When people think of Argentina, they think of tango, steaks, and wine. And when it comes to wine in Argentina, the region of Mendoza is king.
Now Mendoza is great and all… with world famous wine but if you are looking for a bit more adventure to go along with your vino, I’d suggest the Northern region of Argentina and specifically Cafayate.
Cafayate is a small little town way up in the North Western corner of Argentina. To visit it you are going to need to head to Salta, the regions capitol, and then take a bus or rent a car for the 3-4 hour drive.
It’s a bit out of the way unless you are heading to Bolivia but Cafayate is definitely worth a stop. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t drink wine.
To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about the trip to Cafayate. I don’t like wine but my boyfriend insisted on a stop to try the small town’s famous white wine – Torrontes. Lucky for me, this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere is filled with plenty of non-wine activities too. It ended up being a favorite spot for both of us on our South America backpacking trip and I’d honestly go back right now if I had the chance.
We only stayed about 3 days but you can easily see and do nearly everything in that amount of time. Here are our suggestions:
Renting a Bike in Cafayate
We ended up in Cafayate in the middle of the hot Argentinean summer and quickly realized that walking in the heat combined with lots of free wine equals some serious hangovers. Thankfully there were plenty of bike rental shops in town and with little to no traffic on the roads it was a much faster, cooler way to get around to all the vineyards. Most of the vineyards are within a few miles of the town and by renting a bike you can enjoy the scenery of wine country and visit the vineyards without much trouble. Oh, and if you’re planning on buying any bottles of wine, remember to ask for a bike with a basket on the front.
Free Wine Tours in Cafayate
The main reason to visit Cafayate is for all the wineries. There are a half dozen in town and another half dozen or so within a mile or two of town. The whole area around town is filled with acres and acres of vineyards and they grow a number of different wine varieties. The best part though is that a lot of the wineries offer free tastings and a few offer free tours. The few that do charge tend to keep the price under $5 or so for a full tasting of 3-5 wines. If you are willing to break the “no drinking before noon” rule, the best winery visits are usually in the late mornings when the tours are a bit less crowded and the guides a bit more willing to fill your tasting glass a second time.
Goat Cheese Factory in Cafayate
If you’re not a big wine drinker, take the afternoon off and ride your bike out to the local goat cheese factory. It’s less than a mile outside of town and easy to find (ask any local). They offer tours and tastings for a small price and you might have to wait awhile for an English tour but it ends up being worth it. All the goats are spoiled silly at the farm and even get classical music piped in to the milking room. Apparently the music relaxes the goats, making the milk better and in turn produces better cheese. We bought a nice chunk of fresh cheese, headed back into town, and had a great picnic in the town’s cute central plaza.
Argentina Travel – Wine Ice Cream
There is only one good way to end a full day of riding around in the heat with a slight wine buzz – ice cream! In Cafayate you are going to find something a little different though. At Helados Miranda, the famous local ice cream shop, you will find a range of wine flavored ice cream. Be prepared though… this isn’t some sweet, slightly wine-ish tasting ice cream. If you’re not drunk off the wine yet, this ice cream might tip you over the edge with it’s straight up frozen wine flavor. They also offer some traditional homemade flavors for anyone who might want to avoid any more wine.
Argentina Travel – Hiking in Quebrada de Cafayate
What makes Cafayate different than other wine regions of the world has to be it’s incredible surrounding scenery. The 4 hour drive from Salta passes through a region called Quebrada which I think is by far one of the most beautiful desert regions in the world. It is comparable to the the American Southwest but with an even more rugged appearance. It can’t really be described so just check out a few of the photos below and be sure you save yourself at least a half day for a jeep tour into the area.