The most incredible parts of a faraway land often are discovered well off the tourist track, as demonstrated by Vaya Adventures (http://www.vayaadventures.com), an expert in designing premier bespoke vacations in South America. A perfect example of this can be found in two different weeklong itineraries to seldom-explored regions of northern Argentina.
One itinerary set in the far northwest of the country skirts the Argentinean Andes as it visits the world’s highest-altitude vineyard; the other is in the extreme northeast of the country delves into the world’s second largest wetland and World Heritage Jesuit Missions.
“Some parts of northwest Argentina are reminiscent of the remote American southwest, but with many decidedly Argentine cultural twists (well-preserved colonial towns, gaucho culture), and quite a few surprises. Among them are Colomé, home to the world’s highest vineyards and an otherworldly museum of works by artist James Turrell,” wrote Vaya Adventures founder and owner Jim Lutz in a recent blog post.
Northwest Argentina: Culture & Wine in a Land of Extremes is an eight-day/seven-night trip that takes guests to Salta for two nights to enjoy a subtropical highland climate with colonial architecture reminiscent of Spain. Days four and five find guests in Molinos for a tasting and lunch at Colomé, the world’s highest vineyard, founded by Donald Hess of Hess Vineyard in Napa. The property also has an exceptional on-site museum, an 18,000-square-foot installation dedicated exclusively to James Turrell, an American artist whose works are primarily concerned with light and space. Turrell was invited by Hess to help design the facility specifically for showcasing his works. Nights are spent at the Hacienda Molinos, a restored 18th century hacienda.
After ample time for tasting and exploring, travelers venture onward through the surreal landscape in and around the wine-growing region of Cafayate, which Lonely Planet calls “one of northwest Argentina’s most seductive destinations.” Among the highlights is the breathtaking Quebrada de las Flechas (Gorge of the Arrows), where hiking and biking opportunities exist. Wine tasting in and around the town of Cafayate, renowned both for its natural setting in the Calchaquí Valley and its highly successful cultivation of the increasingly popular Torrontés grape, rounds out the trip. Nights in Cayafate are spent at Patios de Cafayate, an estate with 32 rooms and its own vineyards.
The per person double rate is from $3,530. See: http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/northwest-argentina-culture-wine-land-extremes/
The far northeast of Argentina, made up of the adjoining Corrientes and Misiones provinces, is an area usually visited only as a short one or two-day visit to the iconic Iguazú Falls. “Taking more time helps expose the rich cultural and natural heritage of the entire region, something most travelers to Iguazú Falls never have the chance to experience.” says Lutz.
Off the Beaten Path in Argentina: Iberá, Jesuit Missions & Iguazú Falls is a nine-day/eight-night “nature & culture safari” that starts with an overnight in Buenos Aires before moving out to Esteros de Iberá, the world’s second-largest wetland, located in Corrientes province. This remote nature sanctuary shelters howler monkeys, river otters, capybara, maned wolves, marsh deer, rhea, caiman (in staggering quantities) and with over 350 species of birds, it is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Lodging options include remote lodges and historic estancias. Guests ride horses, trek through the forest, canoe along the reserve, bird watch and more. (Two of the top lodging options in the area include the charming Aguape Lodge and the more exclusive Rincon de Socorro; the latter is owned by Doug Tompkins, the founder of North Face and Esprit who is active in Chilean and Argentine conservation.)
On day five guests travel north into Misiones province along the route of the massive Paraná Riverto the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jesuit Missions in San Ignacio http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/275. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Jesuit missionaries from Spain built ornate baroque missions and community dwellings deep in the forest, where they sought to convert the indigenous people of the Guaraní tribe to Christianity and also worked to protect them from Brazilian/Portuguese slavers coming over in slave raids from Sao Paulo.
Continuing north from the Missions, guests spend two nights at the unique and refined Posada Puerto Bemberg, founded by the family that ownsArgentina’s largest brewery (Quilmes). This little known first class lodging option is in a restored mansion from which guests can explore the jungle via riverboat rides, bicycling, jungle treks and nature walks, providing an opportunity to experience and learn about the rainforest environment and its abundant bird and animal species, as well as the Guaraní people who have inhabited the region for centuries. An additional option is to visit a mate plantation, in the area where the Guaraní were the first to serve the now ubiquitous yerba maté tea. Less than an hour from Iguazú Falls, Posada Bemberg provides a much deeper experience in Misiones province and the surrounding area of Iguazú Falls than visitors who just see the famous falls will ever get.
Days seven and eight showcase IguazúFallswith a stay at Hotel das Cataratas, a Belmond (formerly Orient Express) property. This hotel exemplifies five-star hospitality and is the only hotel within Brazil’s Iguassu National Park and a two-minute walk to the falls.
The per person rate is from $4,965. See: http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/off-beaten-path-argentina-ibera-jesuit-missions-iguazu-falls/
The rates for both programs that begin and end in Buenos Aires include all accommodations and transfers; some meals; all guiding, excursions and entrance fees. International air and in-country air are not included. Year-round departures are arranged for two or more.