Andean Patagonia Perito Moreno

Hands Cave Paintings Provincial Park

An excursion through the wild Patagonia to know the amazing Pinturas River Canyon and the famous Cave of the Hands

Cueva de las Manos - Foto:
Cueva de las Manos – Foto:

On July 13, 2020, the Province of Santa Cruz accepted the donation from the Rewilding Argentina Foundation of the lands that house the Cueva de las Manos in the Valley of the Pinturas River.

Scenes in Patagonia National Park, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

Since 2018, the Rewilding Argentina Foundation has been working together with the Government of the Province of Santa Cruz and the municipality of Perito Moreno to strengthen the protected areas in the northwest of the province. That same year the “Los Toldos” ranch was opened to the public as a private reserve, under the name of “Portal Cañadón Pinturas” and was since then visited by eight thousand visitors.

Cueva de las Manos – Diego Nasello

In 1999, UNESCO declared the almost 600 hectares that house the archaeological remains a World Heritage Site, which until recently were within private property. The archaeological importance of its paintings and remains date back more than 3000 years.

From now on it can be visited regularly by car and from the town of Perito Moreno there are travel agencies that organize excursions to observe this wonder almost hidden in the deep Argentine Patagonia.

If self-driving, from Perito Moreno town, taking National Route 40 and after 118 km. towards the south, turn left and drive for 46 km. on Prov. Route 97.

The area’s natural vegetation consists of calafate, duraznillo neneo, coirón, molle, cola de piche, among others. The fauna is represented by the red fox, gray fox, hare, skunk, armadillo, guanaco, puma and among the birds, ñandú, great bustard, martineta, gallareta, duck and  black necked swan.

Explicaciones frente a la Cueva de las Manos - Foto:
Explicaciones frente a la Cueva de las Manos – Foto:

In the middle of this marvelous natural scenery you will arrive at the Interpretation Center where the ranger will provide information.

The first thing you will see is the imposing Pinturas River Canyon. It runs at an altitude of 240 m. above sea level and the cave is about 50 m. over the river level. The scenery is one of high walls with ochre and green tones and a stream down below. Probably, for this reason, the aborigines chose this site to paint their cosmovision on the bare rock.

Cañadón del Río Pinturas - Foto:
Cañadón del Río Pinturas – Foto:

This art expression can be seen on ledges, caves and walls. Not too far from these caves, similar paintings can be observed as the Charcamata Ledge and the Grande Cave.

The Hands Cave has, as its name implies, a great number of painted hands in negative and positive, contoured in red, ochre, yellow, green white and black colors, many of them are overlapped. There are also guanaco silhouettes, human figures in motion, dots and concentric circles.

Hand Negatives at Cueva de las Manos – Beth Wald

The studies show plaster and clay, with different iron content giving different red tonalities.

Although its meaning of these paintings is unknown, they must have played a magic-religious function with the hunters, given the concentration and superimposition of the motives.

In 1999, this site was declared “World Heritage Site” by Unesco.

Knowing this incredible place is like getting to the very soul of Patagonia.