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Quebrada de Palmira and The Valle de Los Machos - Hiking Tupiza - Bolivia

The Quebrada de Palmira is likely the most popular of the hikes around Tupiza, as it’s the route tour agencies follow on walks and horse rides. Additionally, aside from El Cañón, it is the closest to town. West of the train tracks and Avenida Pedro Arraya south of town, a small creek runs toward the expansive quebrada, easy enough to follow and at some points marked with signs. For most of the year the riverbed is all dried up, allowing for hikers and horses to pass through eight or so kilometers of vast valley and red rock canyons. The Palmira is a winding stretch of open riverbed lined with elongated fin formations of all sizes. The wall of red rock that runs alongside the quebrada towers over the ravine, and is spotted green with young and old cacti.


Traveling through the quebrada will bring you first to Valle de Los Machos (Valley of the Males), also affectionately known as Valle de Los Penes (Valley of the Penises). Here is an abundant cluster of fin formations which are phallically shaped, to say the least. The fins are said to have formed from wind and water erosion over time, leaving tubular rocks that jet out from the earth, and create a unique, albeit suggestive, sight.


About halfway between to the end of the Palmira (a canyon/river site called Cañyon del Inca), is an open area marked with two enormous slabs of flat rock, seemingly placed with strategy. This area is known as the El Puerto del Diablo, or the Devil’s Gate, as the layout suggests a wild red rock passage way.


As previously mentioned, it’s possible to do this route as a hike or a horseback, though horseback is definitely recommended. Tupiza offers the lowest horse riding tours in all of Bolivia ($3 / 20 Bs. per hour, with Spanish-speaking guide), and an excursion in the badlands surrounding Tupiza is somewhat of a surreal wild west adventure. Check with tour agencies for details, but there are usually three or five hour trips offered, as well as multi-day excursions. Regardless of the trip you take, on foot or horse, with or without a guide, don’t forget water or your camera!


Here are other activities in and around Tupiza that may be of interest: Hiking Around Tupiza, Quebrada de Palala and El Sillar and El Cañón.

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