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House of Jasmines—Salta, Argentina

Ruta 51, km 11, La Merced Chica, Salta

House of Jasmines is a secluded inn originally opened by Robert Duvall and his Argentine wife. Demonstrating impeccable style and service, the edge–of–Salta ranch has higher rates and fewer movie stars visiting since Duvall sold it in 2008, but it is still in many ways the best hotel in Salta.

A good half–hour drive from Salta's center, but close to the airport, this 40–acre estancia in the countryside is no ordinary inn: it started as a ranch owned by actor Robert Duvall and later becoming a hotel the pillows were slept on by the likes of Brad Pitt and Richard Gere. It is now owned by Raoul and Stephanie Fenestraz, experienced hoteliers who also own Estancia el Colibri in Cordoba and several establishments in France.

The original designer—Florencia Pedraza—is Duvall's sister–in–law. The rambling collection of adobe–style buildings making up the ranch is reached by a road passing the airport and then disappearing into farms at the base of the mountains. The location is not exactly convenient, but apart from occasional landing planes, it is much more quiet than at the central Salta hotels. Check–in takes place wherever and drinks are served by a fireplace surrounded by horse–related prints, photos, and paintings. Several comfortable rooms branching off encourage reading, watching movies, or just staring at the mountains, making a stay feel much like one at the country house of a well–off friend.

House of Jasmines

The dining location for various meals is up to the whims of the guests: on a terrace, in the winter garden room, on a room balcony perhaps. The main dining room is a romantic space in the evenings, however, with candlelight casting a glow over the heavy wood furniture and cowhide rugs. Silver and glassware are polished to a shine. When the hotel is busy, the manager sometimes arranges for an evening asado (barbeque) outdoors and for local musicians to come and entertain.

The heated outdoor pool with sundeck, set in a clearing away from the house next to rose gardens, offers uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside. Guests can hike or ride mountain bikes around the 300–acre property, passing by lime trees, olive trees, and of course plenty of jasmine plants. Guests now have to go off site for horseback riding though.

House of Jasmines lobbyThe spa is surprisingly well–equipped for a hotel this size, with a range of treatments on offer, plus a steam bath and sauna. The staff can set up visits to wineries, downtown Salta, or outlying villages.

Accommodations in the seven original rooms are not flashy, but display a comfortable and homey style in keeping with the ranch theme. Painted and beadboard walls accompany jute rugs over stone tile, canopy beds, dressers, small writing desks, and simple chairs in muted colors. Red flannel blankets add a dash of color to the fabrics. Baths are either combo ones with a tub or shower–only ones with a walk–in closet instead. Robes and custom toiletries add a dash of luxury. If at all possible, reserve one of the two suites on the upper floor. They come with a balcony large enough for a small party. There are no TVs in the rooms themselves, but wireless Internet access is available throughout.

The new owners have added three junior suites in a separate building, each with a sitting room and a terrace with a view. A chalet for families has two bedrooms with their own baths and a living room between them.

We’re happy to report that the house of Jasmines has gotten a little bigger and better under its new ownership. The chance of mingling with Hollywood celebrities has all but disappeared and you have to brave Salta’s notorious traffic to go sight–seeing in the center, but this B&B works well as a refuge and an escape to wide–open spaces.

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Published rates: $215 to $495 BB

Review and photos by Timothy Scott, updates by Lorie and Paul Bennett