IT’S LIKE BEING IN YOUR OWN DREAM SEQUENCE Salinas Grandes | Salta, Argentina

(Jujuy, Argentina) — Play the voiceover from the Voice of God dude in movie trailers: “In a world where…” and you’ll get a feeling what it’s like to make the trip to Salinas Grandes, a well-worth-it side detour from traveling up the Humahuaca Gorge in Jujuy province.

Taking a steep and windy left from the main road, you go up and over the switchbacks, often through the clouds, into a high arid plain, with the Salinas Grandes (salt flats) looming as a mirage at the distance. You see it and you keep driving. It seems close, but it is far away. Cranking great Salteno music on the stereo and chomping on cocoa leaves, it is like descending into the dream sequence of your own personal movie. There are no special effects, because it is real. Or unreal, once you get down to the shimmering reflections of the salt flats off the main road. The clouds. The shallow water. The unbelievable silence. The intense sun that fries you in minutes.

My trusty and encyclopedic guide, Augustin, parked his powerful Ford F250 off the side of the road with the doors open and music adding to the perfectly surreal effect as we enjoyed a fine lunch-ona-rock with wine, cheese and cured meat sandwiches. Even spending just moments there, you will remember the hallucinatory views for the rest of your life. When friends see these pics, they go “Ooooooh, where’s that?”

Driving up and over from the Humahuacha Gorge, you cross even more stunning geology changes as you come over the hump.

 

I’m not one for personal guides, but I did hook up with the incredible Augustin, a former gaucho with encyclopedic knowledge of every nook and cranny of the region. The history, the music, the geology, the physics and where to load up on mate and cocoa leaves. I would recommend him in a heartbeat and can’t wait to explore new areas with him.

 

Like a mirage, for dozens of kilometers you see the shimmering Salinas Grandes in the distance, but it keeps looming. And you go and you go until you get close and realize how vast the entire area is. The air is so clear and thin, distances are hard to judge.

 

 

Looks like the movie poster for “Man Facing Southeast”. Everything is surreal.

 

Here’s an overly long video that brings to life the geography of Salta:

YOU SHOULD Go HereApril 22, 2012

PUMAMARCO 8

MORE COLORS OF ROCK THAN YOU’VE EVER SEEN Purmamarca and the Camino de los Colorado | Salta, Argentina

(Purmamarca, Argentina) — Right on the Salta/Jujuy provincial borders are two must see stops: the dusty Andean town of Purmamarca and just around the corner, the incredible Camino de los Colorado, a two mile amusement ride of colors that wrap around behind Purmamarca. Stop in for a lunch in town, dominated […]

YOU SHOULD Go HereJune 3, 2012

LABOCA 1

A SMALL POCKET OF COLOR Walking La Boca | Buenos Aires

(Buenos Aires) — La Boca, you’ll read all about it, see pictures of it in your Spanish textbook, but it’s kinda cool. I hear it is a little dicey at night, I was only there during the day. A little too touristy for me, but worth a stop.  

YOU SHOULD Go HereMay 11, 2012

PATAGONIASUR 2

COOKING WITH FIRE IN BUENOS AIRES Francis Mallmann's Patagonia Sur | Buenos Aires

(Buenos Aires) — Continuing my pursuit of visiting all the restaurants of my favorite chef, Francis Mallmann, after an all-night flight, I had a five hour layover at the Buenos Aires airport.  I planned to take a car into the city to have lunch at his famous restaurant Patagonia Sur in […]

YOU SHOULD Eat HereMay 10, 2012

HUMAHUACO GORGE 3

A CANYON LIKE A PALM READER FOR THE EARTH Humahuaca Gorge | Salta, Argentina

(Salta, Argentina) — On a northern spur of highway, just north of Salta city lies the stratified painter’s palette of the Humahuaca Gorge, one of several UNESCO World Heritage sites in the jaw dropping valleys and deserts of Salta province.   The gorge starts on the northern edge of Salta […]

YOU SHOULD Go HereMay 3, 2011

SONY DSC

A VINEYARD ON TOP OF THE WORLD Estancia Colome | Molinos, Argentina

(Molinos, Salta, Argentina) — Estancia Colome is a place I had read a few things about, mostly its magical high-altitude vineyard and its remote, very remote location. But what really attracted me to make the long journey was that it also is home to the only museum dedicated to one […]

YOU SHOULD Go HereMarch 22, 2011

PATIOS DE CAFAYETE 1

A villa in the vineyards Patios de Cafayate | Cafayate, Argentina

(Cafayate, Argentina) — This is really a pretty place. The Patios de Cafayete — almost the most perfect Spanish style villa and grounds you can imagine.  The reviews are sometimes mixed, but  I loved it.  Maybe while pretty, it might be lacking a soul with some of the people working there. […]

YOU SHOULD Eat HereMarch 13, 2011

SALTA RUTA 68 21

IF RED IS YOUR COLOR, THIS IS YOUR DRIVE Ruta 68 from Cafayete to Salta | Salta, Argentina

  \   View Larger Map  

YOU SHOULD Go HereMarch 12, 2011

Ruta 40

DRIVING DOWN THE SPINE OF ARGENTINA RUTA 40 | SALTA, ARGENTINA

  (Salta, Argentina) — In the northwest province of Salta, you run into the famed Ruta 40 which runs 5K kilometers of Argentina, from tip to tail. At this section its more like a dirt road than the highway it is named. I picked it up near the dusty Andean […]

YOU SHOULD Go HereMarch 11, 2011

RUTA332 1

See the entire geological history of the world in a four hour drive Driving Ruta 33 from Salta to Cachi | Salta, Argentina

  (Salta, Argentina)  You probably haven’t heard much about Salta, in the far northwest quadrant of Argentina, but the word is starting to spread. While everyone knows of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Patagonia, it seems like Salta has just opened up. You take a two hour flight from Buenos Aires […]

YOU SHOULD Go HereMarch 7, 2011

HOUSE OF JASMINES 3

STAY ON YOUR OWN ESTANCIA House of Jasmines | Salta, Argentina

(Salta, Argentina) — A few miles outside of Salta is a perfect hotel and spa in the country. A luxurious estancia-turned-hotel (and the actor Robert Duval’s former place) it’s the perfect base to explore Salta province, easy to connect to the highways into the mountains, yet being away from the […]

YOU SHOULD Eat HereMarch 3, 2011

PORTO MADERO 3

POSTCARDS OF BUENOS AIRES Buenos Aires

Here’s a great BA guide from Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and NYTimes.    

YOU SHOULD Go HereJune 24, 2009

SAN TELMO 11

A SUNDAY AT THE MARKET San Telmo | Buenos Aires

(San Telmo, Buenos Aires)  Go to see the San Telmo market on Sundays. The whole neighborhood is taken over for market-goers, a lively scene, and cool stuff all over the place. Here are some suggestions from Travel & Leisure.    

YOU SHOULD Do ThisJune 24, 2007

FAENA HOTEL 10

WHEN A PLACE HAS “HOTEL+UNIVERSE” IN ITS NAME, YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO GO THERE Faena Hotel & Universe | Buenos Aires

(Buenos Aires) — When I first went to Buenos Aires in 2005, the Puerto Madero waterfront redevelopment has only been completed for a short time. When I first saw pictures of the soaring lobby of the Faena Hotel & Universe in a travel magazine, I just knew I had to […]

YOU SHOULD Stay HereDecember 3, 2005

YOU SHOULD

FERNANDEZ AND WELLS 1
FERNANDEZ AND WELLS 1
close

SIMPLICITY DONE RIGHT

(London) — When you’re out and about in SoHo in London, look for these simple places. Fernandez & Wells. Nothing fancy, just a beautiful little shoebox of restaurants, with simple sandwiches and espresso. Dramatic simplicity at it’s best.

Proof that simple can be good. Damn good.
Proof that simple can be good. Damn good.
close

The only restaurant in Praiano. Who needs another?

(Praino) —  A teeny little restaurant right on the water underneath the Onde Verde, we avoided it at first…just some bamboo and plastic chairs clinging to the rocks right on the water. It was one of the best meals all of us every had. While we were eating, a fisherman pulled his boat right […]

IMG_0569
IMG_0569
close

TALK ABOUT A ROOM WITH A VIEW

       

Hotel de Russie - 13
Hotel de Russie - 13
close

Your own private garden in the heart of busy, noisy Roma.

(Rome) — Rome is known for having small, cramped hotel rooms, but the Hotel de Russie doesn’t suffer from that. The gardens alone are worth the expense, although the elegant rooms and excellent spa round it off. It’s a Rocco Forte hotel, so the service is something you can depend on. […]

SONY DSC
SONY DSC
close

A VINEYARD ON TOP OF THE WORLD

(Molinos, Salta, Argentina) — Estancia Colome is a place I had read a few things about, mostly its magical high-altitude vineyard and its remote, very remote location. But what really attracted me to make the long journey was that it also is home to the only museum dedicated to one […]

I think this is my favorite beach. It doesn't seem real, with this looming beautiful piece of the inner earth, thrusting out over perfect, flawless sand.  And a delightful beach bar. And nobody else.
I think this is my favorite beach. It doesn't seem real, with this looming beautiful piece of the inner earth, thrusting out over perfect, flawless sand.  And a delightful beach bar. And nobody else.
close

The paradise nobody really knows about

(Fernando de Naronha, Brazil) — My sign of a perfect vacation?  Not seeing another American for the whole trip.  Fernando de Noronha is one of those places.  About 200 miles off the Pernambuco coast of Brazil, there’s a small group of volcanic islands rising 13,000ft off the ocean floor that’s […]

buziossunset3_2
buziossunset3_2
close

AN UPSCALE FISHING VILLAGE

(Buzios, Brazil) – Frommer’s guide. Buzios Online website. A light Wikipedia page. Travel & Leisure’s Buzios Guide.   View Larger Map

IMG_7332
IMG_7332
close

A brand new pousada, built into a really old fort

    [CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — In a cool old fort ringing the Cascais harbor is the Pousada Cascais, a brand new hotel voted on Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List. Lot’s have been written up about it and it is certainly a cool location, nice and new but I was a […]

To get to Tiscali, you take a several hour hike up a valley, then a ridge, then find a hidden crevasse takes you into the hidden ancient settlement. It is like Lost Horizon
To get to Tiscali, you take a several hour hike up a valley, then a ridge, then find a hidden crevasse takes you into the hidden ancient settlement. It is like Lost Horizon
close

A trek into a secret hidden civilization in the Sardinian mountains

(Tiscali, Sardinia)  – If you’ve ever seen the old movie Lost Horizon, you’d think hidden ancient civilizations are a thing of fiction. But the long-abandoned Tiscali nuraghi settlement is just such a magical place.  Invisible from the rest of the world for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered in […]

ESTRELA DAGUA 32
ESTRELA DAGUA 32
close

400 Thread Count, steps from the beach

(Trancoso, Brazil) — This really is a great hotel, but also one of the most expensive. You can get a bungalow by the beach (but not really on the beach) or they have nice rooms set farther back in the property. (check out the aerial view below).  For about half […]

STOCKHOLM 1
STOCKHOLM 1
close

A WALK THROUGH GAMLA STAN

(Stockholm) — In the heart of Stockholm is the city’s Old Town or Gamla Stan.  Sweden’s “Venice of the North” is all built on a series of islands and Gamla Stan is right smack in the middle of them. No cars are allowed, so you can calmly walk it’s twisted, […]

VILLA ITALIA CAISCAIS - 26
VILLA ITALIA CAISCAIS - 26
close

A classic hotel in a quiet seaside Portugal town

    [CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — Another great hotel in Cascais, is the Villa Italia, just outside of the town, and right along the rock coast.  Within walking distance, it is a perfect location to serve as your base of operations for exploration all along the Lisbon coast.  For some reason […]

RANDOM PARIS 6
RANDOM PARIS 6
close

A WALK AROUND PARIS

Here’s a great great blog I subscribe to called HiP Paris blog. And there’s a great post on The Best Places To People Watch in Paris. Check it out.

Il Pellicano - 087
Il Pellicano - 087
close

A dining destination on the quiet Maremma coast.

(Porto Ercole, Italy) — Il Pellicano is a famous destination resort on the western Tuscan coast of Maremma. It has a legend and a following, attracting the Portofino crowd (which is not really my style, but the place is still cool.) Being a Relais & Chateaux hotel, the hotel is […]

ALPS 4
ALPS 4
close

SCOOTING ALONG THE EDGE OF THE ALPS

(25,000 ft) — Not a big story here, just a nice ride along the edge of the Swiss and French Alps on the way to BCN. On a crystal-clear morning, it felt like you could just reach out and touch ‘em.  

RUTA332 1
RUTA332 1
close

See the entire geological history of the world in a four hour drive

  (Salta, Argentina)  You probably haven’t heard much about Salta, in the far northwest quadrant of Argentina, but the word is starting to spread. While everyone knows of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Patagonia, it seems like Salta has just opened up. You take a two hour flight from Buenos Aires […]

Villa Borghese Gardens - 21
Villa Borghese Gardens - 21
close

Get away from all the crowds and take a walk in the park

(Rome, Italy) — When you get sick of all the tour buses and streets clogged with tourist groups, head up to the top of the Via Venato to the Villa Borghese Gardens, one of the most tranquil parts of Rome.  Vast, sprawling acres of grass, trees and cool little features, […]

IMG_7205
IMG_7205
close

If I could build my own castle, it would look like this.

[SINTRA, PORTUGAL] – Sintra is not just a single town, but an entire wooded (unusually so in these arid parts) nature preserve about an hour and a half outside of Lisbon. Definitely well worth the drive and easy to find — the roads and signs in Portugal are outstanding.  Plan […]