town’s last free chief, shared a glass of chicha (a traditional Andean drink) with the first Spanish missionary, and the very same tree provided shade to Belgrano’s troops. To this day, people gather round the tree each January to repeat verses their ancestors once sang.

Though the church is one of the most treasured sights in Purmamarca, whose name is an Aimaran word for “Town of the Virgin Land,” Andean traditions are equally as important as Catholic ones. Alongside Christmas and Easter pageants are practices of remembering the dead, honoring the Pachamama, and celebrating with traditional Andean instruments. Perhaps this juxtaposition is what lends the town its magic. Or perhaps it’s the ancient tree, or magnificent mountains… Whatever it is, the force is strong one.


Other places nearby Purmamarca: Humahuaca , Iryua and Tilcara.

By Suzanne Russo
Suzanne's childhood travel experiences were limited to road trip forays with her parents, and the thrill that came with crossing the state line,...
24 Mar 2008

Things to do in Purmamarca

Iglesia de Santa Rosa

118988Named for Saint Rosa of Lima, church was built in 1648 and stands guard over Plaza Prado. Its church's squat adobe façade is beautiful in its simplicity, and inside the spare wooden pews and ...
Other Activity
Purmamarca, Argentina

Huachichocana and the Cave Paintings

Just 10 kilometers from Purmamarca is the small town of Huachichocana, a pretty part of the gorge that makes an excellent bike or horseback riding day trip. Perhaps more interesting, however, are the ...
Cultural Tour
Purmamarca, Argentina

Salinas Grandes

Long before you reach the salt flats, you’ll a surreal sea of white in the distance starkly contrasted against the brown desert landscape. But this is nothing compared to actually standing or ...
Other Activity
Purmamarca, Argentina

Paseo de los Colorados

Starting at one end of town and winding around the Cerro de Siete Colores to the other, this circuit affords spectacular views and an up-close look at the amazing rock formations of the mountain. ...
Purmamarca, Argentina
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