Day 1: Mendoza
Mid-day arrival into Mendoza either via connecting flights from Santiago or Buenos Aires. Your local expert guide will meet and escort you out of the city center to the leafy suburb of Chacras de Coria, nestled within the growing region of Lujan de Cuyo and close to Godoy Cruz and Maipu growing regions. Overnight at Finca Adalgisa, a nearly century-old home and winery run by the Furlotti family for more than three generations. Proprietor Gabriela is very personable and hosts lively wine tastings and cooking classes with her guests. The finca will be your home for the next four nights - you are within walking distance of several great little bistros, artist shops, etc, in the ‘downtown’ area of Chacras de Coria. The hotel also has bicycles available for guest use. This evening, participate in a cooking class with the finca’s chef - a special welcome to Argentina. Learn to prepare “empanadas mendocinas” in the clay oven as well as meat and vegetables on the open fire with fresh chimichurri sauce based on Arauco olive oil from the Finca itself.
Day 2: Biking the Uco Valley
Drive south to the Uco Valley. With the Andes providing a stunning backdrop, the superior soil and climate conditions make this the premier growing region in all of Argentina. Stretch your legs with either easy biking along vineyard roads or on a hike through the Andean foothills before visiting several wineries and sampling their outstanding malbecs. You have the opportunity to taste directly from the barrel at various stages in the ageing process. Lunch is at a bodega.
Day 3: Central Valley Lujan de Cuyo, Ruca Malen
Sample some outstanding malbecs with a wine tasting tour of Mendoza at Finca Decero, an award-winning vineyard. Their sustainable growing practices shine through in each of their single vineyard wines. Continue on to Dominio del Plata. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, Dominio del Plata is characterized by its simple and unique architecture, designed for the production of high-end wines. Finish up your Lujan de Cuyo tour with a wine pairing lunch at Ruca Malen. Their elegant restaurant faces the Andes at the edge of one of the property’s vineyards and involves a five-course daily tasting menu, pairing the vineyard’s wines (as well as some other favorites of the owners) with seasonal and local plates.
Day 4: Clos de Siete or Olive Oil Experience
Option 1: Visit Clos de la Siete, a collaboration of seven bodegas initiated in the early 2000s by Michel Rolland. The bodegas here are architecturally stunning and the wines are even better. Once at the bodega, walk between the various wineries on wide, dirt roads. Refresh before dinner served at the lodge. Option 2: Experience the complete process of olive oil production. Guided by an expert, harvest the olives and learn more about the production process. This activity includes a harvest, oil extraction, bottling, olive oil tasting and a bottle of your own olive oil to take home. After lunch in the olive orchard, return to Finca Adalgisa.
Day 5: Mendoza, Fly to Salta
Depart from Uco Valley for a morning flight to Salta. Upon arrival, settle into your hotel, Legado Mitico, a beautiful boutique hotel in the city. In the afternoon, embark on a guided walking tour of the historical district of Salta that reveals the striking red-and-gold baroque San Francisco Church built in 1625, and the café terrace-lined Plaza 9 de Julio. The plaza is dominated by the light pink Salta Cathedral (beautifully lit in the evenings) and features the MAAM high altitude archaeological museum (Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta). The museum is dedicated to the “The Children of Llullaillaco” or the ‘Children of Lightening’, the impressive mummified bodies of three Inca children that were found at the peak of Mount Llullaillaco, at 22,080’and the highest known burial site in the world. The displays are thoughtful and respectful and offer amazing insight into the ancient customs and traditions of the Incas. The evening at your leisure to continue exploring Salta.
Day 6: Purmamarca
Free morning followed by a drive to Argentina’s northernmost province of Jujuy and the Quebrada de Humahuaca. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this colorful canyon is home to 10,000 years of human settlements with developing traditions, music, art, and religious beliefs that still thrive today throughout the small adobe and cobblestone villages. Your home for the next two nights is in the quaint village of Purmamarca, located directly beneath the vibrant Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors). There are many restaurants in town where you can dine on your own.
Day 7: Llama Trekking and Salinas Grandes
This day of true adventure begins on a scenic drive over Cuesta de Lipán high pass with spectacular views and a good chance of spotting wild vicuñas and guanacos (both species in the South American wild camelid family). You reach Salinas Grandes (Salt Flats) and the small community of Pozo Colorado. The resident population of 200 people earn their livelihood primarily through extracting salt and breeding llamas. While tourism is relatively new here, visitors to the area have helped trigger a reclamation in cultural heritage among the local people with a renewed focus on the ancient arts of spinning and weaving llama wool; carving laja stones, crafting salt stones and leading treks with llama pack animals. Meet your trekking guide and llama companions then set out over the immense salt flats, an otherworldly landscape that provides stunning photographic opportunities. View the salt extraction sites and enjoy a shaded picnic lunch in the surreal landscape of the high Andean plateaus. In the early afternoon say goodbye to the llamas and return to Purmamarca with time to explore town this flourishing little Andean town and enjoy one of its many restaurants.
Day 8: Purmamarca to Salta
Set out on foot with a local guide through town and into the seven colored hills in the early AM, when light is best for photography. After lunch in the village, embark on a scenic drive to Salta through the subtropical cloud forest (jungas) where you stop for a walk to experience the sights and sounds of the jungle and look for some of the great variety of native birds. This is an amazing contrast with the previous desert landscape of the high plateau. Upon arrival at the colonial capital city of Salta, refresh before dinner then head out with your guide to La Casona del Molino peña, a local venue for traditional hearty fare and lively folk music and singing. Try the dangerously delicious deep-fried empanadas saltenas, humitas and locro. The food, music, drink, and lively company--this is true Argentina!
Day 9: Las Pailas Archaeological Reserve, Cachi
This morning head southwest to the historical town of Cachi, nestled at the head of the Calchaquí Valleys. The journey (3.5 hours) takes you over a 12,000’ pass and through Los Cardones National Park – a broad valley surrounded with mountains and covered with giant cacti as far as the eye can see. Upon arrival in Cachi, check in at the hotel and depart for an afternoon walk at Las Pailas archeological site. A rare find in Argentina, this site preserves stone tools and relics of the Diaguita people, the first dwellers of the area who developed important metal and artistic techniques. The hike is not difficult though the trail is rocky and there is one dry stream crossing via a series of boulders. Return to Cachi and overnight at the historic La Merced del Alto.
Day 10: Cachi to Molinos
Depart from Cachi, heading towards Craftsmen’s Rd or El Colte. Stop at Arnaldo Guzmán’s home and studio. Guzman and his family are some of the best-known poncho weavers in the northwest. Blankets, ponchos with distinct patterns and colors, and table runners, are all on display. The family will run you through the process from shearing the sheep to dying the wool to the weaving itself. Continue south through the Calchaquí Valleys. Shrines to Gauchito Gil (a Robin Hood figure) and the Pachamama (Mother Earth) dot the roadside, ancient cemeteries beckon you to enter and fields of red chili peppers drying in the sun. Check in at Hacienda de Molinos in the heart of the sleepy town by the same name and continue on to Colomé; At 9,000' it is the highest vineyard in the world and the oldest bodega in Argentina. Enjoy a spectacular lunch on their patio overlooking the vineyards, accompanied by wine of course, then visit their bodega and the amazing James Turrell Museum of Light. Afternoon return to Molinos. This charming 18th century inn was once the seat of the last Spanish viceroy to Salta. Dinner this evening is in the central courtyard, beneath the pepper tree, usually a traditional Argentine asado BBQ.
Day 11: Cafayate Wine Tasting
After an early breakfast, navigate through the Quebrada de las Flechas (Canyon of the Arrows), a fascinating bulbous rock formation on some of the driest geography on Earth. Upon arrival at the town of Cafayate, regarded as the capitol of Northern Argentina’s wine regions, check in at Viñas de Cafayate Wine Resort. Your home for the next two nights is a vineyard plantation at the very entrance of a narrow canyon. All rooms have direct access to a wrap-around patio with views over the vineyards and surrounding mountains. Time to settle in then proceed to Finca Las Nubes at the small, family-owned Mounier Winery. The vineyard here is operated organically and the scenery is sensational; soak it all in while you enjoy lunch and impressive views of the Calchaqui valleys. Return to the wine lodge for a relaxed evening at leisure or take a stroll through the town’s main square 1.8 miles from the lodge.
Day 12: Horseback Riding and Cafayate Artisans
Start your morning right with a horseback ride that takes you through the rolling dunes that surround the estancia. In the afternoon, a walk in town reveals the labor of prestigious artisans who give Cafayate the designation of an authentic Art & Crafts Village of Argentina. Visit the studios of famous ceramicists, silversmiths, basket makers, and weavers.
Day 13: Cafayate to Tafi del Valle
Your journey through the northwest ends where Argentine independence began in the province of Tucumán, a land rich in historic heritage. Amidst the rolling green hills, a sharp contrast to the red rock desert of the previous few days, you’ll find historical Estancia Las Carreras. One of the oldest structures in the region, the estancia was constructed in 1778 by the Jesuits and recalls a time when religious missionaries explored remote areas of Argentina in an attempt to locate and convert indigenous populations. The Jesuit sect hails from La Mancha, Spain and brought with them many of the recipes and culinary techniques still applied by the estancia today to produce very high-quality Argentine Manchego cheeses. Taste some of the local cheeses while exploring the historical estancia and in the afternoon you can opt for a hike or a horseback ride through the magnificent surroundings.
Day 14: Departure from Tucuman
Morning transfer to the Tucuman airport to board a connecting flight to Buenos Aires where you can either opt to extend your stay or connect with your international departing flight. A transfer between the domestic airport and the international airport is included.