Ruta 40's Salta Province Travel Trips
Since we have launched the website, we have been asked nearly once a week for our tips and insights for traveling in Salta Province. We have now decided to put them directly on the website to make it easier for everybody. This is not meant as a comprehensive guide, it is simply the places we love. The descriptions are brief and we provide the link to more info.
Obviously do get in touch with us if you want to travel in the region, we will happily set up private tours of the Ruta 40 bodegas with the owners.
How do you get there?
We highly recommend flying there - there is also the bus option, but you need a lot of time on your hands. Most flights are via AEP (Buenos Aires domestic airport) using LAN or Aerolineas. There is now a direct Iguazu - Salta - Mendoza flight with Aerolineas, but check the days! Air Andes also flies Iguazu - Salta, but again not every day.
Once in Salta, we highly recommend you rent a car to get around. Not necessary if you are only going to Cafayate as there is a good bus connection, but if you are doing the Ruta 40 loop via Cachi, which we think is the most beautiful part - you definitely need a car.
If you have never visited the area, you might underestimate distances quite a bit. Salta to Cafayate is 3-4 hours given it is a paved road. Cafayate to Molinos (it becomes a gravel road after about 40km) depends if you have a 4x4 or a small car and your driving skills, but it takes around 3-4 hours. Molinos - Cachi is another 2-3 hours. Cachi to Salta via the pass takes at least 5 hours (although only the last 30 km prior to Cachi are unpaved these days).
The above timings are obviously based on smooth traveling. If a car breaks down between Cachi and Molinos, the road will be blocked and it could take up to 4 hours to clear. Flat tires are also not uncommon. It is definitely a good idea to have extra water in the car - it can take quite a while for the next car to come by and mobile phone reception is mostly non existent.
Generally, I would recommend taking at least 5 days for the full loop - starting with a drive from Salta to Cachi with at least a one night stay, then on Ruta 40 to Molinos, spend a day in Colome and then probably 2 days in Cafayate, prior to taking at least half a day to drive back to Salta via the paved road.
In our view, this is the most authentic and beautiful part of Argentina. It is at high altitude, so you might need to drink plenty of Coca tea on the first day. Definitely bring quite a bit of cash as a lot of places do not accept credit cards and ATM machines are few and far between - and often they are out of cash! Taste the most incredible high altitude wine, eat some outstanding BBQ baby goat and just appreciate the endless space and the freshest air.
Ruta 40's Salta Travel Trips - Part 2
Following the general intro to the Province in Part 1, here are our tips split by location:
In our mind the only place to stay in Cachi is El Molino de Cachi. This is the highest bodega in the world at just short of 2,500 meters altitude and at the same time the cutest boutique hotel with 5 rooms and a pool set in its own grounds. Managed by the friendly Nuny & Alberto Durand, the name comes from the still functioning mill stone driven by the stream coming down from the Andes.
Get in touch with us and we will introduce you directly to Alberto and you will also receive a 10% discount on the room rates:
Cachi itself is a beautiful little town. The best food is found on the main square on the opposite side of the church. The restaurant on the right normally puts a baby goat on the BBQ at 10am, so pass by at around 2pm for the best goat in the world together with a great salad and a glass of Torrontes or red wine. On the left side of the Plaza is also the only place with an espresso machine in a 100km radius.
Molinos is a great place to stay overnight and a good base for a day trip to Colome. Staying at Colome is the other option, but it does not come cheap (around US$350 a night). So should you have less cash to spend, we think Hacienda de Molinos is a great place to stay: http://www.haciendademolinos.com.ar/la_historia-en.php
Then definitely pre book a day trip to Colome. It is about 1 hour drive on the dirt road. They offer a package that includes visit of the winery in the morning, lunch in their beautiful boutique hotel with an amazing terrace (3 courses with wine included all from their organic garden), followed by a visit to the James Turell museum. Do not miss the museum visit under any circumstances - it is mind boggling:
We would recommend three places to stay in Cafayate (Top of the line, great and cheaper but still cheerful):
1) Patios de Cafayate: http://www.patiosdecafayate.com/main2.html
Top of the line place with Spa. Roughly US$250-300 a night
2) Cafayate Wine Resort: http://www.cafayatewineresort.com/home.htm
Great place 5 minutes out of town by car bordering on the vineyards. Around US$150 per night
3) Portal de Santo: www.portaldelsanto.com.ar
Family run place, with clean rooms, home made breakfast, great patio 5 minutes by foot from the main plaza.
Run by owner Cristian, who speaks good English and is super friendly - around US$80 per night.
Contact us to organise a private tour of Ruta 40's Bodega Porvenir that is located in the center of town. Go and visit the new wine museum, which is really well done and otherwise play golf, go horse back riding or visit some of the other wineries. Best restaurant on the Plaza is Terruno by a mile.