Things To Do In Cafayate
Cafayate is a special place for lovers of wine and nature. The city which is famous for its Calchaqui Valley, takes every traveler back to its ancient days, time and place where everything has a different pace, and when people’s lives were simple and deliberate.
The abundant vineyards are the main crowd drawing attraction of this city. Internationally acclaimed wineries display their products here and wine tasting is the most anticipated things to do by every curious visitor. To take a brief stay and observe how wines are made from this part of Argentina (within the Province of Salta) is truly worth it.
When To Go:
Being the top exporter of wine in Argentina, the best time to see the vineyards in full bloom and to have a sip of the best tasting wines in Cafayate is during the months of October until March or in the summer season. It is also the ideal time to take a hike or explore the mountains or go on a bike ride around the city.
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It is also ideal to spend a vacation here during the season of winter (July). It is best to plan your holiday in Cafayate in advance because once the peak season begins; the hotel rates and air fare also increases drastically. If you don’t like going around during the peak of its humidity or suffer from heat exhaustion, avoid traveling between the dry months of January and February.
Whether you are a wine connoisseur, an adventurous backpacker, or a nature lover, Cafayate aims at giving you the best holiday or excursion in Argentina. Here are the top attractions and things to do in Cafayate City:
Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas
The landscape is amazing with the inevitable cactus and gorges carved into the rock. The most important part of Cafayate is the Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas, which can be compared to the Grand Canyon in the USA. This eye catching ravine or rock formations was molded over the centuries and created their own flat (exaggeratedly large, compared to the actual water flow) landscape and creating forms from rocky and unique morphologies. In fact, you can see los Castillos, the Sapo (toad), las ventanas (windows), but above all one of the many "Garganta del Diablo" present in the provinces of northern Argentina and the amphitheater (which gets used on actual and live concerts). These last two formations are gigantic basins carved into the rock, which take the form from which it derived its name.
The best travel advice is to get to Cafayate (where you can taste excellent wines, produced at over 1600 m above sea level) and then book the excursion on board a 4X4. Just so you can visit and have adequate time to admire these wonderful natural sculptures. Make enough space in your SD card to capture this series of rocks of a thousand shapes that were eroded by wind and water over the centuries for indeed you will be kidnapped by the shapes and colors of this fascinating quebrada in Cafayate.
Museo de la Vid y el Vino
The Museo de la Vid y el Vino is a very informative museum about wines in Cafayate. It is truly instructive because it has the history of wine and life in this side of Argentina and a tour of the wine industry deployment and production in the region. You pay a small fee to enter, but it is all worth it because it is both educational and fun at the same time. As a museum, it comes very well prepared with technological refinements that depict the economic basis of the Cafayate region. It is a very interesting museum in a town that is so small.
The museum is modern and didactic with a beautiful architecture that combines tradition with modernity and gives so much to learn a lot about the wines and their vineyards. It is surprising to find the wine shop at the exit gate that sells really cheap but well-aged Cafayate wines. The highlight is the wine shop at the outlet which has the most picturesque vineyards in the region and sells wine at great prices. You can find the Torrontes Grape, the famous white wine of the region that tastes smooth without being sweet, a delight to take cold in warmer nights.
Cascadas del Rio Colorado
The scenery is stunning, beautiful, nature in all its design. Be sure to make this visit with a hired guide, so you can understand and enjoy it more. The tour of Cascadas del Rio Colorado can be dangerous because of its heights and the fragility of the tracks. It is not recommended to explore the Cascadas during the rainy season. The tour has 3 options up to the third waterfall, until the fifth and even sixth. A guide is essential and a good guide makes all the difference. The skilled guides can help bring you to the best local places for diving and various other attractions. The complete tour lasts an average of 5 hours, but it is all worth it. Although most of the paths are clear with well- marked trails, there are portions of the trail that leads to a rocky river. In some places, the hike becomes more difficult and people with reduced mobility may suffer enough. Bring enough drinking water; wear warm clothes, and appropriate hiking shoes to enjoy the excursion.
You spend three hours to do trekking in the mountains, going up and down, looking for waterfalls and viewpoints. It crosses the river several times, stepping in the water, climbing up and down the mountains through the stones. It is for this reason why you must do it with a local guide, otherwise it is easy to get lost and even get hurt. It is a hard road, but for anyone who is in good physical condition and not afraid of heights, it is worth doing.
Catedral Nuestra Senora del Rosario
The Catedral Nuestra Senora del Rosario is a cathedral in Cafayate with lovely architecture At night; it has an illuminated rosary that looks floating in the air and framed in a unique manner. It is a beautiful building located opposite the famous square in Cafayate (Plaza Central). Both inside and outside it is very well preserved, considering it was founded more than a century ago. You can take pictures and learn about the religious history of this sacred place from its endearing staff. It has striking images and the dome looks more dramatic once it gets illuminated at night.
It is a beautiful church made of colonial style architecture with Italian influences, although its architect was from Catalan. Despite its antiquity, the church is still in very good condition and dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. The high altar is very imposing, but done in simple Baroque style type with an image of Our Lady in the center and on the sides are the images of Santa Catalina and Santo Domingo. There are several side chapels, and you can also find the Sacred Heart with a small image made of striking wood. It is important to attend the Sunday Mass and the entire church has an atmosphere of great peace and solemnity.
La Garganta del Diablo
It's amazing to learn how the wind was shaping all these figures in La Garganta del Diablo. It is highly recommended to take time and stop on the route, take some pictures, and admire the stunning scenery which is absolutely free. It is a deep canyon that is easily accessible. You could climb a bit more, but there is a sign prohibiting it for security reasons. However, there are always tourists who dare to take the risk. Anyway, the fact of being in the middle of these gigantic cannon, with the most amazing rock formations that are more than a few centuries old is enough to make this trip in Cafayate a memorable experience.
Reaching the "throat" part requires enormous physical effort, and you must have a firm and sturdy shoes because it is easy to slip into the stone once you start to climb, but all of it is worth the effort.It is located on the road between Salta and Cafayate In what is called the broken shells, worth stopping by on the route but the terrain is incredible. It is not to be missed if you are heading to Cafayate. The Devil's Throat can be seen from below or climb a bit to get a better view.
Ruinas del Divisadero
The Ruinas del Divisadero comes from Cafayate (about 5 km) and at the entrance, local guides are provided "at will". They are extremely gentle and help make the ride much more enjoyable and entertaining. The place is wonderful and it is easy to access the lookout point while the guide's stories are heard. The only access is with a guide of the community, the price is a donation with no prescribed amount, just a small voluntary contribution. The ruins of Divisadero are an aboriginal owned land by a local tribe called the Diaguitas. They invite you into their property for history, culture, and lifestyle and world view of their ancestors, of which they are direct descendants.
By entering and registering in a notebook, you may cross its land, will show the holes in the rock representing the constellation of stars, explore the cave in which the Indians tried to attack their tribe and where important events took place. It is a very nice place with lots of history. You should go with car, charge an entry / collaboration fee with a diaguita guide who knows everything about the place. It is very interesting and worth doing between visits to the wineries in Cafayate.
The Plaza Central is a simple square that is neat, spacious, clean, inviting you to sit and enjoy the fresh air, the trees, the laughter of children and the unique and special atmosphere that can be breathed in beautiful Cafayate. Those who like contemplation and quiet will undoubtedly enjoy a memorable experience. The plaza is ideal for a couple or family. Everything in Cafayate passes or revolves around the plaza starting from the restaurants, clubs, travel agencies, craft market and where most cultural events can be witnessed. It is very nice, well maintained, with many lanterns and benches. The only thing missing is a space with games for kids or a simple playground. At night, al fresco dining is very much in demand; all restaurants have tables outside and many have live musical performances while guests are dining.
It is a large square in the city center. In times of high season, it features several activities to enjoy. It is ideal for relaxation or a great place to have lunch while sitting on benches, or enjoying a delicious empanadas from Salta or to go in the early evening to drink beer or coffee. All around the beautiful cathedral there are lots of shops with local crafts and where numerous dining options are located.
Bodega Domingo Molina
While the Bodega Domingo Molina looks like a modern winery, it dates back as far as 2009 and it has very good quality wines. It is a winery entirely run by the family and all the vineyards here is unique. This is located on top of the hill and a few kilometers away from the central part of Cafayate.
You can reach it by a gravel road up to the village of Yacochuya. Although the road is quite complicated for cars and bicycle, its location at the foot of the mountain makes performing the wine tasting an unforgettable experience. The winery is highly advanced and the staff is very friendly, sometimes tastings are made directly from the tanks which elsewhere is not feasible. The wines are delicious and the wine tasting experience is very rewarding.
The Winery Nanni is a different kind of winery that specializes in organic wine production in Cafayate. While Cafayate is located in a fertile valley with a wide range of wineries, the winery Nanni will definitely capture your attention. This modern winery does not make use of sulfites (chemicals) for processing, which, according to their explanation prevents severe headache hangover from excessive consumption of wine.
The guided tour will explain the entire process of producing this type of wine and at 30 pesos (price as of April 2015) you can do a tasting of their organic wine varieties. At the end you can purchase wine from the cellar at affordable prices. For starters, you can try the Tannat, a new variety of wine that is only processed and aged in Cafayate. The tour is short but the explanation of the guide is impressive.
Bodega El Esteco
The winery of the Bodega El Esteco is historical, traditional, and very beautiful. The vineyard tour is interesting, and you can go experimenting with different grapes to make wine (it is very different from the types of grapes that you can usually buy in the supermarket), and ends with a good tasting of white wines.
Inside out, it is also good to visit the tiny family wineries on the outskirts of Cafayate, where the wine is made from handmade procedure (the grape is trampled and called "patero wine"), and manually bottled.
Bodega Jose L Mounier
The estate of the Bodega Jose L Mounier is beautifully situated in the mountains and if you call in advance, they also serve lunch with generous serving of their own wine. It is in a prime location (El Divisadero) with a great mountain view. You can explore and walk through this small winery and see their wine tasting room, small cellar door, and a view through the vineyards. The winemaker on this Bodega is very passionate in teaching and explaining the benefits of wine and the staff is very attentive.
The facilities are not high quality, but the setting and service are second to none. You can eat something too on their restaurant where they serve homemade tamales, empanadas, and tapas. It is 5km from downtown and can be easily accessed by a sloping road. The 15pesos / person admission fee (as of March 2015) provides an opportunity to taste 3 wines while hearing a lot of explanations. The place has a great view and it is very nice to walk around and take pictures of the premises after the wine tasting session.
Bodega El Porvenir de Cafayate
The Bodega El Porvenir de Cafayate has a very cute cellar and the highlight of this winery is its accessible location in the center of Cafayate. The employees are very friendly and the winemaker responds well to the questions of their guests during the wine tasting session. It is small but worth it. Besides the production area in the tasting room, they have a wine cellar with the first vintages of each harvest since they opened; it's wonderful and interesting to see while in Cafayate. The guides of the place are both accommodating (Andrea and Adriana). You can see the facilities, and then spend some time more on the tasting venue. While it has a cost (about $ 45 for medium and premium brands and $ 75 for premium and ultra premium brands), but if you buy something, the visit is free.
To fully enjoy the winery and vineyard tours in Cafayate, reservations must be made at least three months in advance. Aside from wine, the highlight of any tour in the city of Cafayate also includes a deep appreciation of nature. It is here where you can find the most unusual colors reflected in stones along the mountains as the sun sets and cover its entire green mantle.
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