Saturday, 17 January 2015

Life is beautiful in Salta and Cafayate

Streets of Salta
After three quiet days in Tilcara, we made our way to the next province to visit the vibrant city of Salta. Situated in the Lerma Valley, this exciting city provides well preserved colonial architecture and a colourful atmosphere that any tourist would enjoy.

When we arrived at the bus station, we were approached by some agents who wanted to promote their hotels. We usually don’t trust them but I am glad we did this time. One of them offered us a private from for $25 and a free ride to the hotel Posada del Parque which was a fantastic deal. I think the prices are usually higher, so make sure to ask for specials if you want to stay there. We had a huge room with an en-suite bathroom and a separate dressing room. It had TV and air-conditioning as well. We felt like we were in a palace after so many hostels.

Cathedral of Salta

I simply loved Salta. It has everything that a liveable city needs to have. There are outstanding museums, impressive churches, beautiful squares and great authentic Argentinean cuisine. It has the facilities of a large city but retains the comfortable vibes of a small town. In addition, the people are very welcoming and friendly. There were also a lot of free cultural activities such as concerts and dance performances. I could easily live in this charming city.

During our four days in this lovely town, we visited the Cathedral of Salta, Church of San Francisco, Salta Teleferico (cable car), Plaza 9 de Julio, Centro Cultural America and some parks. There are also many museums to discover. Of course, you can’t leave Salta without watching the dances of gauchos dressed up in billowing pants and leather boots. There are numerous local penas on Balcarce Street where you can enjoy these traditional shows while you try typical Argentinean dishes. If you like to know more about Salta’s folklore culture you can read the article of Megan Snedden from BBC Travel.

Dancing Gauchos

I was sad to leave this fantastic town but we weren’t disappointed with Cafayate either. Cafayate is a small town 2 hours south of Salta. We chose this romantic town for our 5th wedding anniversary which is Argentina’s second centre for quality wine production (after Mendoza). Before visiting this amazing country, I haven’t even heard about their wine. Now, we were visiting some of the world’s best vineyards. This region is famous for its Malbec but we tried many other quality wines. According to Wikipedia, Argentina is the fifth biggest producer of wine in the world today.

Alex with our adopted dog

We rented two bicycles to visit the beautiful surroundings and of course a couple of wineries along the way. Biking is the perfect way to discover these incredible landscapes. On our way to some rock formations and Cascades de Rio Colorado, a street dog started to tag along and followed us the whole day.  She was very cute and we absolutely loved her. She came all the way to the cascade with us and wouldn't leave us alone.

The nature and the landscapes were stunning. It took us a bit more than an hour to get there. After visiting the Cascades of Rio Colorado, it was time to try some of the high quality wine of Cafayate. 
Our first stop was the Bodega Nanni which became one of my favourite vineries in the area. It has been producing some of the best organic wines for the last 110 years. They have great Malbecs and Torrontes. We ended our adventurous day in one of the local restaurants and tried some of the traditional dishes. Argentina is a meat country, and it is really difficult to survive if you are a vegetarian.  

Happy goats

The next day started with a visit to the Cabras de Cafayate which is a goat farm where they produce remarkable cheese. The entry fee includes a tour of the farm and we got to see many happy goats. At the end, a mouth watering cheese sampling was provided. If you like cheese, this is the place to visit. Being French and loving cheese, it was a paradise for Alex.

Wine tasting at Bodega Domingo Molina
Following our cheese tasting, we rode our bikes to Bodega Domingo Molina. It is a 7km uphill ride from Cafayate and is certainly not for the faint hearted. I managed to get there on my bike, but Alex had to walk the last kilometre or so and was exhausted once we got there. We were welcomed by the friendly staff and taken to the garden with a magnificent view of the Calchaquies Valley. The scenery was definitely worth the uphill ride. After relaxing for half an hour, they started to introduce some of their splendid wines accompanied by cheese from the goat farm we visited in the morning. Our wine tasting lasted for three hours. We became good friends with one of the employees and he kept serving us more wine while we were chatting away. It was a perfect afternoon.

On our way back to town, we made a quick stop to visit Piatelli Winery and restaurant. We definitely had enough wine by then but we couldn’t resist their delicious salads. They also had one of the best olive oils I have ever tasted. With a view over the valley, it is a perfect place to enjoy lunch. 

Piatelli Winery

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