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

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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

FERNANDO DE NORONHA 104
FERNANDO DE NORONHA 104
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A volcano poking out of the ocean

(Fernando de Naronha, Brazil) — Here’s a great article in Conde Nast Traveler that does a better job than me describing the magic realism of Fernando de Noronha.        

Madrid Temple de Dedron - 25
Madrid Temple de Dedron - 25
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AN EGYPTIAN TEMPLE OVERLOOKING MADRID

(Madrid) – Perched high on a hill in Parque del Oeste is a true Egyptian temple given to Spain as the Aswan High Damn was about to swallow it up. Now it sits in a perfect park overlooking the hills of Madrid and the Royal Palace. Go at night when it […]

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STOCKHOLM 31
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A WALK AROUND STOCKHOLM

Here’s a great recap article of all the cool new New Nordic Cuisine in Sweden in the July 2012 Conde Nast Traveler.

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CANAL ST MARTIN 1
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GET SOME AIR AND SOME ELBOW ROOM WITH A WALK ALONG THE CANAL

(Paris) — One of Paris’ booming neighborhoods is the Canal Saint-Martin. You can’t miss it on the map, it’s the big gash right over there on the right. Go for a mid-day stroll, up and down the foot bridges. I was there in November, but I hear it’s jammed with […]

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SEINE AT NIGHT 8
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NOTHING BETTER THAN A NIGHT WALK ALONG THE SEINE

(Paris) — It’s a river, so nothing ever gets old. The scenery floats by. And the light changes by the hour. Instead of taking a nap, start around dusk, when the grey Paris skies turn pink and the lights come up. Get down on the water, it’s almost your very own […]

You have to walk a bunch of steps to get to it, but you're perched right on the edge of the hill.
You have to walk a bunch of steps to get to it, but you're perched right on the edge of the hill.
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Hang right out over the sea.

(Positano) — This is my second favorite place in Positano. It’s a hoof to get down the steps from the main road, but when you’re there, you are just clinging to the side of the cliff. It really doesn’t suck.  Very nice people, exceptional rooms. Can’t go wrong. Expensive.  http://www.miramarepositano.it/english/index.php

After a hard day at the beach....the pool
After a hard day at the beach....the pool
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Right up there in the top five

(Fernando de Noronha, Brazil) — Now this place is truly special. On this magical isle is a magical place, Pousada Maravilha.  After doing some online scoping and then staying there and checking out the other top places, this is the nicest place on the island. There are other cool places, […]

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HOTEL UNIQUE 9
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A HOTEL LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE

(Sao Paulo) — Catching all the buzz in design circles, my excellent SP guide John took me by to see the boat/watermelon-shaped Hotel Unique.  It really is a stunning place, designed by Ruy Ohtake, the lobby bar being my favorite, with a towering, cantilevered bottle display that rises several stories. There’s a […]

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THE PERFECT BEACH TOWN

(Jose Ignacio, Uruguay) — That’s right, this might be it.  About a half hour north of the Miami-like Punta del Este is a small peninsula that juts just right out into the ocean. Surrounded on three sides by beaches, Jose Ignacio is the definition of “rustic elegance”. A sleepy town […]

Orvieto church interior
Orvieto church interior
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A church (and a town) on a hill

(Orvieto, Italy) — About an hour’s drive north of Roma is the mountain top village of Orvieto. It’s a great mid-day stop if you’re on your way form Rome to Florence or Tuscany. Really cool church, with really modern-looking stripey theme going on. Excellent stop for lunch in the quiet […]

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TRANCOSO BEACHES 7
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MILES AND MILES OF PRISTINE BEACHES IN BAHIA

(Trancoso, Brazil) — Bahia is where it’s at. Miles and miles of the most amazing beaches you’ve ever seen. Not clogged with people, just pristine sand, amazingly green water and lots and lots of perfect strolling. Trancoso is in the center of it all. You should go here. I’m not […]

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Bologna - 005
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A city of reds, ochres, porticos and pork.

(Bologna, Italy) — Bologna was about 237th on my list of places I wanted to visit, but when a Rome school buddy of mine suggested we meet there to eat, I jumped at the chance. Man oh man what a gorgeous city. Almost every block is covered with some sort […]

Atacama Desert Devil's Canyon - 047
Atacama Desert Devil's Canyon - 047
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A VISIT TO THE DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH….WITH NICE SHEETS

[ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE] – I am seriously months (and many countries) behind on posts; damn work keeps getting in the way. So forgive me, dear reader, as I try to catch up….. The Atacama Desert. Good lord. I’ve read about it, saw films about it, including this remarkable one, and was […]

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HOTEL BARRIO ALTO - 09
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A perfect hotel in the heart of Lisbon’s Barrio Alto

    [LISBON, PORTUGAL) — The Hotel Barrio Alto is one of the most perfect hotels I’ve stayed in. A small hotel right of the main Praca Luis de Carnões square near Chiado, it’s the ideal location to explore all the shops, restaurants and sites of winding streets of Barrio Alto. […]

Villa Cerretello Tuscany
Villa Cerretello Tuscany
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THE PERFECT TUSCAN VILLA FOR YOU AND 20 OF YOUR CLOSEST FRIENDS

(Montaione, Tuscany) — Let the hoards of English, Germans and Americans crowd the overly popular Under The Tuscan Sun areas south of Florence and the tourist-choked villages of Montepulciano. To me, I loved staying on the western edges of Tuscany centered around the cool and undiscovered town of Montaione. The […]

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MADISON SQUARE PARK ORLY GENGER - 30
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Always something new at Madison Square Park

(New York) — Each summer there’s a new epic art installation at Madison Square Park that is subtle, but always blows you away.  This year, there’s a new installation by Orly Genger based on thousand and thousands of miles of tied knots of lobster rope, looping around the trees in […]

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Castelo de São Jorge - 30
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If i were to build a fort, it would look like this

[LISBON] — High overlooking Lisboa, is the Castelo de São Jorge, one of the coolest forts I’ve seen. Lots of excellent shooting points, areas of properly dispersing hot oil and other general harassment.  It’s a great thing to do in the morning or sunset.  You can take the trolly up, […]

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FERNANDO DE NORONHA 62
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WHERE TO EAT IN PARADISE

(Fernando de Naronha, Brazil) — As a still developing tourist destination..and only 450 tourists allowed on the island a day… the restaurant scene on Fernando de Naronha still has some ways to go.  But there are some incredible standouts I tried. And am still thinking about. About the most dramatic […]