NOA March 30-April 6, 2011
We planned our 8 days in NW Argentina at the midpoint of our BA stay 2011. Rich & Pat Wyatt had just returned from there. So armed with their up to the minute tips and hints, info from David, Giena ,all the posters on the Salta forum, Marnie and dl’s trip reports, etc., we could not be more prepared to enjoy the MAGIC of this area.
Our noon LAN flight was uneventful and we appreciated the leg room. Do not remember that when we took LAN in late 2008 to Iguazu or Patagonia. An easy taxi ride from Salta airport dropped us off at HOTEL ANTIGUO DEL CONVENTO. Liked the “feel” of this lodging immediately. Had booked a superior double (that gets you a Jacuzzi), but because of an e-mail glitch, we were given a std. double and received a small discount for our trouble. The room was a decent size, bathroom beautifully remodeled, Dario and his fellow workers attentive, helpful and friendly, breakfast good and location excellent. At around $70US/nite, there is certainly value here!
On our initial 2 nights/2 days we spent time around the main square(9 de Julio) with its pink and white cathedral, walked the pedestrian streets(Florida & Alberdi),checked out San Bernardo Convent with it’s amazing carved entry door and Iglesia San Francisco with its terra cotta façade. We meandered around the Hospital/Medical area and San Martin Park. I couldn’t help noticing that many of the stores along Caseros and other streets carried crafts and leather items of exceptional quality. Balcarce Street was on our agenda for the evenings. DONA SALTA was closed for concrete work being done at the sidewalk and entry….but we had some delicious empanadas on the square at La Manuela and Tobias. LA MONUMENTAL Pizzeria/Parillada provided us with memorable meals 2 nights in a row. It’s fun when the waiters recognize you and hover over you. It’s a lively family joint-----great for people watching, meeting locals who speak much better English than we speak Spanish, and partaking of the bread basket, little dishes of salsas and beans, perfectly grilled proveleta, chorizo ,bife de chorizo and house wine.
At the end of day 2 we picked up our rental car @ AVIS downtown @ Caseros 420….a short walk from the hotel. This zippy Ford Fiesta (Cat.B) provided us with dependable transportation for the next 6 days. To “test out” the car, we headed for San Bernardo Hill and its pleasant surroundings. Once we got there though, Allan realized THE BEST time for photos is in the AM. Interesting to see numerous people (young & old) jogging UP the hill & walking down.
It was easy to get out of town the morning of May 3. The CORNISA to Jujuy was slow, winding and LUSH. The hanging vines and hanging grasses & dense undergrowth brought back memories of past travels around the world. ONE REALLY HAS TO TAKE THIS ROAD AT LEAST ONE WAY. It took us 3 hours to get to Purmamarca…..but it was WORTH IT.
The simple EL VIEJO ALGARROBO was home for the next 2 nights. Horacio, the owner, is a dear person and I really hope he succeeds with this venture. At around $50US/note, you have a clean, convenient place to rest your weary body. We had the teeniest room: it was room #4…. it had somewhat of a view. The best room is #1….large, light, bright and delightful with excellent mountain views. Certainly a “horse of a different color” !!!! Asked for it, but it was reserved. Bumped in to David Martinez….all the guides seem to park on Salta St. behind the Church. He “recognized” ME. (Must be my loud voice?)
Dropped our bags and headed out to Maimara & PAINTER’S PALETTE. Best view is from the cemetery on the main road or from the Rio Grande with access in the town.
Tilcara was next and found the PUCARA interesting. On our way out of town, we parked the car and walked to the square to take in the ambience.
At some point we decided NOT to go to Juella or Uquia….but DID decide to take the drive to Salinas Grandes the following afternoon.
LOS MORTEROS restaurant is closed! We were really looking forward to dining there. The building is up for sale. Our “dining” was nothing special, because we ended up at LOS TIERRES COLORES 2 evenings JUST BECAUSE OF THE EXCELLENT MUSIC! Could have eaten at La Posta on the square, LA Comarca, etc. but we really responded to this Andean music,
The CERRO DE SIETE COLORES is enchanting! There is no doubt that IF we lived here, we would walk/hike it daily. Gorgeous colors and rock formations: purple, pink, red, white, peach, green and gray. (WOW….7 colors)
Before heading to Salinas Grandes on Day 4 we had to make a round trip to Tilcara to “gas up”. HOT tip: NO GAS in Purmamarca. Tilcara is closest or perhaps volcan-ssjujuy in the other direction. With a picnic lunch ready to be consumed, we stopped at La Cienaga area & enjoyed our bread, cheese and fruit. Bottom line: Even if you are not interested in making this drive for the Salt Flats…..DEFINITELY GO FOR THE RIDE & THE SCENERY. It’s spectacular in both directions. We were in/out of clouds at 13,000 ft. and in parts it felt like we were on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mtn Nat’l Park: just 45 minutes from Boulder, CO. The colors and formations are a visual magic NOT TO BE MISSED. We could not believe the number of trucks with Argentina and Paraguay license plates heading East on rut 52. Huge tractor trailers with corset. Coming from Chile? Parked around km.67, where the tires and “sculptures” are and then headed back. There is no doubt that our activities north of Salta had a DEFINITE SPIRITUAL component!!!!
Day 5 we headed back to Salta and a night’s stay at EL LAGAR. (Thank you, Marnie!) Before arriving, I couldn’t help thinking this elegant B&B would be too pretentious & stuffy for us. Hmmm. Our adaption process to the “lap of luxury” took less than 2 minutes. Beyond the entry doors on 20 de Febrero lies a 50 yr. old mansion with antiques and artwork “to die for”. This is the home of the Etchart family and a combination of gardens, pool, woodwork, staircase, attentive service and delicious breakfast make it a definite #1 accommodation in Salta.Our standard double room faced the street and so the shutters were closed making it dark. Our room was a good size, included a dressing area, and a bathroom in tune with the furnishings. The bed linens and towels were oh, so soft. This was $125/nite minus a 10% discount for cash.
We settled in and then headed for San Lorenzo in our car. However, a terrible fire had all roads blocked. So we turned around, parked the car and walked to the Sunday BALCARCE ART FAIR, close by. I “supported the economy” with 2 small purchases. Excellent hand-made items seemed to surround us. Check it out if you are in Salta on a Sunday!
Allan would have gone back to La Monumental a 3rd time, but I convinced him to try EL SOLAR DEL CONVENTO on Caseros. Walking down from El Lagar we stopped at the Catedral, which was open for Sunday night Mass. Another WOW! El Solar was an excellent choice and just may remain OUR BEST RESTAURANT MEAL in Argentina this trip. Even though the restaurant was not bustling…it was an early Sunday evening….we enjoyed the ambience, champagne (gratis), salsas, mollejas, salad, and a bife de chorizo so huge I was sure the waiter mistakenly ordered two portions. The food was perfect to the nth degree. YOU HAVE TO DINE HERE.
The “icing on the cake” was meeting Mariana Etchart at checkout on Day 6. She is a” down to earth”, dear person and we definitely “bonded”. If Allan ever goes missing, the first place I will look is El Lagar. He wants to take up residence here.
Heading south out of Salta, with our destination being Cafayate was easy. It took us 4 hours to get to Cafayate, including a stop @ Cabras Corral-Rte 47 for a photo shoot and a few minutes to stretch.
The QUEBRADA DE LAS CONCHAS is another awesome experience. When we stopped at the AMFITHEATRE, a young man was playing the violin. Perfecto! Walking to the site brought back memories of the SIQ at Petra.
Martha Chocobar @ HOTEL KILLA, Cafayate is a charming hostess. We opted for the superior double on the second floor: CHIMPA #13. $122US/night minus 10% discount for cash. Again, what lurks behind the entry: “Pride of ownership”, with beautiful plantings (oh, those succulents) and gardens, a pool, a decent size room, beautiful bathroom & buffet breakfast. Also top quality linens and towels.
There is no doubt this is an upscale town and the turistas are plentiful.
Our dining experiences were mixed. Against our better judgment……when all the diners spoke English and were twirling their wine glasses….we “ate” at EL TERRUNO. I’ve done a review under restaurants: Cafayate forum. Bottom line: We would never go back or recommend it. Empanadas at LA CASA DE LAS EMPANADAS were versatile and delicioso. Our 2nd night dinner at EL RANCHO was nothing to rave about. The pasta was just OK, but it was a pleasant, local respite and we enjoyed the music.
Day 7 we drove to Bodega Jose Luis Mounier south of town. We walked around, took photos, picked delicious grapes and thought the setting was lovely. The setting @ San Pedro de Yacochuya topped the first one. This was north of town. Also delicious grapes; Ana , the guide spoke a bit of English and the artwork was to our liking.
Met some terrific Argentine natives in this town and they certainly enhance our memories.
Our last morning, on Day 8 we walked to the GOAT CHEESE FARM and back. Not only was it a memorable experience, we are still enjoying our purchases here in BA. Allan bonded with the goats. (Almost all 450 of them). Another place to look for him if he disappears!!!!!
We didn’t go in to the Wine Museum, but did have a delicious café con leche at the cafe there.
Our drive back to Salta was uneventful and we were thankful we had better lighting in the Quebrada on the way down. We returned our car to Avis “without a hitch or horror story”.
On a future trip, we’d probably stay at lodging in Purmamarca that “hugs” the rock formations. Salta has an Indio influence, not European, like BA. In this area of Argentina daddy seems to carry baby in the baby carrier. A friendly, pleasant populace in the whole area.
CACHI & IRUYA still beckon!
DO come here: It’s a great combination of EVERYTHING wonderful to enjoy.
This is an endorsement from someone who lives only 41/2 hours from Moab, Utah door to door, has spent 7 days rafting down the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon and responds to the roads and byways of much of Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
You can check reviews on the Salta Forum: hotels & restaurants on the left….ditto for the Cafayate forum, of those establishments mentioned here.
Thank you Howierd /Allan for your excellent driving and 50 years “on the road” together!!
Salud & Suerte, Moreweird/Ronnie