A Travellerspoint blog

Cafayate - Quebrada de las Flechas - Colomé

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We wake to a glorious sunrise over the vines, with mist hanging above the mountains in the distance.


San Carlos

Passing through this small town, we stop for a while to watch the folk dancing in the main square.


Quebrada de las Flechas - Arrow's Gorge

Bridge over Calchaqui River

Much as I love getting out into the wilderness, there is one major problem with dirt tracks: dust! Every time we pass a car, a whole cloud of dirt particles rises from the road.


The valley is spectacular, with some impressive jagged mountains (looking like arrows, hence the name of the gorge) and other rock formations protruding up to 50 metres above the Calachaqui Valley floor. I get very carried away with my drive-by-shooting this morning (photographing from a moving car).


Santa Rosa Cemetery

While David and I take photos, videos, and send up the drone, Gastón pours himself a cup of coca tea.




Note the empty champagne bottles


El Vendisquero – Windy Place

Also known as Arrow's Cut, the road cuts between two high, sharp rocks here.


I send up the drone, and after a few shots from various angles, I have a go at videoing as I fly it at low level through the cut in the mountain ridge.


David climbs the hill while I fly the drone


As the drone approaches the gap and starts to go through, the battery warning light on the controller starts flashing, with a message suggesting that I should bring the drone back to base.

I try to retrieve the drone, but it is no longer talking to me. I am beginning to panic a little at this stage, as the drone is still quite some distance away from me. Guessing that the rocks are preventing transmission, Gastón takes the controller from me to walk down to a place that has better reception. Yet again that guy impresses me, he has experience of flying that particular drone. Is there anything that man cannot do or doesn't know?

The route offers more stunning scenery with dust and desert giving way to more greenery the nearer we get to Molinos.


Rock formations known as The Towers

A good view of Cache Ice Fields in the distance

Hacienda de Molinos

Off the small square in the town of Molinos, we stop for lunch in the home of the Esas Mendi family, which was once the residence of the last Royal Spanish governor. It has since been restored, and is now a popular place to meet friends for a meal. We arrive just as they are starting to serve lunch, and are the first people there, but the courtyard soon fills up.


David and I enjoy some empanadas, whereas Gastón orders Huevos Hacienda.


Estancia Colomé

It is just a short distance from Molinos to our overnight accommodation at a winery.

We soon leave Route 40, the main road we have been following all day today, (one of the longest and most famous roads in Argentina), and enter a rough dirt track meandering amongst rocky outcrops. The track leads to some impressive iron gates, which open magically as we approach. By the time we arrive at the Estancia itself, a smartly uniformed staff member smilingly greets us, extending her hand, introducing herself, and welcoming us. It feels very special.

The ranch is set in sprawling semi-desert grounds, surrounded by vineyards with distant mountains beyond.



Our room is located off the central courtyard


Our private balcony with beautiful views.



Bodega Colomé

The winery attached to the hotel offers wine tastings to the public twice a day, whereas the last time slot in the afternoon is reserved for residents only (there are just nine rooms). Yet again we see evidence of Gastón’s incredible kindness, as he changes his accommodation to a room nearby so that he can drive me from the accommodation to the winery.


The first wine, a white Torrontes, is dangerously easy to drink, fruity with undertones of peaches and pineapples – a little like biting into a grape. The alcohol soon hits me, though.

Malbec, our second tasting, is the main wine produced here at Colomé. The wine has an aroma of raisins, and is super-dry. This is one of those altitude blends, with grapes from 1,200, 2200, 2600, and 3111 metres above sea level.

Also a Malbec, the next wine is from a later harvest, with a much moire mature taste. It has not been stored in oak, and is incredibly smooth. I like it very much.

Lastly, we taste another altitude blend (2600, 2300 m), which has been stored in oak for 18 months. This one is much stronger, to the point of biting my tongue.


James Turrell Museum

Donald Hess, the owner of the estancia and bodega here at Colomé is an avid art collector, and amongst his collection is a museum dedicated solely to James Turrell.

This is not a traditional museum, as there are no exhibits, all the artwork is created solely with light. James Turrell is an American artist known for his work within the Light and Space movement. He has a fascinating history, including buying a cinder cone crater in Arizona with the plan to turn it into a massive naked-eye observatory. I won’t bore you with all his details here, but look him up if you are interested in alternative art.

Photography is strictly prohibited inside the museum, as are any bags, and shoes must be removed and replaced with provided cloth covers. You can get an idea of the sort of work he produces from the screen print of Google images below.


The museum is almost impossible to describe without being there. I had read numerous articles about him beforehand, but still am not prepared for the reality. Some of the rooms have light projected in such a way that there appears to be objects within the room, whereas it is just shadows cast from the light. A long corridor with changing coloured lights and no discernable corners, removes your sense of distance as you are looking around. Is that wall 2 metres away, or ten? I can’t tell. The only way I can describe it is to imagine a pitch black room where you can see no details, except this room is white, or green, or purple…

Another room features cascading steps leading up to a wall. Except the wall is two metres away, not at the top of steps. All sense of distance, space and orientation is removed in these rooms, it is most disorientating. There is also a completely dark room, which I don’t find as interesting as the others.

At the end, an installation called Sky Space consists of a colonnaded courtyard with a square in the centre of the roof open to the element, giving a view to the dark sky above. As the light on the pillars holding up the ceiling changes colour, an optical illusion means that so does the colour of the sky. It is curious, mysterious, and totally outlandish. Here visitors are encouraged to lie on cushions on the floor and look straight up. With my back, this is not recommended, so I sit on one of the long benches along the side of the room. This whole display lasts around 45 minutes, which I feel is too long. After about 20 minutes, those people on the floor start getting uncomfortable, and many get up to walk about. One person falls asleep, and even starts snoring.

All in all the experience is pretty mind blowing, and my head is buzzing when I exit into the real world, where Gastón is waiting to drive us back to the hotel.


As soon as we return to the estancia, we are invited for a welcome drink in the Gaucho Room where we are offered a glass of wine and some toast with escabeche.



The waitress explains that the wine gets its dark colour because the local grape develops extra thick skin to protect itself against the higher UV light here at this altitude.

We both have the same starter: warm beans, aromatic herbs, and potato salad

For the main course, I choose onion soup with croutons and cheese


David is not yet feeling the need to eat something other than steak, so he has the tenderloin with Malbec wine sauce and seasonal vegetables


My dessert: fruity pavlova with mango ice cream


David has a homemade flan with dulce de leche


Our wine of choice this evening is a 'special' from their own winery


It's been a full and fascinating day, and our bed is calling. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for yet more amazing experiences.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:37 Archived in Argentina Tagged road_trip museum argentina winery south_america vinyards cafayate empanadas wine_tasting san_carlos molinos drone undiscovered_destinations quebrada_de_las_fleches arrows_gorge santa_rosa_cemetery el_vendisquero windy_place hacienda_de_molinos estancia_colomé colomé bodega_colomé james_turrell

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You're rapidly moving Argentina up my wish list! That landscape is stunning, the food and wine sounds excellent and I'm fascinated by your description of the James Turrell Museum 😮

by ToonSarah

What a day, luckily you could get the drone back. The wine tasting looked like a succes as well. What a view and hotel. Secretly jealous, but in a more than good way! :) :) :)

by Ils1976

Sarah - Argentina moved right into our Top 3 countries during this trip, it has so much to offer. ♥ The museum was VERY different to anything else I have ever seen.

Ils - I was very grateful the drone didn't crash! Wine tasting is always good. ♥

by Grete Howard

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