Enjoy this high altitude wine tour and the wide range quality wine from world-class vineyards, nestled in the foothills of the Andes! The Hess family owned Colome near Molinos is in fact the highest vineyard in the world, so its wine is truly unique, and the scenery spectacular.
Argentina’s most northern wine region is centered on Cafayate, Molinos and Cachi and the landscapes between the place is stunning. Our high altitude wine tour will show the best the region has to offer.
Day 1 – Arrival in the city of Salta
Salta is a lovely colonial town in the Northwest of Argentina with the best-conserved Hispanic architecture in the country, surrounded by the foothills of the Andes and lush green valleys. When you arrive at Salta airport (SLA) your guide will meet you for a private transfer to a countryside hotel or estancias (ranches) or one of a selection of city hotels if you fancy staying in the city.
Depending on your arrival time you will have time at leisure to enjoy the activities offered at the hotel, this will depend on the choice of hotel and location of course but could include horseback riding around the surrounding hills, cooking lessons to make local delicacies, relaxing at the swimming pool or maybe some mountain biking. Or just kick back in the sun and enjoy a glass of local wine….
Day 2 – Enjoy what the city of Salta has to offer
After breakfast we will take you around Salta on a gentle walking tour to visit some of the main attractions. Firstly we will visit the main square (Plaza 9 de Julio) and view some of the historical colonial buildings around town, such us the main Cathedral, the very photogenic San Francisco Church and the San Bernardo Convent.
Then, we’ll take a look around the MAAM Museum of High Mountain Archeology to enjoy the very interesting items on display. The museum is located on the main square and is famous for the best preserved Inca mummies ever found. A 1999 expedition on the 22,000 ft Llullaillaco Volcano unearthed three child mummies sacrificed and buried in the ice by Inca nobility.
These 500-year-old Inca children are preserved in climate controlled chambers, at a specific temperature and under special lighting so they do not decay any further after being extracted from their icy ceremonial graves. Depending on the time open to us we should be able to add more visits according to your specific interests so please let us know what they are so we can advise you.
In the evening there is the chance to enjoy dinner at one of the traditional Peñas in Salta, there are a number to choose from so ask us about them so we can advise and set the night up for you.
*Please Note: The MAAM Museum is closed on Mondays, except when Monday is a holiday in which case the Museum will be open and then will close the following Tuesday.-
Day 3 – Salta | National Park Los Cardones & the Artisan Trail
Distance: 122 km on paved roads / 81 km on gravel roads.
Altitude: Highest point 3457 m – Molinos 2020 m – Estimated driving time: 4 hours
The Calchaquí Valleys are considered very special in the winemaking world and you will get to know them quite well over the next few days. Today we will travel through the countryside seeing many areas of tobacco-growing plus other crops that are produced in the fertile fields of Salta’s agricultural region to reach our first route “to the clouds”, the Cuesta del Obispo.
Along the 33 km of twisting mountain road we will have great views of the area before crossing a pass at 3457 metres above sea level and before entering the Cardones National Park. Cardones are the huge Cacti you can see in the photo below, they give you a great chance for amusing Cacti selfies!
We will stop for lunch in the Sala de Payogasta boutique hotel, a traditional ranch that also has a small winery. After eating and drinking to our heart´s content we will continue our journey to the small town of Molinos, with a visit to “Camino de los Artesanos”, a narrow mountain road where we can visit the simple adobe homes of the most important handicraft makers of the Northwest and get to know more about the art of hand-weaving. We will then spend the night in the Hacienda de Molinos or a similar place nearby.
Day 4 – Molinos | Capital of the High Altitude Wine Tour
Distance: 70 km on gravel roads.
Altitude: Highest point 2.600 m – Estimated driving time: 3 hours.
Today we will visit the Bodega Tacuil. With its roots set back in 1810 this little winery is operated by the Dávalos family to produce the unique wines of their family which today stem from grapes imported from France. Due to the unique characteristics of the soil, climate, mountainside locations and altitude (with some of the vines being grown at 2.597 meters above sea level) the grapes have greater concentrations of tannins which make them ideal for wines of unique personality and high quality. We will enjoy a delicious traditional lunch at the winery, specially prepared for our visit.
The afternoon sees us visit the icon of your high altitude wine tour at Bodega Colomé which is the realization of a dream for the owners to develop wines in the highest vineyards in the world. The winery is part of Hess Family Estates, a family owned company from Switzerland which boats wineries in the United States, South Africa and Argentina. The Hess Family has specialized in the production and marketing of high quality wines as well as art projects, gastronomy and now tourism. We will visit the wine cellar in the afternoon and then we will have the chance to experience the James Turrell Museum which will surprise you in a number of ways. We will spend the night in the very laid back village of Molinos again to recover from the days exertions.
*Please Note: The James Turrell Museum is closed on Mondays. The sky show does not open during Summer (rainy season January/February).
Day 5 – Cafayate | Winemaking Traditions and a Unique Terroir
Distance: 24 km on paved roads. 92 km on gravel roads.
Altitude: Highest point 2.300 m – Cafayate 1.683 m – Estimated driving time: 3 hours.
When traveling between the towns of Molinos and the wine capital of Cafayate we will pass many little villages populated by small-scale wine makers and farmers. We will find ourselves travelling through the desert of the Quebrada de las Flechas among canyons and narrow rock formations making beautiful shapes and great photo opportunities. In Cafayate the semi-desert climate, the temperature range extremes between day and night and the soil types (low in organic matter) define a unique Terroir, specific to this small region.
We will visit Finca El Retiro, which belongs to Bodega El Porvenir, where we will enjoy a private lunch paired with high altitude wines, and an exclusive wine tasting. After you leave the bodega in a merry state we will check you in to your hotel in Cafayate and have some time at leisure. There are a number of hotel and lodge options in this lovely place, please check them out and let us know which you like the look of.
Day 6 – Cafayate | Quebrada de las Conchas Canyon
Distance: 180 km on paved roads.
Estimated driving time back to Salta: 3 hours.
After breakfast your high altitude wine tour will continue with a private visit to the famous Bodega El Esteco, founded in 1892 and one of the pioneers in the art of wine making in Cafayate. The visit will be made with an expert in Oenology. After a very informative and entertaining time at this winery we will head off towards Salta through the spectacular Canyon of Quebrada de las Conchas.
This canyon is a Natural Heritage Site and was formed by sediments laid down in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic periods (some 90 to 60 million years ago). The intense red color of the hills owes its existence to the iron oxide which is abundant here. The name of the gorge refers to the marine fossils found all over the region and the word “concha” means shell in English.
When we arrive back in Salta what we do will depend on your onward travels, if you are staying overnight then we can arrange that for you, or if continuing on then it´s off to the airport of bus station to make your connection. The Salta region is easily combined with other great destinations such as Iguazu Falls and the Argentine Wetlands so maybe try that while you are here.