When I think of Argentina, I think of fabulous wines from Mendoza and tasty steaks. I think Tango in Buenos Aires or hiking in Monte Fitz Roy in Patagonia. I don’t think Cafayate. I’ve never even heard of it. Some Argentines haven’t either. I had a conversation with an Argentine I met who are working as a Ski Instructor in Lake Tahoe, California a month after I got back from my South America trip. She told me she was going to the Grand Canyon and I mentioned that it’d got a similar landscape to Cafayate in Argentina. She didn’t even know where Cafayate was!
I discovered Cafayate by sheer luck. When I got done with my Salar De Uyuni tour in Bolivia, I made another pit stop in San Pedro de Atacama to figure out where I was going next. My next stop was Iguazu Falls in Argentina, so I had to figure out a way to hop across Argentina and I wasn’t going to spend hundreds of dollars for a plane tickets busses were my only option. The only problem was, it took almost two days to get there.
The midway point between San Pedro de Atacama and Puerto Iguazu is Salta, Argentina. Tired of long bus rides, I decided to do stop over in the city. I researched the area for things to do and discovered stunning images of landscapes that look like they’re taken out of the American Southwest.
The Grand Canyon? Sedona, Arizona? In South America? I was intrigued. I left Salta the next and got on the earliest bus I could find to Cafayate. That was an excellent decision, and I ended up spending a whole week there.
Here are the Top 5 things you can do in Cafayate if you ever make your way there (which I know you will!).
1 – Bike the Quebrada de Las Conchas
By far this is the highlight of my stay in Cafayate. There are several features you’ll discover along the way like the El Anfiteatro and La Garganta Del Diablo. The landscapes are stunning and well worth all the effort your body can muster. You end up with a few sore muscles, but memories you’ll have of the experience is unforgettable. Just make sure you rent a decent bike. Read more: Exploring the Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas in Cafayate, Argentina.
2 – Tour the Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas by bus
If pushing your physical limits isn’t your cup of tea. You can take a bus tour of the Quebrada de las Conchas. Several tour companies in the town center sell daily tours. There’s a late afternoon tour and a morning tour. I recommend you take the later afternoon tour. The late afternoon sun brings out the red colors of the landscapes and makes an already stunning scenery even more stellar.
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3 – Enjoy the wine, especially the white wine (Torrontes)
Cafayate is known for the specific white wine that is produced in the region, Torrontes. Torrontes wine has a fresh and aromatic finish with moderate acidity. There’s fruity after with hints of apricot and peach and a smooth texture. I’m not a big white wine fan, but the Torrontes in Cafayate is superb. You can find a bottle (for cheap) in various vintners in the town square or pair with a meat dish in one of Cafayate’s many Parrilla restaurants. There are also several wineries within walking distance of the town.
4 – Hike the Rio Colorado
A moderate to strenuous that will take you to some waterfalls. Grab a map at the tourist office and bring some swim trunks. While the trails are poorly maintained, and you might have to backtrack a few times after getting lost. But the views are fantastic and makes for a cool micro adventure.
5 – Try the Wine Ice Cream
There’s a couple of Heladerias in the place that sells Cabernet Sauvignon, and Torrontes flavored ice cream. But the most famous one is Helados Miranda. It’s got alcohol. Somebody thought it was a good idea to pour a bunch of wine in their ice cream batch and accidentally came up with the flavor. It tastes exactly like it sounds. Wine with ice cream. Not my cup of tea but when in Rome :)
If you’re looking for a good restaurant to pair the wines with good food, try Macacha. It’s just right around the corner of the town square right by the Brewery.