Cafayate is a small town in northwest Argentina that’s very famous for its white wine. At 1,600-2,000 meters, the wine produced here is the highest altitude wine in the world. Cafayate’s Torrontes is the best white wine in Argentina and there’s a high concentration of bodegas offering tours and tastings in town. But, a visit to Cafayate is about more than just wine. You can go on a scenic bike ride and a fun tour of a goat farm. Sounds a bit like Mendoza, right?
Yes, these two destinations are fairly similar and both offer lots of wine tasting and bike rides. Mendoza is famous for its red wine and is quite a bit more expensive than Cafayate. The wineries in Mendoza are more grandiose and usually have English-speaking guides. Cafayate is more scenic and has a small-town feel, whereas Mendoza is a city that attracts tourists from around the world.
How to Get There
It’s a 4-hour ride from Salta and Flecha Bus has 6 departures between 6:50 AM and 9 PM. If you’re coming from the south, you need to get to San Miguel de Tucumán. From here, there are 2 departures (6 AM and 2 PM) for the 5.5-hour ride to Cafayate.
*All prices are in USD due to Argentina’s high inflation*
What to Do
Bike along the Quebrada de las Canchas – This incredibly scenic stretch of highway makes for a fantastic bike ride. The mix of mountains and desert is similar to the landscape in Jujuy and there are plenty of lookout points to enjoy. The cars were pretty good about leaving space for the bikers, and many honked and waved. Two points of interest along the route are The Amphitheater and Garganta del Diablo.
Each way is 45 km, so you’ll want to take the bus towards Salta and bike back to Cafayate. Buy a ticket for the Cafayate to Salta bus and tell them you want to get off at the Garganta del Diablo. The route has a few uphill portions, but none steep enough to make me contemplate walking the bike.
Riding 45 km will do a number on your legs and as you get closer to Cafayate there are a couple of bodegas along the highway that offer wine and lunch if you need some fuel to finish the ride. The bike rental costs only $6 for the day.
Cafayate Goats – Another specialty of the Salta region is goat cheese. Here you do a tour of a goat farm that’s all in Spanish, but it does include a delicious wine & cheese tasting afterward. The cost is only $3.
Museum of the Vine and Wine – A fun museum explaining the production process and history of wine both in Cafayate and the other wine regions in Argentina.
Visit bodegas – Cafayate is full of bodegas that offer tours of the production facilities and tell you about the different types of wine they produce. Of course, each tour will end with a wine tasting. The cost is very minimal ($1-3) and some are free. A couple of popular bodegas are Nanni, which produces organic wine, and Finca Quara.
Where to Eat
Doña Argentina Espacio Cultural – This is one of the best steaks I had in Argentina and they have live music in the garden starting around 10 PM. You’ll want to make a reservation during the high season.
Como en Casa – An excellent option for delicious homemade pasta.
Where to Stay
Cielito Lindo Hostel – A small hostel near the plaza with friendly staff and a large patio.
Hostel Ruta 40 – The atmosphere here is lively and nighttime BBQs are a common occurrence.
How Long to Stay
2 days is plenty of time in Cafayate before heading elsewhere in Argentina. If you are a wine lover, there are 30+ bodegas in town to keep you busy for a longer stay.
Where to Next
Salta (4 hours by bus) – A beautiful colonial city with one of the best museums in South America and lively folk music dinner parties.
Jujuy (8 hours via Salta) – Stunning high elevation desert landscapes with multi-colored mountains and salt flats.
Córdoba (14 hours via San Miguel de Tucumán) – An energetic student city that’s popular for a night out.
Mendoza (20 hours via San Miguel de Tucumán) – Taste some of the world’s best wine and hike to the base camp of the tallest mountain in the Americas.