As authors of two day trips guidebooks (Day Trips from Austin and Day Trips from San Antonio), we take a lot of day trips near home. We also like to take day trips on longer trips, too, avoiding the hassle and time it takes to change hotels every night by just going out on an all-day excursion.
One of those day trips took us from our week-long home base in Santiago, Chile for a day trip into the Andes to Puente del Inca (“Inca’s Bridge”), Argentina. It’s a beautiful drive from the city up into the mountains:
Located just a short drive over the border, this historic site is named for the natural bridge which is covered in gold-tinted sulfur. The site was first mentioned by the Conquistadors but the Inca used the natural mineral springs here for many years; after the arrival of the Spanish, many Incas were taken captive and used by the Conquistadors in their quest for gold in this region.
A century ago, a thermal spa was built at the site; it is now abandoned and the natural bridge nearby is closed because of the danger of collapsing. Travelers can still see across to the spa and bridge, however, as well as to a small chapel nearby.
Today Puente del Inca is a popular stop for travelers to Las Cuevas so expect to see plenty of vendors in the small market.
Although it has many Andean crafts, one of the most unique items sold here are small items that have been placed in the mineral waters for a few days (they told us that’s all it takes!) until the sulfur hardens cakes the item with a yellow layer:
A short drive from the market area and overlook, there’s a solemn site: the climbers’ cemetery. Here lie the remains of many of the climbers who attempted to scale the nearby Aconcagua, at 22,864 feet the highest mountain in the Americas.