Punta Del Este, Uruguay + Salta / Jujuy, Argentina

At the last minute I almost did not go on this trip because of work.  In the end I decided I would rather have one eye on my inbox than not go at all.  The value of travel has many different currencies and yes, it would have been ideal to be able to disconnect and press the reset button but guess what?  I got to experience and explore parts of the world that were completely new to me and that was pretty fucking cool, with or without my phone in hand.  Key Learning folks: It IS possible to stay connected and enjoy a trip, whoop.

The impetus behind this trip was a friend’s wedding in Punta Del Este.  I was traveling with two friends and we spent the first and very quick night in Buenos Aires.  We stayed at the beautiful Park Hyatt, loved the terrace and garden and the wine and cheese tasting with their sommelier and cheese monger was TOPS.  We had dinner at Proper, which seems to be the spot in BA at the moment.  It’s an unmarked, old mechanic’s garage (of course) and feels like Brooklyn meets the indoor version of Tulum’s Hartwood and has bomb food (though we waited way too long for a table).   Early the next morning, we headed to the famous Buquebus, which is a ferry that feels like a cruise ship and you check your bags like you’re at the airport, go through customs (AR–>UY), put gauze booties over your shoes, hop on the boat, eat snacks, drink coffee, shop duty free onboard, then boom you’re in Montevideo Uruguay.  From there we rented a car and it’s a 2.5 hour drive to Punta Del Este.

PUNTA DEL ESTE

People often refer to Punta as the Hamptons for Argentinians.  The reality is that it’s everything I wish the Hamptons actually was.  It’s chic but relaxed and unpretentious.  It’s slow and beachy but there’s great restaurants, shops, and things to do.  In only a few days we managed to spend time in Punta, Manantiales, and Jose Ingacio.

STAY: The Fasano Punta Del Este has taken the spot as my favorite hotel, this is THE SHIT. It opened in December and though it was the end of the season, it felt way too empty for how stunning it is- word is def not out yet on this one.  The grounds, rooms, spa, pool and restaurants are out of a fairy tale.  Photos! photos! photos!

EAT: The spot for breakfast is La Linda in Manantiales- coffee and all the baked goods.  For lunch, I could eat at the Fish Market every. damn. day. (there’s not even a good page to link it to which makes me love it even more). The tuna, ceviche, calamari, and juices were so fresh and delish.  We also had lunch at La Huella in Jose Ignacio.  Everyone raves about this place, the food was good but it’s such a scene and they rushed us the whole time. For dinner, the restaurant at the Fasano was a total treat and my hands down fave dinner was this place called Cantina del Vigia which is about a 15 minute drive from Punta, very authentic with the warmest people and bomb Italian food.

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the kitchen at Cantina del Vigia

KNOW: You definitely need a car to get around. Book your Buquebus reservations ahead of time and leave plenty of time (at least an hour) for check in shenanigans at the Buque, especially leaving from BA…that place is a mess with a million lines for checking bags, check in, customs for AR, customs for UY, etc.  Moula- Most places in Punta took AR pesos, UY pesos or US dollars with a few exceptions.  Skeeters- the bugs are OUT, bring the OFF.

I wish we had more time in Punta, it felt fast and we only got to hit a portion of places we wanted to- back soon for sure!

 

SALTA AND JUJUY

About a year ago I had seen photos of a friend’s trip to Northern Argentina.  It stuck with me and I knew if I made it to that general region I had to make it happen.  Most Americans who visit Argentina never make it North.  There are quite a few tourists, but most come from Chile, Peru, Bolivia, etc. Salta and Jujuy are considered the “heartland” of Argentina.  As soon as you arrive you are aware that these people are native Argentines with bloodlines tracing back to the same land you are standing on.  Jujuy has more indigenous Argentines than any other region and you can feel the tradition all around you and see it in their faces.  The terrain changes frequently, you go from mountains to forests to volcanic gravel to straight desert.  Getting there from Uruguay was a beast but worth it.

STAY: Our first night in Salta we stayed at the lovely Finca Valentina.  It’s a simple yet beautiful farmhouse style inn owned by a an Italian couple with great taste.  They also happen to own the tour company Socompa that led us on this journey.  There’s two hotel in the area that everyone talks about, Finca is one and House of Jasmines is the other.  They are both beautiful, made for the gram, tranquil, luxurious blahdyblahblah.  Basically like every Mr & Mrs Smith luxury recommendations in small, rural towns.

At the end of our Northern Argentina journey (described below), we stayed in a place that will make me nostalgic for years to come.  It’s called Los Colorados in the town of Purmamarca and sits tucked into these magical red rocks that cast a spiritual spell that you have to go and feel for yourself.

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Los Colorados (the “terrace” of our room)

DO: I can count the number of guides and tours that I have liked in my life on one hand.  For the Salta/Jujuy trek you need a guide and you need a GOOD guide who is from the area and has a 4WD vehicle. There’s not enough positive things I can say about our dear Alejandro from the Socompa Tour Company.  He was chill always (even when we got a flat tire), knowledgable and informative (in a non annoying way), he shared his Mate tea and crackers, he stopped a million times when we wanted to jump out and take photos, his English was perfect from a year spent in Sarasota Florida, he somehow found us in the pouring rain when we could not find a single restaurant to have dinner in and led us to the most delicious meal, and even after the 10th time of us blasting Gaga’s Alejandro in his honor and singing his anthem at the top of our lungs he never stopped smiling.

THE ROUTE: From Salta we headed North along the Train to the Clouds route (the iconic train that connects Northern Argentina to Chile through the Andes).  The first stop was a teeny tiny town of only 12 families, I think it’s called Campo Quijno but not 100% on that.  They have a cute historic museum, some handmade items for sale and a house to worship in, which is actually all quite impressive for a town of 12 families.  It’s also a nice spot to stop and take a minute to sip Mate and hear about the history of the town as displayed here by Ale and Lynne:

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We continued North and made Ale stop at least a dozen times for us to jump out and take one million photos of llamas.  LLAMAS people, LLAMAS.  Llamas are everywhere in Northern Argentina.  I fell in love with these creatures and would go bananas whenever we saw them- I also grew to enjoy eating them (sorry llamas).  Here’s ONE example but please ask me for more, dying to show.

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We stopped for lunch (in a town I can’t recall and sans internet it was hard to track) about an hour short of the salt flats.  This was my first taste of Northern Argentina empanadas (people from there will tell you they invented the empanada though it’s up for debate).  Either way, they have bomb empanadas AND it was my first taste of llama, which I could not have loved more.

 

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Fat and happy we carried on to the Salinas Grandes.  I’ve never seen salt flats and have wanted to for some time now.  The vastness is breathtaking and it’s wild how few people are there.  It started to feel like we were the last people left on earth post apocalypse (morbid).  The flats are a working resource for Argentina and there are mining areas for sodium and potassium.  It feels quiet yet windy and the salt makes everything dry and the sun is reflecting so hard off of the salt that you are baking in the sun.  We played out there for at least an hour.  There’s also a few stalls selling salt trinkets so I of course bought llamas made out of salt.

From there we made it to our lovely home in Purmamarca.  If you go ONE place in Argentina, find a way to get here.  It’s in the Jujuy provence (way north, close to Bolivia) and it is heaven.  The hotel mentioned above, Los Colorados, is magic but really the whole town is.  We arrived about 4pm which gave us just enough time for a hike through the red rocks.

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SHOP: You know this post could not go down without even a small Shop section.  We barely had time but Purmamarca is a shoppers paradise and I managed to do some healthy damage in even a few short hours.  There are at least two dozen stores jam packed with textiles, crafts, sweaters, shoes, ALL HANDMADE, ALL THE THINGS I LOVE.  I mostly bought a lot of handmade llamas (obvi) but here’s a look at me in heaven and I did this over and over and over in a sheer state of euphoria.

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There’s a main town square that is also packed with vendors selling just about everything.  The town is small so it’s all there in one spot.  Ah, bring me back!

EAT: There’s only a few restaurants for dinner and they are in the same area.  Loved where we ate, it was called Tierra de Colores, food was delish and they had live music. They had a little wine market in there as well and the server helped us select a great local wine.  Wines from the north are some of Argentina’s best but don’t have the recognition in the states that those from Mendoza do.

Leaving you with this view, Purmamarca from a distance, the whole town tucked into the rocks special little Polly Pocket.

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