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Argentina – Northwest, Buenos Aires, Bariloche and El Bolson

December 2022 – February 2023

I traveled by bus from the Atacama Desert in Chile across the Andes to Argentina. I am enthusiastic about Argentina, especially the area around Salta and the Ruta 40 in the northwest of the country. This is now the third time I have visited this area for an extended period, after 2015 and 2017. The area is the perfect combination of incredible landscapes and culinary delights. In addition, Argentina is inexpensive for people with foreign currency.

Purmamarca

Coming from the Andes, Purmamarca is the first tourist town. As the photos show, hardly anything has changed here and that is a good thing.

The landscape was still breathtaking.

Only the peso exchange rate has changed dramatically. If I got 15 pesos for one US dollar in 2019, this time it was already 325 pesos. The highest notes were 1000s. As this note was only worth USD 3, I traveled with large bundles of bills to pay for the rental car or accommodation.

El Morado Bar Cafe

The desserts are homemade in this café.

So good!

Here the Argentinians celebrate their team’s victory over the Netherlands after an extremely exciting match and a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out. Argentina were through to the semi-finals!

Many of the inhabitants of this small town at the foot of the Andes are indigenous. A couple is getting married here.

Live bands played in the evenings. A panpipe was always playing.

On the way from Salta to Cachi

After picking up the rental car in Salta, I traveled over the 3,348-metre-high Cuesta del Obispo pass to Cachi.

This chapel stands on the pass. As last time, the pass was cloudy and cool.

On the way down to Cachi, the traveler passes the Parque Nacional Los Cardones with thousands of cacti.

Cachi

Cachi is a small Andean village on the famous Ruta 40 road.

Here I was able to experience another exuberant celebration by the Argentinians when the Argentinian national team beat Croatia 3 – 0.

Colomé winery

On my last trip to this region in 2017, I visited the winery with the highest vineyard in the world, the Colomé winery. This time I drove the bumpy Ruta 40 road and spent the night in the small village of Molinos so that I could visit the winery for a second time the next day. I had already signed up for the guided tour of the James Turrell Museum and lunch. As it had rained heavily a few days earlier, the road to the remote winery was impassable for my car, so I had to cancel my visit to the winery at short notice. What a pity!

I couldn’t cross this stream in my car.

El Cese Winery

Unfortunately, this winery 33 km south of Molinos was closed to visitors. According to the reviews, the wines are said to be excellent.

Ruta 40

Fantastic landscapes around the Ruta 40. I was already thrilled in 2015 and 2017!

Paris – Dakar? No, my rental car just before my destination Cafayate!

Cafayate

My destination was the small town of Cafayate, where I rented an apartment for 2 ½ weeks. I discovered this place on my trip in 2015 and also spent two weeks in the little town in 2017. It’s one of my favorite places. I wrote in 2017: ‘For me, there is hardly any other place where the combination of a peaceful life without stress and traffic, spectacular landscapes, great wineries and good food reaches this level’. I was delighted this time too.

After having my car washed the next day, I visited the first restaurant for lunch.

Wine Resort Vinas de Cafayate

Of course, it had to be a steak, as only the Argentinians can prepare it. I ordered a red wine from the Porvenir winery made from the local Tannat grape variety to go with it.

Porvenir Winery

There are many good wineries around Cafayate, but the wines from the Porvenir winery are even more intense. The white wine made from the local Torrontes grape and the red wine ‘Laborum Tannat single Wineyard’ made from the Tannat grape variety were excellent.

World champion celebration

In an incredibly exciting final, the Argentinians defeated France after Argentina had been leading 2:0 until the 80th minute. But Mbappé scored 2 goals within 2 minutes, leaving the game completely open again. After stoppage time, the score was 3:3, with Messi and Mbappé each scoring another goal. The Argentinians had the better nerves in the penalty shoot-out. Now there was no holding back in Cafayate. The celebrations went on for hours and motorcades drove through the town honking their horns.

Even the ambulance from the local hospital was there!

To celebrate the team properly, the government even declared a national holiday.

The country and its people have nothing to laugh about economically. All the more reason for me to give the Argentinians the title.

My daily routine was similar every day. I ate breakfast at the Flor del Valle Panaderia bakery and then drove around 20 km by car to the Quebrada de las Conchas valley to go hiking. During the two weeks, I found new side valleys every day, one more spectacular than the next! From 1 p.m., I enjoyed a hearty lunch at one of the many wineries.

Los Colorados hike

Simply spectacular!

Restaurant at the Piatelli winery

After a shower, I drove to the restaurant at the Piatelli winery. I’ve been there several times before (see 2015 and 2017). It’s always worth a visit, even though the estate’s wines are only average. Thanks to the weak peso, the price/performance ratio for the 5-course menu is excellent.

The meat of a currasceria in Cafayate

Around La Ventanas

The next day I hiked near an area called La Ventanas.

The following day I discovered the area further

Los Castillos

This area is called ‘The Castles’.

La Estancia de Cafayate

After another fantastic hike, I ate at the clubhouse of the Estancia de Cafayate. The estancia is beautiful and also has a golf course.

While the house wine was nothing special, the food tasted all the better.

The area around La Yesera

This area is also breathtaking!

Hiking near Los Estatos

Altalaluna Winery and Boutique Hotel

In the village of Tolombón, 15 km south of Cafayate, you will find the Altaluna winery, which is known for its excellent wines. The restaurant is also excellent. Here I eat a 500 gram, perfectly prepared ribeye steak (Ojo de Bife).

El Esteco winery

I had Christmas dinner at the Patios de Cafayate restaurant in the El Esteco winery. I already mentioned this winery in the report on my trip in 2015. The buffet was lavish and wonderful wines were served. I particularly remembered the excellent Argentinian sparkling wine ‘Baron B’ from the Uco Valley south of Mendoza.

Another hike around La Yesera

and around Los Estratos

Estancia Los Cardones

This remote estancia is located around 30 minutes by car from Cafayate. It was my first time here.

The only course was this ossobuco. I was still full. I was able to try their white wine Torrontes as well as the three red wines made from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache grapes. All wines were great!

A hike into a side valley of Los Colorados

Wow, wow, wow!

I also came across some cactus flowers.

Finca Las Nubes

After this hike, I recovered at Finca Las Nubes, where I enjoyed their sweet wine. The price was low, so I thought I was getting a glass of wine. However, the waitress came with a whole bottle.

I was too late to get a table at one of the gourmet restaurants for dinner on New Year’s Eve. However, Piatelli offered me lunch at the ‘Piatelli Wine Resort’. Normally, only hotel guests can eat there.

They didn’t offer a multi-course menu here, but an à la carte menu, which was more expensive than in the restaurant at the Piatelli winery. I was also not convinced by the food.

On January 1, I drove back to Salta and returned my rental car. I visited two more sights on the way.

View from the Tres Cruzes (Three Crosses) viewpoint

El Anfiteatro

I had lunch in a restaurant by the Lago Embalse Cabra Corral lake.

After a night in Salta, I flew to Buenos Aires, where I stayed in an apartment in the trendy San Telmo district for a few days.

Buenos Aires

The capital of Argentina is a reminder of the country’s former greatness and is always worth a visit.

You can find more information about this city in the Argentina travel reports from 2009 and 2014.

Obelisco

The 67.5-metre-high obelisk in the city center is a landmark of the city. It was erected in 1936 to celebrate the city’s 400th anniversary.

Plaza Dorrego

This square is the center of San Telmo and is surrounded by cafes and bars. Tango is danced here every afternoon and there is an antiques and art market on Sundays.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

National Geographic named this bookshop the most beautiful in the world. It is located in the former ‘Teatro Gran Splendid’, which was built in 1919.

Roux Restaurant

This plate looks nice, but the restaurant was not convincing.

Puerto Madero

Puerto Madera was once a disreputable harbor area. In the 1990s, the old port was transformed into a chic area with many restaurants, hotels, elegant houses, business premises, lofts and a private university.

Restaurant Chila

This was also the location of the gourmet restaurant Chila, which I had booked weeks in advance. I was thrilled! You can find my report on my visit to the restaurant here.

After 3 ½ weeks in Uruguay, I returned to Buenos Aires by ferry. This time I stayed in the hip Palermo district.

Palermo street art

In Palermo Soho, you can find art on the buildings in every street. Often the building owner has commissioned the artwork.

Of course, Messi and Diego Maradona are not to be missed.

Galerias Pacifico

Built in 1889, this Beaux-Arts building houses a shopping center and is known for its ceiling paintings.

Ecoparque Buenos Aires

Just 2 km from Palermo is an extensive park where a few animals roam free. This used to be the zoo. Due to concerns about the keeping of the animals, which were confirmed by a court ruling, the zoo closed in 2016. The animals were released into domestic and foreign nature reserves.

Floralis Genérica sculpture

This visit to another of the city’s landmarks is not to be missed. The sculpture was inaugurated in 2002 and has movable petals that close in the evening and open in the morning.

El Bolson

I flew to San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia. After one night, I took the bus to El Bolson, 121 km to the south. I had never been here before. As it lies in the rain shadow of the Andes, it has a mild, Mediterranean climate despite its southern location. From the 1970s onwards, hippies from Buenos Aires came here in search of a free life in nature. They grew their own plants and made handicrafts. Even today, a craft and art market is held every 2nd day.

They even grow hops.

A work of art in the center of the city

Rio Azul hike

Already at 8 o’clock in the morning, the bus drove to the village of Wharton, from where the hike along the Rio Azul started. There is no clear destination, but most people walk for about 3 hours to a place where the river forms pools where hardened hikers bathe in the cold water.

The path led over adventurous suspension bridges.

The river is known for its crystal-clear water.

The hike was a nice day trip, but I missed the views. That’s why I liked the hikes around Bariloche, my next destination, better. It was also important to be back in Wharton by 17:15 so as not to miss the bus back. After all, there was another bus 2 hours later.

Cerro (mountain) Amigo

Cerro Amigo can be reached on foot in 30 minutes from El Bolson. It offers a view over El Bolson and in the other direction to Mount Piltriquitron.

Lago Puelo

I reached Lake Puelo in 30 minutes by bus. A hike leads to a viewpoint.

After 6 days in El Bolson, I took the bus back to Bariloche, where I stayed for another 5 days.

San Carlos de Bariloche

After 2009 and 2017, this was my third time in Bariloche, as it is known for short. I had already done some hikes back then, but they are still worthwhile.

Cerro Llao Llao

Probably the best view in the Bariloche area!

I hiked on to Lake Nahuel Huapi, where Bariloche is also located.

The Arrayán trees grow here, which stand out due to their red-spotted bark. These trees can live up to 600 years.

Back in Bariloche, I bumped into another Messi fan.

Laguna Negra hike

I hiked to Laguna Negra for the first time. After taking the bus 24 km to Colonia Suiza, I started the 20 km hike with an altitude difference of 892 meters. I took lots of photo stops, because the area along a river was magical!

Laguna Negra

On the way back

Colonia Suiza

The Swiss colony was founded in 1883 when a couple from Saxon near Martigny in Switzerland emigrated to Argentina with their four children. The village now lives from tourism.

Hike to the Refugio Frey

I was already here on January 1, 2018. The area is unique, so I love to come back. The ascent from the Cathedral ski area takes around 3 hours. As the pictures show, it’s well worth the effort!

After two nights in Buenos Aires, I traveled on to the Baja California peninsula in Mexico. Argentina is always worth a trip! I will be back.