The Sheltering Sun
Jet to the north of Chile to the driest and highest desert on Earth—the Atacama. After arrivals, meet up and drive through the barren landscape towards the Andes and altiplano with some of the wildest geology on the planet. The moon? Pretty close. Touch down in the oasis town of San Pedro and your base at Awasi.
Make yourself at home in your cottage made of stone, adobe, and wood. Meet with your guide to plan your private explorations crafted to your needs—from biking to Cejas Lagoon, galloping in Death Valley, visiting native indigenous farmers or heading up for a picnic in the Altiplano at Tara salt flats.
For an afternoon expedition, venture out to great salar, salt flat to see the flamingoes fly as the sunsets and salt crystal sparkle in the twilight. (Awasi)
This morning, awake to rays of sunshine breaking under the cottage door. It’s another sunny, gorgeous day in the Atacama Desert. Today, you choose how much or how little you want to do with your private guide and vehicle on an exploration of the region in comfort, safety, and style. Head up into the high plains of the Altiplano, bike the salt crystal valleys, soak up relaxation at the Puritama thermal waters, see Petroglyphs, or just absorb the energizing sunshine and nap on your private terrace. Reconvene tonight at “home” for a multi-course wine pairing dinner of Chile’s great terroir wines. (Awasi)
Hit the road early start the adventure through the stark Atacama into the red desert, altiplano, and snow-tipped Andes of Argentina’s Salta region. Climb out to nearly 14,000 feet at the Chilean border’s Paso Jama with otherworldly landscapes of morphed rock formations, salt flats, and a rainbow of colors. Make a dramatic descent down the Cuesta Lipán into the Jujuy province. Pass dusty adobe villages, sparkling white colonial churches and mysterious ruins, typical of the northwestern part of Argentina.
In the late afternoon, arrive in the pretty village of Purmamarca with its famous hill of seven colors, stripped like a rainbow, all from naturally occurring sediments. After the long day, settle into a neo-colonial hotel built from indigenous materials. Dine in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant making use of Andean ingredients like quinoa and chuño paired with regional high-altitude wines. (Manantial del Silencio)
This morning, descend from the Jujuy province punctuated by mountains and canyons towards the verdant regional capital of Salta located in the “rain shadow” of the Andes. Lovingly called Salta La Linda, Salta The Beautiful, you’ll too be mesmerized by her colonial beauty and soft landscape.
Stop at the market for 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 empanadas; humita en chala (corn tamal stuffed with cheese); and locro, a creamy pumpkin-chickpea-meat stew. After, 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, leather work and the region’s distinctive ponchos.
Slumber in a recycled 19th-century mansion in the city’s historic quarter. Handsomely decorated with touches of leather couches, Andean textiles, alpaca, plush velvet, and hard wood floors, check into one of the spacious themed rooms like El Caudillo, named after Salta’s military hero during the Independence war, Martin Miguel de Güemes. (Legado Mítico)
Drive south towards the stunning wine lands surrounding the town of Cafayate located in the Calchaquíes Valley, known as “the land where the sun lives”. Boasting a landscape of contrasts, the overwhelming dryness of the desert and rocks and fertile wine valleys, the area produces some of Argentina’s most exciting high-altitude varietals like Torrontes and Syrah. On the journey south, drive through the breathtaking landscapes like Quebrada de las Conchas, characterized by intense hues of rouge and spectacular geological formations. Admire the amazing rock formations of the Anfiteatro while you stretch your legs and take in the awesome scenery. Out of the desert emerges the verdant wine Mecca of Cafayate.
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.
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.
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)
This morning, check out and 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.
For lunch, tucked away in the folds of the mountains rising behind Cafayate, visit a family-run project started by a passionate local farmer who saw the potential in his grapes to make his own fine wine. Now a reference winery in the region, they make high-altitude wines with zippy Torrontes and bodybuilder reds. Visit the vineyards and charming bodega before sitting down to a Salta-style barbecue luncheon with local cheeses, empanadas, meats, salads, and of course, house wines.
Return north to the Salta airport for your departing flight to Buenos Aires.