The Marvels of NORTHWEST ARGENTINA

Tafi de Valle

Even though it was really difficult to leave Capilla and say goodbye to our new found friends, we had to move on as the world is big and we still have plenty of places to go! As we were heading towards Salta, our last stop in Argentina, we made a few stops along the way to enjoy some more of the awe inspiring landscapes of the region.

From sunny Capilla Del Monte to the freezing Tafi del Valle

Tafi de Valle

Snow capped mountains

We definitely weren’t prepared for the sub-zero temperatures when we arrived in Tafi de Valle after spending a gloriously sunny week in Capilla del Monte. Duncan (our CS host in Capilla) had suggested we visit Tafi on our way up to Cafayate as one of the stops off the beaten track.

I can tell you one thing, trying to find an accommodation in the freezing cold wasn’t fun! What’s also not fun was the realization that the heater we had in the room was more of a bright orange spotlight than a heater! Not much sleep was had that night and we woke up to even more snow the next day!

Luckily though, most of the snow magically melted later in the afternoon. We were shocked and amazed by how quickly the temperature changed in one day. We decided to stay one more day to give this place a chance. We spent the next day wondering around the town and visiting the nearby town of El Mollar to have a closer look at the lake. Tafi is also famous for its handmade cheese. As cheese monsters, we bought a 1.5kg of different varieties. Greedy much?!

Tafi de ValleCharming Cafayate

This sums up Cafayate, vineyards, beautiful mountains and gorgeous weather

This photo sums up Cafayate; vineyards, beautiful mountains and gorgeous weather

After hearing so much about it from fellow travellers, we wouldn’t miss a visit to this beautiful town surrounded by beautiful landscapes and some of Argentina’s best vineyards. We were told that if we can’t make it to Mendoza for a wine tasting adventure, Cafayate would be the best alternative.

Typical story here again. We came to this town for just a couple days and had to drag ourselves away after a week. So we spent most of our days indulging ourselves with trying different wines and enjoying jaw dropping landscapes. Life gets really tough sometimes!

Highlights

Our hostel, Rusty-K

Having a cheese feast in our courtyard

Having a cheese feast in our courtyard

I normally don’t put reviews on this blog for the hostels we stayed in but Rusty-K (Rivadavia 281) is an exception and deserves its own section on this post as it was the comfiest and most pleasant place we had stayed in Argentina so far. The staff, despite not speaking a word of English, were very friendly and made our stay even more enjoyable.

When we got off the bus in Cafayate, we met an Argentinian couple from Buenos Aires who had just arrived on the same bus. Paulo & Mercedes were also looking for a place to stay so we decided to look together. After walking around for an hour in the sunshine, we came across Rusty-K. I even had a joke saying that because it has the same name as our beloved dog friend Rusty from Capilla it had to be good. We were quickly sold after seeing the sunny courtyard in the middle of a small vineyard and the luxurious, clean rooms.

We had a wonderful time at Rusty-K and enjoyed chatting and sharing our Cafayate experience with our new friends, Mercedes & Paulo.

Wine tour at Bodega Nanni

Bodega NanniWe chose this Bodega (wine factory) as we were told that it was the only one that produces completely 100% organic wines. After a quick tour around the Bodega we went on trying four different varieties. My favourite was the Tanat (red) and Ian loved the Torrontes (white).

We also went across the road to Bodega El Transito for more wine tasting but we liked the wines at Bodega Nanni the best. Thanks to a (slightly drunken) impulse we bought a few bottles of the wine and a tipsy, snoozy afternoon followed suit.

Quebrada de Las Conchas (Also known as Quebrada de Cafayate)

Quebrada de Cafayate

Dear readers, if you ever come to this part of the world, you HAVE TO visit the mountain range stretching 68km along the main highway (Route 68) between Cafayate and Salta. You can thank me later.

We toured the area with Puna Travel (San Martin 80) as they offered an option with more hiking and exploring. It’s slightly more expensive but definitely well worth it as you really get a closer look at the beautiful rock formations. Most other tours only stop by the roadside to view from afar which won’t do this place any justice. Here’s our tour in photos.

Quebrada de Las Conchas

First stop on the tour was a rock formation called La Punilla

Quebrada de Las Conchas

Our guide asked what this reminded us of… What do you think?

Quebrada de Las Conchas

A few of us went on walking in the caves in La Punilla

Quebrada de Las Conchas

Next stop was called Los Castillos (The Castles)

Quebrada de Las Conchas

This one is called El Obelisco (Obelisk)

Quebrada de Las Conchas

La Yesera was one of my favourite stops with its textured and multi coloured rock formations.

Quebrada de Las Conchas

We,then hiked up to the top of La Yesera for a spectacular view of surrounding colourful mountains. This view on its own is well worth paying a little extra for the tour, don’t you think?

Quebrada de Las Conchas

Yes, you got it. It’s a frog! (El Sapo)

Quebrada de las Conchas

Enjoying the view over Las Conchas river just as sun went behind the mountain.

Quebrada de Las Conchas

At our lunch break, I spotted my first ever Llama! So cute!

Quebrada de Las Conchas

With a full belly, I started playing with the shadows and made myself look tall, if not slightly freaky looking!

Quebrada de Las Conchas

El Anfiteatro ( Anfitheatre). Occasionally, concerts take place here for its naturally good acoustics.

Quebrada de Las Conchas

Having a closer look in El Anfiteatro.

Quebrada de Las Conchas

Our last stop and the most striking of all was Garganta Del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). Let the climb start to the top…

Quebrada de Las Conchas

Mercedes, Paulo and I are scrambling to the top. Ian had made it already, busy taking pictures.

Quebrada de Las Conchas

And the result. It’s even more spectacular up close.

Ruinas de Quilmes (Quilmes Ruins)

ruinas de quilmes

We took a half day trip to this archaeological site in the Calchaquí Valley. It’s an hour bus ride from Cafayate. You get dropped off on the roadside where you still have to walk further 5km to the actual entrance to the site. Fortunately there are still indeed nice people in this world and a couple gave us a ride to the entrance in their van saving some time and energy for the rest of our journey.

Quilmes ruins are the remains of the largest pre-Hispanic settlement in Argentina. What we now refer to as ruins belonged to Calchaquí natives that settled on the hillside of Calchaquí Valley. They first resisted the Inca invasions and continued to resist to Spaniards until they were defeated in 1666. They were forced to relocate to a little reservation outside Buenos Aires and were all made to walk the entire distance (around 1500km). As a result, most of the tribe died in the process. The few who survived ultimately settled in where the city of Quilmes is now.

Ruinas de Quilmes

We hitch-hiked the journey back to Cafayate, first part was along the dirt road back to the main highway in a rusty old water truck whose cheerful driver was busy chewing coca leaves and trying to chat to him with our broken Spanish was lots of fun. For the next part we upgraded to a Merc! A lovely elderly couple from Buenos Aires who were on their way to Salta picked us up and we enjoyed a very comfy ride back to Cafayate. It was amazing to see how two people who don’t speak the same language managed to have a whole conversation talking about football!

Yummiest empanadas with plenty veggie options and wine ice cream!

Cafayate

Nice décor inside the La Casa de las Empanadas

La Casa de Las Empanadas (House of Empanadas) is dedicated to making the best empanadas in town and we made several visits choosing from its extensive menu.

Cafayate

Fresh empanadas ready for munching!

For pudding, it was homemade wine ice cream. We tried both the white (Torrentes) and red wine (Malbec) flavours. I didn’t like it but Ian had no problems finishing it. I’ll stick to a glass of wine, thanks…

The infamous wine icecream

The infamous wine ice-cream

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