From Mendoza we headed north to Salta, Argentina – a beautiful city of about 600,000 people. We instantly fell in love with Salta’s laid back vibe! We spent three nights in Salta wandering the streets and enjoying some refreshments on its sidewalk patios. Feeling the need for a little exercise, we also climbed the steps to the top of Cerro San Bernardo (kind of like a mini Grouse Grind).
From Salta we rented a car for 4 days and headed to Cafayate, a smaller town (about 15,000 people) nestled against the Andes. The drive was incredibly scenic passing through beautiful valleys, red mountains and vineyards – we likey spent more time pulled over admiring the view than actually driving.
Cafayate itself was a real treat – a picturesque town with only a few paved roads surrounded by vineyards and mountains. We spent two nights in Cafayate, using our extra day for a little adventure in the form of a two hour hike to a waterfall just outside of town (Cascadas del Rio Colorado). Once we arrived at the trail head we were instantly bombarded by a young guy hoping to be our guide. Having heard and read that a guide was necessary for this hike, we considered hiring him for the day but we couldn’t come to an understanding on the price. Thus we set out alone. While the trail was poorly marked, we were easily able to find the waterfall by hugging the river (which did require multiple river crossings and one scramble over a hill). Once we reached the falls, the water was cold for swimming but it was a welcomed refreshment on a really hot day. Ultimately we were happy to have been able to do the hike on our own (while the concept of guides may seem foreign to British Columbians, they seem to be commonplace for all but the easiest hikes here in South America).
Having completed our morning hike in good time, we cleaned up and treated ourselves to an incredible lunch at a local vineyard (Piatelli Winery). This was probably the most refined food we had eaten since arriving in South America and, with our black market currency, the meal was cheap!
On day three of our road trip we headed north to Cachi, an even smaller town than Cafayate at about 5,000 people. This five and a half hour drive was nice, but felt a little long (maybe it was because 90 percent of it was on an unpaved road). Cachi was also a really nice town and made for a perfect stop over for the night. We ate an incredible meal in a four-table restaurant at Ashpamanta.
The drive back to Salta from Cachi the next day was equally stunning, climbing high into the Andes to an altitude of 3450 metres. It was, however, extremely hot that day (38 degrees) and we were unable to find a decent place for a swim.
Once back in Salta, we checked into our very warm accommodation for an early morning bus ride back to Chile. Ultimately, our week in Salta, Cafayate and Cachi was definitely one of our favourites thus far. This region combined beautiful scenery, great food and wines, and small town hospitality – everything you could wish for on a vacation.
Best meals: El Viejo Jack in Salta for our last Argentinian parilla, Piatelli Winery in Cafayate for lunch, and Ashpamanta for homemade pastas in Cachi.
Best drinks: Wine tasting at Chatos Wine Bar in Cafayate.
Best accommodation: Cerro de la Cruz Hotel in Cafayate and Hosteria Villa Cardon in Cachi.
Checkout these helpful blogs about the Salta-Cafayate-Cachi road trip: