cafayate northwest argentina

A trip to Northwest Argentina is not complete without spending a couple days in Cafayate. Cafayate is a small town just 3 hours south of Salta that is built around wine. The Salta Province, home to Cafayate, is the second largest producer of wine outside of Mendoza and the area specializes in a very sweet white wine called Torrentes. Prior to our trip we had never heard of Cafayate, but we are sure glad that we found out about it!

Since you’re researching Cafayate and the surrounding area, be sure to check our 10 Day Northwest Argentina Itinerary. We spent two great weeks there in December 2019!

Cafayate Travel Guide

This post will tackle what to do, where to stay and how to get to Cafayate. In addition to wine tasting, there are some outdoor activities if you’re feeling up to the challenge. Plus, you’re in the land of the empanada and wine ice cream so no trip is complete without trying both! Although there are some benefits to renting a car (highlighted below), this guide requires no cars, only taxis and buses!

grape vines
Wine will be an integral part of your Cafayate experience!

Things To Do in Cafayate

For a town we’d never heard of before our trip, there was a surprising amount of things to do in Cafayate!

Wine Tasting

You’re here for the wine right? Cayafate is known for their sweet white wine called Torrentes. For Michelle and my taste, it is way too sweet. But when in Cafayate, you have to try it. Inside and outside of the town, there are wineries and tasting rooms called bodegas. Here are a couple of our favorites:

Walking Distance from Town Center

  • Bodega El Porvenir: Our favorite wine we tried and bodega we visited. Also the most expensive (500 Argentina Pesos/person, ~$8USD). I guess we have expensive taste?? After quick tour, our wine tasting/chat lasted longer than an hour and included an extra two free tastings!
  • Bodega Nanni: A popular organic wine producer in the region with a beautiful bodega. If you’re at the grocery store in Northwest Argentina, you can’t go wrong grabbing one of their bottles. We had heard great things about their dinner but upon looking at the menu, we were underwhelmed and chose to eat elsewhere.
  • Bodega El Transito: A newer winery with an very affordable tasting (50 Argentine Pesos/person, ~$1USD). Due to less demand, they offer free tours upon request. It’s a great way to learn about the wine making process!
cafayate northwest argentina
Cheers!

Outside of Town (Car, Taxi, or Bike Required)

  • Bodega Piattelli: One of the largest wine producer in the area, Piattelli has a gorgeous bodega on the outskirts of Cafayate along with another in Mendoza. Unfortunately we just missed their last tasting, but the grounds are breathtaking. Our friends enjoy a steak lunch with some wine here and I’m still jealous we didn’t get to do the same!
  • Bodega San Pedro de Yacochuya: Positioned just up the road from Bodega Piatelli, this bodega would be a great option since you’re already headed that way.
  • Finca Las Nubes: A popular winery near the entrance to the Rio Colorado waterfall hike. Eating charcuterie on their patio looks absolutely divine!
  • Bodega El Esteco: Another very popular vineyard that you will see from the bus as you drive in. Their tour is relatively expensive and if you opt for just a tasting, you will sample their wines from one of those glass wine boxes inside their shop. We found the wines to be expensive and not great when compared to other options in the area. We recommend you go elsewhere.
piattelli cafayate
A glimpse of the spectacular view from the Piattelli Bodega.

When creating a plan, be sure to check the wine tasting hours (unless done by request, tours are usually done on the hour) and remember that restaurants and wineries in Argentina often close between 1-4PM – the perfect time for a nap in between tastings!

Visit a Goat Cheese Farm

A 20 minute walk from the center of town is Cabras de Cafayate (Cafayate Goats S.A. in GoogleMaps). We had really high expectation for this one. Unfortunately, the walk was super sandy and buggy (so many gnats…) and when we got there we didn’t see any goats! Also upon arrival, we were informed that we had just missed the last tour of the day (per the TripAdvisor reviews, we weren’t the first travelers to have this issue). But for the life of me, I cannot find their tour hours listed online.

However pictures online of the tour look awesome! It appears you get to meet the goats and learn about the cheese making process. If you’re interested, you need to do some planning while in Cafayate. Maybe have your hostel or hotel call them the day before? Just don’t expect to show up and have everything go smoothly.

cafayate goat cheese farm
Unfortunately this is the only goat we saw.

Rio Colorado Waterfall Hike

A short taxi ride from town is a hike through the hilly, desert terrain to a series of seven waterfalls. The entrance is near the Finca Las Nubes winery! Upon arrival, you will be approached by multiple guides who will tell you that the hike is dangerous and that you need their services. These guide will charge you an initial fee and then additional fees per waterfall that you reach. Online you will find mixed reviews as to whether you need a guide along with comments about very steep/dangerous sections. As always, somehow the route is on Maps.me!

Full disclosure: After doing plenty of exploring in nearby Tilcara and having some concerns about safety, we decided to skip this adventure and opt for a more relaxed couple days of wine tasting. If you’re in the mood to explore and get your adrenaline pumping, this could be a great option!

Rent Bikes to Explore Quebrada de Cafayate

Another popular choice among travelers is to rent bikes and explore the Quebrada de Cafayate. Upon renting your bike from a hostel or tour agency, ask about the bus schedule. You will ride the bus with your bike to La Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), get off and bike back to town. The total distance is approximately 30 miles. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen!

The bike ride follows the Salta to Cafayate bus route. As much as Michelle and I love to hop on bikes and pedal, pedal, pedal (biking in Paracas, Peru and San Pedro de Atacama, Chile have been two of our favorite trip experiences), it seemed a little redundant after soaking in all the same scenery on the bus.

If it’s up your alley, you can also take a guided tour of the Quebrada de Cafayate provided by tour companies in town.

quebrada de cafayate
Quebrada de Cafayate

Museum of the Vine and Wine of Cafayate

We had a lot of grand plans for Cafayate but they we derailed by travel exhaustion and rain. Although we had planned to visit the wine museum, we just never made it over there. If you’re about to taste a bunch of wine, this would a be helpful and fun experience to do first!

Car Only Options

Contrary to many travel blogs, in our opinion you don’t need a car to explore Northwest Argentina, but it does have some benefits. Below you’ll find a couple experiences near Cafayate that are much easier to do by car.

Quebrada de Cafayate

Having a car gives you a lot more flexibility in how you see the Quebrada de Cafayate. Along you way from Salta to Cafayate, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and ogle on your own time at the incredible scenery and explore things like the Garganta del Diablo.

Cachi

A town of few people surrounded by a lot of cacti. Although the quiet town does not offer much to do, the drive, although bumpy at times, is supposedly spectacular. If you want to go to Cachi, talk to your rental car agency about how to get there as many of the roads in this area are very poor.

Where To Eat in Cafayate

Try Wine Ice Cream

It’s not where to eat but what to eat while you’re in Cafayate: Wine Ice Cream. Doesn’t this feel like something we already would have created in the US? Well, in Cafayate they are super proud of their wine ice cream. It’s basically a white (Torrentes) or red (Cabernet Sauvignon) wine sorbet. The shop that claims to have invented it is called Heladeria Miranda but you can’t go wrong trying it everywhere. Again Michelle and I found it way too sweet, but maybe we’re just babies.

cafayate wine ice cream
Cheers, weird alien in the background!

Eat Empandas

There is a rumor going around that the people of Northwest Argentina invented the empanada. Now whether or not that is true, they certainly make some really good ones. Even Michelle, who said she never wanted another empanada after a month in Colombia, enjoyed some!

Our recommendation for finding good empanadas is to stop wherever looks good! Empanadas are best fresh so if you see them being made, stop and get some. If you want a couple of empanada places to mark on your offline Google map, add El Hornito and La Casa de las Empanadas.

el hornito empanadas
Empanadas from El Hornito. These 12 are for me!

How To Get to Cafayate

Cayafate is an incredibly gorgeous 3.5 hour bus ride from Salta. Be sure not to sleep through the last 2 hours as you are driving through the Quebrada de Cafayate. Buses in between Salta and Cafayate occur multiple times a day but, since this is a popular tourist route, it is best to buy this bus in advance online or at the bus station when you first arrive in Salta.

Where to Stay in Cafayate

We stayed at the Cafayate Backpackers hostel. As one of the cheaper places in town, the accommodations were quite bare however we were impressed by the friendliness of the staff and found the free breakfast to be quite filling! For backpackers on a tight budget, it is a very good option.

Due to its focus on wine tourism, Cafayate attracts a wealthier tourist crowd which means that there are plenty of very nice places to stay. If you’re feeling ready to treat yourself and splurge, Cafayate would be a good place to do it.

Where to Go Next

Salta

Salta is the largest city in Northwest Argentina, but outside of having a beautiful square, there is not much to do. We don’t recommend staying more than 1-2 days there. However, due to it’s size, it is a transportation hub for the region. You will need to return to Salta to visit the colorful mountain and vast salt flats near Tilcara even farther north!

Tafi del Valle

Another option that we only found when researching some of the final details for this post is to spend a couple nights in Tafi del Valle. Surrounded by lush green hills, the town has very different scenery than Tilcara or Cayafate. Tafi del Valle is a great place to do some hiking and even horseback riding! Supposedly buses leave daily from Cafayate so be sure to ask around at the bus station for the schedule. From Tafi del Valle, you can easily connect to Tucuman from where you can take a 8 hour overnight bus to Cordoba! The more I write about it, the sadder I am that we didn’t get to visit! If you’re interested in visiting, check out these travel guides:

There you have it, our Cafayate Things To Do post! From us to you, happy adventuring!

wine barrels
If you need us, we’ll be hiding somewhere among these barrels!

Notes

All details and costs are current as of December 2019.

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