RN 40 and RP 68, Cafayate, Salta Province
Editor's note — We have received numerous comments about thin staffing, low occupancy, and a reduced maintenance budget at Patios de Cafayate. It is no longer part of the Starwood Luxury Collection and the spa has limited hours. Until a new luxury resort opens in town, we recommend the more basic but comfortable Vinas de Cafayate instead.
The impressive Patios de Cafayate, part of the Starwood Luxury Collection, rewards anyone who makes the trip through the dramatic Quebrada de Cafayate Canyon from Salta. With a bodega master's historic manor as its core, this hotel and vinotherapy spa is all about beauty and grace in picturesque surroundings. It skillfully combines historic elegance with modern conveniences and looks out at vineyards and mountains from a quiet and serene spot.
This 27–room hotel, several scenic hours south of Salta in the Argentina's secondary wine district, is one of the most memorable places to stay in northern Argentina. A five–minute bike ride from the center, this impressive boutique hotel opened in late 2005, with part of the facilities in an 1892 vineyard–owner's estate and others in newer additions that blend in seamlessly. The grand entrance pictured in the publicity shots of Patios de Cafayate really belongs to the large Esteco winery, with this upscale boutique hotel tucked away behind a gate on the right side of the property. It's fitting that all is not as it seems to start, since part of the hotel's charm is its surprises around every corner: a courtyard with a fountain here, a bench under a canopy of leaves there.
A zealous guard mans the gate to the gravel road, which leads to the commercial winery and then the hotel past a smaller arched iron gate. This "secret garden" entrance leads to a series of gardens and courtyards full of flowering bougainvillea. Check–in is in a small reception room outfitted with antiques.
The nearby lounge is a delightful historic space, filled with heavy wood colonial furniture, more antiques (including a Victrola), a flickering fireplace, and rust–colored heavy floor tiles. Local handicrafts and bottles of wine protrude from the walls of the restaurant, where intimate nooks and several private dining follow the layout of the original rooms of the house. Some of the dishes served are based on recipes passed down by the original cooks of the manor, but that doesn't make up for the generally unimpressive dining. Cafayate is known for having sub–par cuisine and so far this otherwise fine hotel hasn't done much to raise the bar. The setting helps though: when the weather is warm, tables are also set up outside under a huge courtyard tree.
Five rooms are located in the original building, while the rest are in an annex built to match the look and feel of the 1800s architecture. Hallways featuring framed local textiles lead to rooms that are nowhere near dainty. The antique–filled quarters feature iron beds, carved wood furniture, velvet drapes, hand–painted murals, and area rugs and steamer trunks over rustic polished tile. The newness of the hotel's opening shows in the technology though: 29–inch flat–screen TVs with DVD players, cordless phones, electronic safes, wi–fi, and well–stocked minibars are standard throughout. The ample baths feature a marble vanity on an iron pedestal, sitting chair, a large combo tub, and wine–related toiletries in small clay pots. King bed rooms have larger desks and more furniture than those with two doubles. The three suites are all located in the annex, with twice the space, his and hers closets, and whirlpools built for two.
The swimming pool here is a dramatic highlight. Surrounded by lounge chairs, it has panoramic views of the neighboring mountains standing tall over the grape vines.
The spacious and innovative spa is far more extensive than you would expect for a hotel of this size. Like many in Argentina it touts a wide range of "vinotherapy" treatments, from massages and exfoliations with grapes to wine baths with Cabernet. Here the connection is visual as well though, as you can gaze out a glass wall at the vineyards while your body soaks in water and wine.
The staff can arrange all kinds of canyon excursions by bike, foot, 4WD, or ATV. Their winery connections can get you in just about anywhere in the region, though curiously the adjoining Esteco one is usually off limits. A relaxation room with books and a large flat–screen TV suits those who would rather just stay and unwind.
Anyone looking for personality, a touch of history, and a relaxing setting in the countryside will cherish their stay here. Patios de Cafayate is one of those special hotels worth altering the itinerary to visit.
Review and photos by Tim Leffel.
Web Site: www.luxurycollection.com/cafayate
Total Number of Rooms: 27
Published rates: $218 to $560