The Inca’s Bridge is located in the Northwest of Mendoza, in Las Heras department. It is a natural rock formation hanging on Las Cuevas river, which changes its name to Mendoza river from that point on. It has natural springs with “healing” waters, which emerge between 34 and 38 degrees Celsius.
It has been a protected area of the province for some years now. “Puente del Inca” is located in the homonymous town and less than two hundred people live there.
Description and Location
This geomorphological curiosity is about 50 meters long, 28 meters wide and 8 meters thick. The bridge is suspended 27 meters above the river. It is situated at 2740 meters above sea level on the Andes Range and it is around 183 km of Mendoza City. “Puente del Inca” is on Route 7, near the Chilean border and the main entrance to the Aconcagua Provincial Park.
It bears that name because it was discovered by the Incas who settled in this area between 1480 and 1530. The indigenous peoples took the elderlies there, as they considered the warm waters a source of longevity.
Puente del Inca Hotel
From the bridge, you can see the ruins of “Puente del Inca Hotel”, which was built in 1904 and destroyed by a mudslide in 1965. Inside the hotel were baths with thermal waters which had a reputation of “therapeutic waters”, especially for skin infections.
The most important personalities of that time, would stay there. Each room had its own spa. Currently, the hotel remains abandoned and the entry is prohibited.
The climate is Temperate-Continental-Arid, temperatures have a significant annual oscillation and rainfall is scarce. Summer is hot and humid, it is the rainiest season and average temperatures are above 25 °C. The winter is cold and dry, with temperatures below 0 °C.
In the colonial period it was an obligatory stop for travellers and mail to Chile and the Army of the Andes stopped there in the year 1817.
On the right bank of the river there are five hot springs of the same type but different salt components and temperatures ranging from 33 to 38 °C. They are called: Venus, Mars, Saturn, Mercury and Champagne.
There are many legends about the creation of the bridge, with a common idea and three alternate endings:
Before the Spanish arrived, the heir to the throne of the Inca Empire was suffering from a severe and strange paralysis. After trying all sorts of cures to no avail, the great sages of the kingdom advised the king that his son could only be healed in a natural spring located in a remote region in the South. The king prepared a group with the best warriors and caravan departed from Qosqo South. After long months in which they overcame many difficulties, they arrived here. They saw that on the other side of a deep river sprouted stormy waters of springs that would heal the heir.
- Inca warriors, to realize the dream of their leader, embraced each other and formed a human bridge. Then the Inca king, walking over the backs of his men, took his child to the baths, where he found the sought cure. When his gaze turned back to thank his warriors, they were petrified, creating the famous bridge.
- By the time they were mulling over how to cross, the sky darkened and the granite floor shook. Huge masses of stones were dropped from the high peaks, with a terrifying noise. After the crash, the Incas saw amazed the omnipotence of the god Inti (the sun) and Mama Quilla (Moon) had created a bridge that would allow them to easily get to the wonderful fountain. The warriors moved the Prince there, who drank from its waters and soon regained his health.
- Knowing that the king would not survive to walk across the river, the convoy paused to spend the night. The god Inti, descended behind the mountains, moved by the pain that these men felt and decided to help them to complete their journey. Upon awakening the Incas were astonished to discover, as if it were there from the beginning of time, a solid stone bridge that led to the other side of the river, where the cure for the patient was.
Today “Puente del Inca” is a potentially tourist town. Many companies are interested in this site to place a resort. The conservation agencies propose an evacuation of the area for its conservation. Unfortunately although it is hard to believe, “Puente del Inca” was modified by the passage of tourists: they changed the flow of water and the mineralization was influenced too. A dismemberment of a piece of rock made the authorities realize the damage that was occurring. As a result of that, passing the bridge was prohibited some years ago.
This text was produced by Tourism and Hotel Management students, Brenda Muñoz and Micaela Paez.