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1,299km (805 miles) NW of Buenos Aires; 406km (250 miles) S of Salta

"Why aren't the Americans coming to Tafi?" one frustrated hotelier asked me, and well he should wonder. Tafi del Valle is a high-altitude oasis of rolling green hills set amid red-rock desert. It is a remarkable place, yet it is not on the radar of many foreign travelers except for a handful of adventurous Europeans. The drive there is fascinating; from the flat plains of sugar-cane country in Tucuman province, you go up a twisting road through cloud forests and lemon groves, an area known as Selva Tucumana. You pass the fascinating Reserva Arqueológica los Menhires, where you'll find a collection of 50 mysterious standing stones from prehistoric times. If you come from the Salta side, the dry desert changes dramatically and you twist through the misty mountain pass of La Garganta del Diablo, at 3,000m (9,480 ft.) above sea level. What was red and dry becomes green and temperate. Tafi del Valle itself is a popular mountain town set by a lake, frequented by Tucumanos, who come to escape the heat of their sweltering capital and take advantage of the excellent opportunities to fish, hike, and sail. Here you can enjoy laid-back country life by staying in some beautiful estancias set within the town limits and at half the price you will spend elsewhere.