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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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SAO PAULO 6
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WALKING AROUND SAO PAULO

 

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EL PALAUET  15
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Living like a rockstar, right on Passeig de Gracia

(Barcelona) — It’s rare when you arrive at your hotel and it is actually as good as the pictures, if not better.  El Palauet Living Barcelona is one of those places. Good lord, I literally dropped my bags and ran around my two bedroom flat like a little kid.  More […]

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EL BORN 7
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A CHILL NEIGHBORHOOD IN BARCELONA

(Barcelona) — El Born is a cool, quiet neighborhood away from the crazy crowds. Perfect for walking around, cool shops, mellow restaurants and beautiful streets.  There’s a great little square with four or five outdoor cafes, perfect to just sit and watch Barcelona go by.  Go here. Here’s a good […]

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
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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 […]

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.
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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 […]

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IMG_7058
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Cool stuff to see amidst the hills and neighborhoods of Lisboa

[LISBON]  – Portugal was never really high up on my list, but over the last couple of years, the more and more I read about it, the more it moved up.  Conde Nast Traveler, Monocle, Travel & Leisure, AFAR, they all pointed to the rise of Portugal.  Despite its government […]

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FAENA HOTEL 10
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WHEN A PLACE HAS “HOTEL+UNIVERSE” IN ITS NAME, YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO GO THERE

(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 […]

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Saturnia - 28
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A hot springs in the middle of Tuscany

(Saturnia, Italy) — Just a few miles from Pitigliana is a cool like sulfur hot springs called Saturnia.  Just a cool little natural stop among all the cool undiscovered hill towns of Maremma.  It’s not much more than a slit in the earth on the side of the road, but […]

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WINTER BEACHES 10
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CHRISTMAS AT THE BEACH IN BARCELONA

Barcelona beaches  

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A perfectly preserved colonial town

(Paraty, Brazil) – Paraty tourism website    

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GAUDI 2
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GAUDI GAUDI GAUDI

(Barcelona) — If you’re going to Barcelona, you’re going to see a lot of Gaudi.  After all those schoolbooks and tests, never really got him. Walking around Barcelona with my head up for a week, I do now. These are some shots of two favorite houses along Passeig de Gracia. […]

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LISBON  - 165
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A BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD ON TOP OF IT ALL

  [LISBON] — Barrio Alto is it.  The perfect neighborhood to stay, to shop, to eat, to walk. Shop along Principe Real with all the cool local shops. Look over the city at one of the best parks. At night, all the pedestrian streets turn over to outdoor cafes, bars […]

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TIVOLI 11
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A classic amusement park right in the middle of the city

(Copenhagen) — You’ll read all about Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park built in the mid 1800s, it’s a top destination in Copenhagen.  But I suggest you hold off on visiting it until nighttime with all the lights come up and it takes on a whole new feel. There’s as many […]

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Il Pellicano - 087
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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 […]

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IMG_5383
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Movie Star Treatment Above Sunset Boulevard

  (West Hollywood) — On a quick business trip to Los Angeles, booked a cool hotel I’d always read about and featured often in Vanity Fair: the Sunset Tower hotel. Always loved this building for years, but have never stayed here. Luckily, I booked it on my favorite go-to hotel […]

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Novecento - 3
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A spacious, quiet hotel in the heart of Bologna

(Bologna) — There are some awesome hotels in cool Bologna, but as you’ll read elsewhere, tons of people have great things to say about all the hotels in the Art Hotels group.  My sister Janet recommended the Hotel Novecento and I always listen to my sister. I wasn’t disappointed. I […]

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Birch Coffee 076
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Great cups of coffee in New York

       

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AUSTIN SOUTH CONGRESS - 23
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A walk along a hip strip of Austin

(Austin) — Austin keeps going and going. And growing and growing. I know all my local friends bemoan the influx of new people, Californication and other bad elements, but really, there is so much cool stuff going on here, it puts most of the rest of the country to shame. […]