Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge in English) is an amazing geological formation located near the border between Chile and Argentina, and it is one of the most famous natural tourist attractions in the province of Mendoza.
This rock formation is so particular because it forms a natural bridge over the Las Cuevas River. The real explanation for that is unknown, but there are many theories about it. Two of them are the most feasible.
The first theory states that this was an old ice bridge which solidified. The other probable theory says that it was formed during the collapse of the south wall of the Aconcagua. No matter which is the right hypothesis, all of them have a common point: the bridge was formed long time ago and is still there today due to the action of the salts contained in hot springs.
The hot springs rise to the surface at a temperature of between 34°C and 38°C, and with a high concentration of salts and carbon dioxide. There are those who believe they have healing powers. Among them were the Incas, who frequented the area bringing people to heal. And that’s the reason of the name.
In 1917 a luxury hotel was built here by the english Compañía Hotelera Sudamericana. After the inauguration many people began to frequent the place, which became the most important station for the Trans-Andean train in this area.
The hotel had access to the hot springs through an underground tunnel specially build for that purpose. Different diseases were treated there with the natural properties of hot springs. But a flood destroyed part of the building in 1965 and the hotel was abandoned from that moment.
Some years ago people was able to walk across the bridge and visit the hotel ruins. You were able to do it even by car! But the river was partially diverted to use the water in the manufacture of handcrafts (as if you immerse an object in the water, it is petrified). As a result, the amount of salts needed to maintain the bridge does not longer reach it, and it is at risk of collapsing. That’s why you are not longer allowed to visit the hotel.
Nor the chapel…
The chapel was built next to the hotel in 1929 by French architect Joseph Giré and the Argentine engineer Juan Molina Civit. Both of them worked for free.
In the past, Inca Bridge was a mandatory stop for travelers who were looking for a health treatment. Now it remains the same, but for tourists who visit Mendoza.