Cafayate is a popular destination for many travellers, but still somehow retains its small town vibe. Part of the Salta province in Argentina, Cafayate is often dubbed as the Tuscany of the South. But you be the judge.
We made a night-before-booking at Casa Arbol which is a very pleasant, colonialesque style hostel. It is run by backpackers, Nadine and Fede, so make sure you ask for some local advice…and spend time with their lovely cats!
I’ve only been to the Tuscany region – Italy, that is – once many years ago for a few days. So when we were recommended Cafayate by a local Argentine, we thought we’d make the 10 hour bus ride from Cordoba City to Salta City, and another 3 hours via a connecting bus to Cafayate to see South America’s version of Tuscany for ourselves.
The scenic drive there alone was spectacular – natural rock formations, lakes, stunning dessert landscapes….then you hit the vineyards. It truly is a photographer’s paradise in this part of Salta region. In fact, it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo:
We didn’t end up hiring our own car from Salta City so we decided to jump on a relatively cheap day tour from Cafayate to see the Quebrada de las Conchas (shell gorge). We were short on time to hike to the waterfall but I heard it’s magnificent.
Great sounds produced by this natural amphitheatre so don’t forget to belt out a tune.
If you haven’t heard of the Torrontes grape, you will once you set foot in this region. Cafayate is famous for this aromatic white grape variety.
“…the Torrontes wine made from this white grape is considered the best of its kind in the entire world…”
Situated at 1,660 m above sea level, the combination of temperature and humidity provides the ideal environment in growing the sweet and deep fruit flavour of the Torrontes.
We only had a couple of days in this region so we tried to visit as much of the cellar doors and wineries as we possibly – and soberly – could.
Then there’s the much raved about wine ice cream. Helados Miranda (or Heladeria Miranda) is said to be the original creator of this helado de vino but I can’t find anything to back up this claim so we’ll leave it at that. Plus the sign said so! We met Miranda herself who was happy to sit with us and share with us her story. She gave us her famous Torrontes and Cabernet flavoured creations to try. I wasn’t a big fan of it but it’s worth trying anyway.
Cafayate is the only place during our South American stint where I think we ate empanadas during all of our meal times. La Casa de las empanadas again was one of the most raved about go-to empanada place in this town – but this one didn’t disappoint. It’s made to order and because it is always busy, we waited a good 30-40 minutes for our dozen of mixed empanadas. Try the locally made wine while you’re waiting. Also, this place has no problem whatsoever with graffiti – in fact, it is encouraged.
Somehow, I don’t see this writing on the wall thing catching on back home in Sydney!
Last and certainly not the least, the town of Cafayate itself makes for a picturesque postcard. Visit the local markets where you can find local crafts, fresh produce, llama salamis, clay pots and a market full of…everything!
What’s your verdict? Do you think Cafayate is worthy of ‘Tuscany of the South’ status?
Share your thoughts below.
WelcomeArgentina.com provides some good intel on Cafayate’s rich history if you want to know more.