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 ranch has gotten bigger and better over the years and is now a Relais & Chateaux property.
A good half-hour drive from Salta's center, but close to the airport, this 40–acre estancia in the countryside has never been an ordinary inn. It started as a ranch owned by actor Robert Duvall and later became a hotel the pillows were slept on by the likes of Brad Pitt and Richard Gere. The current owners are Raoul and Stephanie Fenestraz, experienced hoteliers who also own Estancia el Colibri in Cordoba, a hotel in Brazil and several establishments in France and Switzerland.
The rambling collection of adobe–style buildings making up the House of Jasmines estancia 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 it is several times quieterthan any of the central Salta hotels.
The original designer—Florencia Pedraza—was Duvall's sister-in-law. Much of her estancia style is still in place, though the new owners have added their own touches, such as panoramic equestrian photos and some local handicrafts. They also added more rooms, a reception area, and a new wing housing the restaurant. In cool months guests gather on white sofas around the main lounge fireplace. Several comfortable rooms branching off encourage reading, conversation over drinks, or just staring at the mountains beyond.
The biggest change has been the new dining wing, coinciding with admission into the Relais & Chateaux collection. The new gourmet kitchen hosts cooking classes and the restaurant has enough indoor and outdoor space to host many more people than can be staying even at full occupancy. Lunch and dinner work off the same menu that goes for quality over quantity, with an emphasis on Argentine fare and a variety of small and large plates. The house wine is from Cafayate and servers can help with pairing choices from throughout Argentina. A large fireplace anchors the room in the center at night and ample windows allow plenty of natural light and views during the day. The morning breakfast spread of home-baked goodies, fruit, cereal, and eggs to order gets the day started right. When the hotel is busy, the manager sometimes arranges for an evening asado (barbeque) outdoors.
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 property, passing by lime trees, olive trees, and of course plenty of jasmine plants. You may spot owls or other large birds when exploring. Horses graze on the property too, though you have to go off site for horseback riding.
The 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 excursion tours to Cafayate or elsewhere.
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 local rugs over stone tile, canopy beds, dressers, small writing desks, and simple chairs in muted colors. Blankets and throw pillows 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, fine linens, and custom toiletries add a luxurious feel. The downstairs rooms have a furnished terrace, while those on the upper floor share a balcony that is large enough for a party. There are no TVs in these rooms, but fast wireless Internet access is available throughout.
Two newer stand–alone buildings have more spacious and plush accommodations. One contains three junior suites, each with a sitting room and a terrace with a view. A chalet of suites for families or couples traveling together has two bedrooms with their own baths and a living room between them. One can be rented out as a large suite with the living room as well.
House of Jasmines has only gotten better as the years have progressed and it's tough for any other property in the whole Salta province to match the level of service and cuisine here. While it's not the best choice for those who want to be in the center of the action during their stay, it works well as an upscale refuge in the countryside, a comfortable escape to wide–open spaces with a view.
Web Address: www.houseofjasmines.com
Total Number of Rooms: 11
Published rates: $182 to $495 BB
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.