Explore the highest altitude wine region in the world, set in the stunningly varied landscape of North West Argentina. We combine our tour of the vineyards with a 4×4 excursion through the heart of the Valles Calchaquies, where you’ll discover its rich history of pre-Inca ruins and Spanish conquest. For the more active among you, we can hike in this richly diverse landscape, well away from the beaten tourist track. Or if you prefer we can just concentrate on visiting some of the outstanding boutique vineyards in this little explored wine region.
We head south through the tobacco region of the Valle de Lerma and climb the lush green mountain road of the Cuesta del Obispo, where there is a chance to do a short walk with breath-taking views close to the peak of 3,500m at Piedra del Molino. Then we descend into the flat cactus landscape of the Parque Nacional de los Cardones.
This vast open plain, peppered with candelabra cacti, is the perfect spot for a picnic off the beaten track, in the best spot to enjoy the extraordinary views. In the afternoon we will visit a couple of vineyards in Cachi, picturesquely set amid snowy mountain peaks, and visit the church with its roof made from cactus wood. We may also have time for a trip to the pre-Hispanic ruins of Potrero, a control post set up by the Inca when they conquered this part of South America in the 14th century. Overnight Cachi, La Paya or Seclantas.
We travel through the Valles Calchaquies, rich in indigenous culture, varied landscapes and… vineyards. After a visit to the traditional poncho weavers of Seclantas, we’ll head for lunch at the 18th century Hacienda de Molinos, home of the last Royalist governor of this part of South America under Spanish rule.
We head south along the iconic Route 40 towards Cafayate, visiting some of the smaller wine producers dotted around the Valles Calchaquies on the way. You’ll have the chance to sample vino patero: pata is local slang for “foot”: in many cases, the grapes are still crushed in the traditional way by treading them in a barrel. You can also sample mistela, a smooth sweet liquer produced by many of the local families. We travel south into the Quebrada de las Flechas, where we will take a short hike to a viewpoint of this breathtaking jagged lunar landscape, fashioned from ancient quartz, limestone and sandstone rock. We arrive in Cafayate, Salta’s premier wine town, and home to the best Torrontes white wine in the world. Overnight Cafayate, where we can recommend one of the myriad restaurants and peñas (live folk music) on the plaza.
The Valles Calchaquies was the seat of fierce resistance to the Spanish arrival 500 years ago: we will visit the pre-Inca site of Quilmes, where descendants of the original inhabitants tell us the remarkable and sad story of how this indigenous tribe resisted the invasion until they were finally, cruelly, broken. There is a chance to buy some souvenirs- the artisans’ carvings from cactus wood are particularly eye-catching- before we visit the superb Pachamama museum at nearby Amaicha del Valle. After lunch, there will be time for some more wine tasting in one of the newest vineyards in the Valles Calchaquies, Las Arcas, near Tolombon, producers of award-winning Torrontes and Malbec, and others in Cafayate. We’ll also sample the wine flavoured ice cream (Cabernet Sauvignon and Torrontes) before we return to Salta through the deep ochre coloured landscape of the Quebrada de las Conchas national park.