Cafayate

Cafayate is perhaps the most popular stop in the Valles Calchaquíes, but there is a reason for this. We have been twice before and are looking forward to our third trip. It’s a beautiful peaceful place with gorgeous vineyards surrounded by mountains. Stunning scenery and delicious wine, what more could you want?

Vineyards, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Vineyards, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

Getting there

It’s a 3.5 hours bus journey from Salta. Again, another fantastic scenic route crossing the valleys. You can take Flechabus, Andesmar or Balut buses, which all run several services daily.

A place to stay

On our last trip, we stayed at the Casa Arbol, or Tree House located on Calchaquí road, one block from the main plaza. It’s a friendly, comfortable place with a beautiful garden, full of flowers and vines. They also have two gorgeous cats. We ate breakfast in the garden every morning, and in the evening we sat drinking wine in their cosy wine bar. We were pleasantly surprised that the staff were very knowledgeable about the wines and helped us to choose a bottle. We also hired bikes from the hostel and they had made their own little helpful guide book with maps and routes.

What to do

Wine tasting
Torontés wine in Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Torontés wine in Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

There are many bodegas, or wineries, in the area offering wine tours. Some are in and around the town, and others a bit further so you may need to catch the bus or be prepared to cycle a little further. There are also lots of tour operators offering wine tours if that’s what you prefer. For us, it was great to get on our bike and explore for ourselves. Ask your hotel or at the tourist office for a route of the bodegas. For hiring bikes, there are places in town near the main plaza, but also many of the hotels offer this service, so it’s worth enquiring.

Wine tasting at Bodega Nani, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Wine tasting at Bodega Nani, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

Cafayate and the surrounding region are home to the highest vineyards in the world. It’s a huge wine producing region and the altitude gives the wines their distinctive taste and quality. One wine in particular is unique to the region is called Torontés. It’s a white wine, very fresh and light with delicious flavours of peach. From someone who always goes for red over white, I really like Torontés and would definitely recommend a try.

The nearest bodega to visit in Cafayate is called Nanni. It’s in the town, one block from the main plaza on Silverio Chavarría street. They have tours throughout the day – times are displayed outside the door – in Spanish, English and French. They are free and include wine tasting at the end. It’s a lovely small bodega that still uses old traditional methods of wine making. There is a beautiful garden to sit outside in and enjoy a glass of wine.

Bodega Nanni, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Bodega Nanni, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

Another free bodega to visit is Vasija Secreta. It’s on the main road as you come in to the town. It’s much bigger than Nanni and quite touristy. When we went, many tour buses stopped here, which meant there were maybe about fifty plus people on our guided tour of the bodega. It’s an interesting tour though and they do free wine tasting at the end.

The best bodega we went to was called Domingo Molina. It’s tough to get to though. We cycled about 1.5 hours uphill on a rocky dirt track in the hot sunshine to get to it. But, once you make it up there, it’s totally worth it. Enjoying the views in their garden with a chilled glass of Torontés was just perfect. They do tours costing AR$50, which includes wine tasting at the end. Make sure you arrive before 4pm when the last tours start.

Bodega Domingo Molina, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Bodega Domingo Molina, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Walk to the waterfalls

Another place worth visiting, although it may not involve drinking wine, is the waterfalls. At the main plaza, head west and continue down the road until you can’t go any further. You’ll get to a dirt track road that heads north beside rows and rows of vineyards. Follow this road and it’ll take you out of town into the countryside. Here, you can walk or cycle beside the vines with views of mountains all around you. Look out for flocks of bright blue and green parrots, as well as lovely donkeys and goats. There are a few bodegas signposted along the way that you can stop at if you feel the need!

Walk to the waterfalls, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Walk to the waterfalls, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

However, if you continue to the end of the road, you’ll get to the beginning of the walk to the waterfalls along the River Colorado. You have to sign in and pay a few pesos for entering a national park area. Most people do this trip with a tour guide as it can be quite tricky, however make sure you agree on a price if you do so. You can arrange a guide from your hostel or from one of the tour operators near the plaza. We attempted to do the trip on our own and it was fantastic, however we didn’t make it to many of the waterfalls. I suffered an unexpected attack of vertigo and couldn’t go on. I’m not usually one to wimp out of an adventure and love clambering over rocks, but for some reason I got a little spooked here. So, if you go on your own, be prepared to climb over rocks and along the edge of big drops. Take decent footwear and plenty of water and snacks. To see all five of the waterfalls, it’s supposed to be about a 5 hour round trip. People do say it’s spectacular though!

Cycling back from the waterfalls, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Cycling back from the waterfalls, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

Places to eat

Happy in the Casa de Empanadas, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina
Happy in the Casa de Empanadas, Cafayate, Los Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina

Cafayate has lots of restaurants around the main plaza, which are great, but touristy and expensive. We managed to find a fantastic cheap place to eat, that turned out to be the best asado, or grilled meat, we’ve ever had! It’s on San Martin road, north of the plaza. Continue up there until you find the guy grilling meat on the barbecue on the side of the road. There are some tables and chairs beside for you to sit down. It’s no stylish restaurant but the food was delicious and cheap. The cook was super friendly and encouraged us to come up to the grill to choose what cuts we wanted. They also gave us huge portions of chips, salad and bread. The wine was cheap too and tasted great. Definitely recommended!

Another fantastic place to eat is the Casa de Empanadas. It’s just off the northeast of the main plaza on Mitre street. They serve a delicious variety of empanadas, a type of mini-pasty typical of Argentina. It’s an interesting little restaurant to sit in, with doodles and comments of previous guests from all over the world.

Something else worth trying whilst you are in Cafayate, are the wine flavoured ice-creams. There are a couple of ice-cream places off the main plaza.

 

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