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Salta the Beautiful

Salta, Argentina
(6 Days / 5 Nights)

Day 1
Arrive in the verdant Salta, Argentina’s dramatic northwestern province, located in the “rain shadow” of the Andes. Lovingly called Salta La Linda, Salta the Beautiful, you also will be mesmerized by her enchanting beauty.

Meet your driver and guide and refuel in the market with your first bite of a steaming empanada salteña, made with hand-cut beef, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. There’s a reason these empanadas are famous all over Argentina! Understand the culinary influences, spices, and produce of this high-altitude, arid climate. Take a short walk through the colonial center of town to discuss the importance of Salta in the colonial period and its unique culture, a blend of indigenous and Spanish influence. Admire the majestic Plaza de Armas with its ornate pink and white Cathedral, Spanish-style arcades, and cobblestone streets.

Stop for lunch at one of the city’s favorite local spots serving regional specialties like charqui, a savory sun-dried beef empanada; humita en chala (corn tamale stuffed with cheese); and locro, a creamy pumpkin-chickpea-meat stew.

Visit a fine artisan market housed in a traditional colonial mansion with long Spanish-style corridors. Shop for native handicrafts such as alpaca, a noble metal similar in silver, ceramics, basketry, leatherwork and the region’s distinctive ponchos.

Transfer to your hotel, a pristine farmhouse on 300-acres of land just outside Salta near the folds of the mountains. Cozy into the converted colonial home, and your room, with four-poster beds, antique furniture, and fluffy duvets. The rest of the day is yours to explore the miles of trails on bike, enjoy the spa, go for a swim or cuddle up by the fireplace as the sunsets. Dinner is on your own tonight in the hotel’s fabulous restaurant with homegrown produce and exquisite regional wines like the zesty torrontés. (House of Jasmines)

Day 2
Today, enjoy a full day on your own to savor the bliss of this exquisite property. Decompression is good. Go on, you deserve it. (House of Jasmines)

Day 3
Leave behind the green explosion of Salta and navigate a snaking river canyon through high red mountains. Begin your ascent towards Cachi through the impressive, Cuesta del Obispo, Bishop’s Hill. The road winds amid moss-colored mountains for a dramatic 12-mile long dirt road that serpentines switchback after switchback towards the peak. At nearly 11,000 feet, turn onto the Recta Tin Tin, once thought to be part of the Incan network. Shoot through the Los Cardones National Park where cardones, column-like cacti, dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.

Arrive in the town of Cachi, whose name means “salt” in Quechua. During colonial times, it was a busy hub where many roads linked the viceroyalties of Peru and Río de la Plata. Many remnants of this period are still reflected in the colonial adobe facades, cobblestone square, and church dating back to the 17th century. Life here is very tranquilo.

Outside of town, the mountains grow and the desert returns. Life is sustained only by a gushing river born from the melting snow of the towering Nevado de Cachi. Visit friends that are artisan winemakers making some of Argentina’s best highest altitude reds. Visit the property, once an old flourmill, and then join them in the kitchen to learn the secrets of making perfect empanadas from the mud oven. Lunch on their sunny terrace. It’s almost like having family in Cachi.

Nearby, check into your petite inn built on a hill with views of the breathtaking valley below. Constructed in neocolonial style, the spacious rooms are filled with light. Dine in the evening on delicious novo-Andean cuisine and regional wines. (Merced del Alto)

Day 4
Take the Ruta Nacional 40, running down the entire “spine” of Argentina, to the ancient village of Seclantas known for its gorgeous textiles. Visit traditional weavers making shawls from llama, lamb’s wool, and alpaca on their looms.

The adventure continues to the world’s highest vineyards. Founded in 1831 by the last Spanish governor of Salta, it is home to the oldest winery in Salta, now made anew by a Swiss billionaire. These powerful wines pack a punch! Tour the winery with the resident sommelier and savor a tasting of their finest Malbec and white wines. After, experience the James Turrell Museum and its interactive exhibit playing with light.

Continue towards Cafayate past swathes of green alfalfa fields where livestock grazes. In the Quebrada de las Flechas, Arrowhead Canyon, rocks shoot from the earth like arrows. After your long journey, check into an elegantly restored colonial guesthouse with red mountain views, vineyards, acres of green gardens and antique colonial patios. At sunset, go for a walk among the vines to delight in the spectacular beauty of the rippled mountains, which turn pink and purple. Dinner is on your own at the hotel. (Patios de Cafayate)

Day 5
This morning, get to know Salta’s premier boutique winery, an initiative of a couple from Buenos Aires enamored with the wines from Argentina’s northwest. Tucked away behind an adobe façade in Cafayate explore this “wine oasis” and taste their tongue-bewitching Malbec, Syrah, Torrontes, and Late Harvest.

Head up a hill overlooking Cafayate to the best terruño, terroir, in the valley. Visit the winery of a local entrepreneur who pioneered fine wines in the region. With the “lowest” vineyards in Cafayate at 5,600 feet, he built the winery recycling open-air tanks covered in epoxy used to ferment the robust wines from the smooth-as-silk Malbec to zesty Torrontés and pouty Chardonnay. Enjoy a tasting of their best wines with artisan goat cheeses from their family’s tambo, dairy farm, in town.

Arrive at one of Argentina’s reference Malbec projects in Argentina, started over 20 years ago. Be welcomed by the local partners/owners in their vineyards located at over 6,500 feet above sea level. This unique place produces one of the most coveted Malbec blends in the world. Partake in a private feast on the shady veranda with a typical norteño menu like delectable humitas (corn tamales), lamb roasted in the outdoor mud oven, and fig confit. Enjoy the view, wines, and Cafayate lifestyle. After, the rest of the day is yours to explore town or relax. (Patios de Cafayate)

Day 6
This morning, get fitted on your criolla horse and saddle up with a gaucha, horse woman. Giddy up into the surrounding hills and sand dunes along the riverbed to see the spectacular nature of the Calchaquíes valley on horseback. Afterwards, stay on for a private asado, barbeque lunch, made with local chorizo, sausage, sublime meats and salads.

Say good-bye to Cafayate and watch as the rocky, red hills morph into the Quebrada de las Conchas, a spectacular swirl of ocher-colored arches and canyons. Drive through the breathtaking landscapes characterized by intense hues of rouge and spectacular geological formations. Arrive in the afternoon at the Salta airport for your flight to Buenos Aires.