Hotels I Loved
1) Finca Valentina, Salta, Argentina
On a country estate in a bucolic suburb of Salta, this exquisitely decorated colonial style inn with only five guest rooms features a quintessentially Argentine aesthetic and superb service. An adobe façade gives way to cool stone floors and white washed walls draped with colorful hand-woven rugs and gaucho saddles and hats. Baskets of bright red chili peppers dried in the sun rest lazily atop rustic wooden furniture.
The friendly and attentive staff prepares lavish three course dinners of regional favorites like beef filet and ossobuco paired with excellent local wines. Guests with a fondness for sweets will swoon over the homemade cakes and cookies served for afternoon merienda and breakfast. A swimming pool, airy living room with adjoining outdoor seating area and individual patio for each guest room provide ample opportunities for relaxation while staring at the mountains that surround the estate.
2) Finca La Paya, Cachi, Argentina
In the foothills of the snow covered Nevado de Cachi mountains, this nineteenth century farmhouse built upon the ruins on an important Inca settlement evokes an earlier era. The cozy and dimly lit interior of low ceilings and exposed stone walls adorned with religious paintings conjures images of poncho-wearing gauchos who likely passed through here 100 years earlier.
A long veranda, known as galerias, wraps around the house and faces the dramatic mountains and river valley that sit on the hotel’s property, complete with a vineyard and walnut orchard. Activities include lounging by the swimming pool and hiking into the nearby mountains. The owner’s daughter, Virginia, is a wonderful host and source of information regarding history and culture of the region. Though simpler than some of the boutique options in the area, Finca La Paya is exceptionally comfortable and stands out for its amazing value (about US $50 for a double room with breakfast included).
Where I Wish I Had Stayed
My principal regret during my trip to Northern Argentina was not reserving at least two nights for my stay in the town of Cafayate, about three hours south of Salta. Cafayate offers world-class vineyards and spas and is thus the ideal place to rest for a few days amidst a hectic sightseeing tour of the Calchaqui Valley. If money were no object, I would no doubt stay at the opulent Patios de Cafayate, which I was told by a guide is so enchanting that guests frequently miss flights home to be able to prolong their stay.
On a moderate budget, however, I would have happily stayed at Casa de la Bodega, a boutique hotel and vineyard which boasts the extraordinary perk of being located among the mesmerizing rock formations of the Quebrada de las Conchas.
Another regret was not visiting San Lorenzo, a suburb of Salta known for its lush beauty and hiking paths. I could have gone for the day or stayed at the affordable and highly recommended Selva Montana.