When planning a holiday to Argentina, the first few things that come to mind are Buenos Aires, Mendoza/Vineyards and Patagonia. Only a few have experienced the Wonders of the Northwest.
Last April, my tour group and I travelled to the northwest region of Argentina for the very first time. It is a hidden gem and a perfect destination for a once-in-a-life-time road trip.
I was so impressed by the natural wonders that I will return next year and bring a tango teacher, so we can dance our way from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama, and to the Bolivia Salt Flat.
Salta and the Juyjuy Region
The Northwest is famous for its panoramic mountain views and charming villages. When touring this region, Salta is a great place to start and end your tour as it’s in a convenient location. It is a city with the most density of colonial buildings. You can spend a day exploring its colonial architecture, museums, the cathedral and the San Francisco Church, Salta’s landmark.
We stayed in two of the best hotels in Salta. The House of Jasmines is my first preference, an amazing Relais Chateaux property located on the outskirts of Salta. The small boutique hotel is a destination of its own with large outdoor space, an outdoor heated pool, and a nice spa just a short walk from the main house.
If you wish to stay in the city centre, Legado Mitico is a great choice; but I suggest you request the suites facing the courtyard instead of the street.
Our tour started in the north of Salta, and Jujuy Province with our tour guide name Pablo.
Our first stop was Purmamarca where you will find ever-changing colourful and vibrant mountains, including the Hill of The Seven Colours, known as Cerro de Los Siete Colores. This location offers picturesque views with ever-changing coloured mountains and rock formations.
Purmamarca has some of the country’s best cuisine with pre-Hispanic origins, beautiful folklore music and handicrafts and tapestries. The best accommodation in Purmamarca town is the El Mamantial Del Silencio, a charming boutique hotel with a huge garden, a swimming pool and a great restaurant. Our second choice of accommodation is the La Comarca Hotel where we had the best empanada. But make sure you book the best room category in this hotel.
With a day trip from Purmamarca, you can visit the Salinas Grandes, known as the third largest salt flats in the world. It spans over Salta and Jujuy Provinces; We inspected the new glamping site ‘Pristine Camps’, which is a nice accommodation for an overnight salt-flat experience. It opened in 2022, but perhaps due to the harsh weather conditions, part of the structure was already sun-stained.
When you are in this region, you must visited the Fourteen Coloured Mountain, locally known as Serranía de Hornocal. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to drive from Purmamarca.
The Fourteen Coloured Mountain is indeed a natural wonder, a rare breathtaking must-see site in the world. It is the area’s most beautiful and surprisingly, an un-touristy site. Surprisingly, there were not many tourists around.
If time allows, visit Iruya town which is about a two-and-a-half hour scenic drive from the Fourteen Coloured Mountain. We stayed at the Hosteria de Iruya with a terrace overlooking the beautiful valley.
Make sure you stop by at Quebrada de Las Senoritas and the Paleta del Pintor (painter’s palette mountain), a beautiful natural landscape located along the route to the other main attractions in Jujuy.
Touring The South Of Salta
From Salta, a few travel agents from all around the world toured the southern part of Salta. It is one of the most beautiful road trips from Salta to Cachi with crazy, winding roads while dodging up the canyons and crossing thin bridges.
The road trip gave us endless views of the horizon – from Quebrada de los Laureles, Quebrada de Escoipe, to the Enchanted Valley and Los Cardones National Park. There were popular stops and endless photo opportunities at Parador de Naticho, Cuesto del Opispo, and the beautiful Mount Cerro Tintin (colourful mountain) in Los Cardones National Park.
When we arrived in Cachi town, it was very quiet and there were hardly any tourists. We were just on time for lunch hosted by the general manager at La Merced Del Alto Hotel and Spa. It is one of the best hotels in Cachi with a large, beautiful garden.
In Cachi town centre, we inspected a couple of hotels and loved the design of the small boutique hotel El Cortijo Boutique Hotel which is located in the town centre. The hotel offers beautiful interior design with a small outdoor pool.
On our way to Colome, we stopped by for a coffee break at Hacienda de Molinos Hotel located just in front of El Molino de Pueblo Church. This was the residence of the last Spanish Governor. It is now the perfect place to have a coffee break or stay. The accommodation is simple, comfortable and peaceful with unique pieces of furniture made by local craftsmen; rooms with scenic mountain views, 4-poster beds, peaceful courtyard and an outdoor swimming pool overlooking the Nevado de Cachi Mountain.
Colome is a cultural and gourmet highlight of the northern region. If you’re a wine lover, then stopping by at Bodega y Colome is a must. It is one of the highest vineyards in the world, producing popular wines such as Malbec. The wine tasting facilities are great, and the estate looks amazing.
This famous vineyard has a restaurant and accommodation with just a handful of rooms. We didn’t get the chance to see the rooms as they were fully booked. For my next visit, I would be interested in staying there for a couple of nights even though I don’t drink. It is such a nice place to visit and relax.
We passed the Monumentu Natural Angastaco and San Carlos, on the way to our next stop Cafayate, known as the wine-producing region
When we reached the town of Cafayate, we had a quick tour of the town square with local cafes, bars and shops. We settled into the beautiful Grace Cafayate – a luxury hotel with spacious rooms or villas, pool, spa, kids club, golf club, nice restroom and a wine tasting room; not to mention a sumptuous breakfast. Most rooms have a jacuzzi tub with spectacular views of the winery and mountains. This is the perfect place for a holiday as you could easily spend a week there and not get bored.
There are quite a few vineyards in Cafayate. We visited the Piattelli Vineyards and had a quick inspection of their newly opened wine resort. The resort has multiple pools and a beautiful restaurant. The villas are spacious – some of them have a rooftop BBQ and jacuzzi.
When booking your villa, try to avoid the ones opposite of the main dining and pool area for privacy.
Before leaving Cafayate, you can shop local wines and cheese at the El Porvenir winery near Grace Cafayate. The road trip back to Salta through the Cafayate Valley takes approximately three-and-a-half hours. The scenery is breathtaking!
The Cafayate Valley has amazing rock formations. One of its highlights is the Amphitheatre, locally known as El Anfiteatro. The Amphitheatre is a semi-closed rock formation that is renowned for its incredible acoustics – occasionally, concerts are held there.
Back at Salta, we stayed at the elegant House of Jasmines before our next flight to Buenos aires. The property is close to the airport making it the perfect overnight stay.
In Buenos Aires, a group of travel agents and I went to a travel expo meeting with the best luxury operators in South America. We stayed at the Faena Hotel near the Faena Art centre where the expo was held, in the lively neighbourhood of Puerto Madero. It is relatively a new dockside area with a lot of restaurants alongside the river. I personally prefer cities like Recoleta and Palermo.
The Faena hotel offers rooms with unique designs, with a lot of red colours and light. It is a nice hotel that serves great breakfast, but part of the hotel needs a facelift. The Alvear Icon hotel sits opposite the Faena Art Centre, it has a nice rooftop restaurant and bar, with great food and amazing views of the city.
Our event organiser hosted the farewell party in the garden of Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Hotel, with an amazing range of food and drinks all night. This luxury hotel has a classic wing and contemporary style rooms. I prefer the classic rooms as the modern apartment-style rooms lack character.
Next year we will return to Argentina for more First Class Travel experiences.