We were sitting outside of our B&B near Iguazu Falls chatting with other travelers and trying to decide where to go next. Having heard good things about Salta and it being in the general direction we wished to go (i.e. north or ‘up’ as Alina calls it), we immediately set about making it happen. Thus began the ritual we perform on a weekly basis that involves figuring out what to do next. Questions arise like:
- How far is it?
- Can we take a bus?
- Are the seats ‘cama’ or ‘semi-cama’? (flat bed or recline only)
- Where can we buy tickets? Are seats still available?
- Do we have to change buses?
- Can we fly? (Of course not, only birds can do that)
- Are we missing out on anything along the way?
- How much is the transfer to/from the airports?
- Which part of town should we stay in?
- Do we have snacks for the trip?
- Are all our electronic gizmos charged?
- Did I leave the oven on?
This is the tedious part of travel, not the actual journey itself. It doesn’t help that both or us are control freaks and like the weigh up ALL of the options in advance.
Salta is the second largest city in northwestern Argentina and capital of the Salta province. We chose to take a 2 hr flight from Iguazu rather than a 24 hr bus journey.
On arrival at the Salta airport we were presented with two options for transfer into town – taxi ($6) or local bus (30 cents). To my astonishment, Miss Four Seasons insisted on taking the local bus which conveniently stops outside the airport. As we trudged the 500m to the bus stop, the sky opened up with rain, thunder and lightning but she was not deterred. What happened to Alina and who replaced her? (Hopefully this one will cook and clean…) The bus duly arrived within 15 minutes and with the help of a local (this is a cashless bus system after all) we were able to pay our bus fare and get a ‘free’ tour of the city.
When one makes a hotel reservation on booking.com you never really know what you are going to get despite all of the reviews. On this occasion, we were more than happy with our selection of Hostal El Relax. Owned and operated by a German couple, they provided everything needed for a relaxing (!) stay including a great breakfast – probably the best we had in Argentina. By the end of our stay, Hans had perfected the over-medium fried egg.
Now that we were settled in our lodgings, it was time to perform the next ritual:
- Find out where everything is
- Learn how to get around town
- Pick out some restaurants to try
- Buy some water and snacks
On paper, the city of Salta itself does not have much going for it – though it has a nice central plaza where the locals hang out:
some nice colonial buildings:
and the cable car to Cerro San Bernardo – a mountain overlooking the city:
We chose to walk up and take the cable car back down:
We really enjoyed this city, it felt very safe to walk around, and we managed to become regulars at one particular cafe and another restaurant during the 6 days we spent in the city.
After a few days of chillaxing, I was eager to get out of town and see some of the countryside that the Salta province is known for. And also to prevent Alina from adopting two puppies from the local pet store. We decided to rent a car (Alina’s arm was quite twisted) and drive the famous Ruta 40 south towards the wine region of Cafayate and back to Salta. In retrospect, i’m not sure if it is famous for the beautiful landscape that surrounds it or the fact that none of the road is paved and it is torture to drive on.
Our rental car was delivered to our B&B with enough gas to get us to the nearest gas station and off we went. Over the course of 4-5 days, we passed through quaint little villages and a diverse range of landscapes as evidenced by the pictures below. As mentioned earlier, most of the time was spent on very bumpy unpaved roads with a maximum speed of 35km/hr – it was difficult for Alina to sleep but she persevered!
Day 1: Salta to Molinos via Cachi
We stayed in the little village of Molinos at the beautiful Hacienda De Molinos.
It was a throwback to another time: children playing at the park late at night without supervision (jumpers for goalposts), bicycles parked outside peoples homes (without locks), and hardly a car in sight.
Day 2: Molinos to Cafayate
The hotel was so nice we were reluctant to get back on the road but that we did. Bump, bumpy, bump. Stop for photo. Bump, bumpy, bump. <repeat>
We stayed in the city of Cafayate for a single night. This is an up-and-coming wine region but having ‘done’ the wine thing in Mendoza, neither of us had any desire to repeat the exercise here. Instead we wandered around the town and watched the locals going about their day.
Day 3: Cafayate to Chicoana
On day 3, Alina’s incantations were answered and a paved road appeared before us. She was so excited, she almost forgot to sleep!
Bo Hotel de Encanto & Spa
Bo Hotel is in the small town of Chicoana about one hour south or “down” from Salta. The town of Chicoana has only one restaurant of tourist quality so the owner, a budding chef, offered to cook us dinner and we gratefully accepted.
We only intended on staying one night but it was so nice and relaxing we ended up staying two. The next day, he offered all of his guests to share in an Asado. We could hardly refuse!
Finally, it was time to end our road trip, return to Salta, and repeat our planning ritual. After being underwhelmed by Buenos Aires, I was surprised to feel reluctant to leave Argentina. I guess the small towns of the south, east and north grew on me and I would definitely consider going back.
Next up: Kieran, Alina and 2 puppies take the night bus to Bolivia