Moving on from Salta, our next stop was Cafayate, a small wine town about 189 kilometres southish of Salta. It’s not that far away distance-wise, but the drive took a good 9-10 hours, partly because we took a roundabout route through a small town called Cachi, made lots of stops (lots of amazing scenery!), and 80% of the road from Cachi to Cafayate was unpaved.
We (when I say we, I mean Alastair, myself, and our driver Raoul) left Salta early in the morning, heading down National Route 40 through Quebrada de Escoipe and Cuesta del Obispo.
The scenery, oh my god, the scenery on this drive was amazing – we climbed a twisty mountain road, the Cuesta del Obispo, which gave stunning views of the surrounding bright green vegetation covered mountains contrasting with the occasional pink hills and Escopie Valley.
I realise there’s far too many photos in this post. I’m sorry.
During one of our stops, Alastair and I made friends with a llama and a dog.
After a few hours climbing the mountain road, we reached Los Cardones National Park, named after the thousands of cactuses (cardones) that grow there. This park was incredible – mostly high altitude plains (between 2700m-5000m) covered with numerous cactuses.
Driving through it was hard to tell exactly how tall they were, but when we made a stop and had the opportunity to walk up to them, we realised that some of them were easily three metres tall. They’re very slow growing, only growing about 1-5cm each year, so some would be easily 250-300 years old. We were lucky to visit when many of them were flowering.
We stopped for a while in Cachi, which is supposedly a small town but seemed more like a village. We had a coffee here, walked around (it took about 10 minutes), and then sat in the shade of the town square and took selfies (as you do).
Then we travelled onwards for a couple of hours before stopping for lunch in the small town of Molinos, at Hacienda de Molinos. This hacienda dates back to the 18th century and was previously home to the last governor of Salta who was appointed by the King of Spain. Nowadays, it’s a rather nice hotel, with a gorgeous central patio.
We ate lunch outside, underneath the large pepper tree. The food was only okay, but the location was beautiful for sure and after being in the car for such a long time, it was nice to have a long break.
[Side note – we didn’t have time (plus we weren’t driving) but there’s a highly recommended winery called Colomé that’s 20km from Molinos that’s apparently well worth a visit. At 2300m, they produce the highest altitude wines in the world. (They also have food and accommodation.) ]
Leaving Molinos, we continued along Ruta 40 (Route 40) along the bumpy unsealed road – through the Calchaquies Valley until we reached Quebrada de las Flechas – Valley of the Arrows – which is named for the horizontal rock strata which has been thrust up vertically giving the appearance of arrow heads. It’s remarkably striking.
There are also a ton of photos BECAUSE LOOK.
(That’s the SUV that Raoul drove in the middle of the picture.)
I really love these otherworldly barren type of landscapes.
A couple of hours through this gorgeous scenery and we arrived in Cafayate – more on that next!