For Carmen

December 2013.

The northern south

Dear Carmen,

Argentina is a land that offers so much: from mountains to beaches, cosmopolitan dynamism to rural tranquility. Though it is a country that can be appreciated in many ways, I think your approach—choosing to really delve in to one region of the country—is wise. Per our conversations, I have chosen destinations that will allow you to get a broad sense of Argentina’s North and its magical natural offerings, while come to understand the culture of the place.

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires

Today will be spent settling in. Your guide, Joaquin, will meet you at your hotel and will accompany you for the rest of your stay.

Day 2: Salta

You will begin your day by travelling to the northern province of Salta. Quite a difference from the city, Salta will strike you at once for its dusty deserts and colorful mountains. Joaquin will guide you on a short tour of the city, including its cathedral and archaeological museum, and then be driven just outside of town to the lovely House of Jasmines. Enjoy the afternoon on the jasmine-draped verandah and select your choice from the spa menu offerings.

Day 3: Valleys

Today will mark the start of your journey through the Calchaqui Valleys. A scenic drive will take you southwest out of Salta and into the Cuesta del Obispo Pass: a dramatic cliff-edge dirt road over the rippling Obispo Mountains. The first town is Cachi, a dusty settlement consisting of adobe houses and a charming cactus-wood 18th-century church on the banks of the Calchaquíes River. Home of the Chicoanas Indians before the Spanish arrived, Cachi is a tiny pueblo of about 5,000 inhabitants. It is a beautiful colonial village suspended in time and tucked in the Chalchaquí Valleys on the east slope of Mount Nevado de Cachi at 6,720 m above the sea. In the heart of the Valles Calchaquíes lies Finca Santana. Particularly notable is the unique preserved espadaña which reflects the purest Spanish colonial style in northern Argentina. Rest tonight at Finca Santana.

Day 4: Wines

Carmen, today you will continue on your way through the valleys, taking a helicopter ride to  Colome Winery to see the museum, home to incredible light installations of James Turrell. After this artistic interlude, you will journey on through the lovely town of Molinos, which used to be part of the historic Inca Road. Continue on to Cafayate and settle in to the Grace Hotel, your base for the next few nights.

Day 5: Cafayate

The wine town of Cafayate has its own distinct colors—pink dust, red hills, and olive-green mountains. Yellow sand gathers along the curbstones of the village, while donkeys graze in the central plaza and heaps of bicycles stand outside schools and the coffee-colored cathedral. Richly painted in this palate are palatial-style wineries, luxury lodges, excellent arts and crafts, and stunning vineyard country (which produces the aromatic white torrontés grape)—you can see why this area is known as the Tuscany of Argentina.

Day 6: Salta

Carmen, I know you are fond of road trips. Luckily, there is no better way to get a sense of this landscape than a leisurely and comfortable drive. The drive back to Salta will give you just this understanding of the region. You will wind your way through a region where the wind and the sun have sculpted the geography, creating a rugged landscape with original rock formations and ravines of contrasting colors. Return tonight to stay at the House of Jasmines.

Days 7-10: Corrientes

Today will be a full day’s drive to the Province of Corrientes, your next destination. Puerto Valle, your home for the next four nights, is a small inn at the northern entrance to the Ibera Provincial Reserve, which contains the vast Ibera Wetlands. Second only to the Pantanal in Brazil, the Ibera Wetlands is a fascinating and fragile habitat that offers a rich and vibrant natural history experience. Adventures include boat rides through the wetland channels to see caimans, capybaras and marsh deer, horseback riding through the estancia, walks through dense forest where you will encounter howler monkeys, kayaking on the Parana River, and spending quiet time with binoculars at the ready in secret coves surrounded by ancient forest. Stay tonight at Puerto Valle Hotel.

Day 11: Misiones

Today, you will visit the Province of Misiones to see the Iguazu Falls, the widest waterfall in the world. The rushing majesty of this site will provide a memorable ending to your exploration, with the crashing of the falls resonating in your memory for many days to come. Rest tonight at the within the park before returning home tomorrow.

Carmen, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for your trip to Argentina’s North, which is truly Another World. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should the need arise.