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Cafayate, Argentina | Best Wine Destinations 2017

This high-altitude enclave is home to some of the world’s most exciting Malbec.

A region of magical scenery, the Calchaquí Valleys, in northwestern Argentina, feature 17th-century colonial villages, as well as dramatic desert and mountain landscapes. The most well known of these is Quebrada de las Flechas, the “Canyon of Arrows,” named for its jutting sandstone formations.
Cafayate mapAlong the famous touristic Ruta 40, Andean culture merges with Spanish criollo influences, impacting both culture and cuisine. The town of Cafayate, the epicenter of high-altitude viticulture located in the province of Salta, is a favorite destination of tourists for local crafts (pottery, textiles and silver) and unique gastronomy. 

Where to Dine

For the last decade, La Rosa, the restaurant at the Patios de Cafayate wine hotel, has been the most sophisticated dining venue in town, where Chef Martín Garramón features Catalan and other European cuisines alongside regional dishes such as llama carpaccio. At the Grace Cafayate, located on the Estancia de Cafayate property, lamb, llama and goat meat are the specialties. One block away from the main square, regional cuisine is the focus at the recently opened Pacha, helmed by Tomás Casado, who apprenticed under multi–Michelin-starred Basque chef Martín Berasategui. At Bad Brothers Wine Experience, Cafayate’s first wine bar, sample 53 small-producer wines by the glass.

Where to Stay

Located next to Bodega El Esteco, the Patios de Cafayate wine hotel offers spacious suites with colonial-era furnishings, a pool and wine spa. Set in a majestic mountain-ringed landscape, the Grace Hotel presents a modern, luxurious alternative, with 12 suites and 20 private villas or bungalows overlooking the vineyards and golf course.

Other Activities

The Calchaquí Valleys are an outdoor-lover’s dream.
The Quebrada de las Conchas (“Shells’ Ravine”) is a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its red rocks, and it’s ideal for hiking. Numerous companies specialize in horseback tours and all-terrain vehicle rides through desert dunes.

Budget Tip

Located in an old wine cellar, the Museo de la Vid y el Vino is a low-cost activity that features a bilingual interactive tour on the character and history of high-altitude wines.

Roots of Andean culture merge with Spanish criollo influences, impacting both culture and cuisine.

When to Go

Argentina’s winter during July and August and spring, September through December, offer the most comfortable touring temperatures (summer rains can affect some mountain roads). The wine harvest takes place during February and March.

Where to Taste

Cafayate’s layout enables tourists to visit several wineries in a single day. Bodega San Pedro de Yacochuya, where the Etchart family and Michel Rolland produce Malbec, is one of the most prominent. Piatelli is the most modern winery, and features a restaurant with a panoramic observation deck that overlooks the town. The iconic Bodega El Esteco in Cafayate, features a historical façade and completely restored facilities; try the Chañar Punco wine. In the middle of the city center, El Porvenir de Cafayate, a boutique winery where Paul Hobbs consults, produces fantastic Tannat and Torrontés. Finca Las Nubes is located in one of the prettiest corners of the local village, and it presents stunning sunset views over the vineyards. Finca Quara is another historic winery with both a beautiful wine cellar and a setting.

Prominent Wines

Although Cafayate is located approximately 5,750 feet above sea level, Salta’s Bodega Colomé boasts the highest vineyard on the planet at 10,206 feet. The altitude leads to intense and concentrated wines. While Malbecs are most popular, many winemakers believe Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon blends represent the future of the region. Argentina’s iconic white grape is the floral and aromatic Torrontés, the result of crossing Muscat of Alexandria (introduced by the Spanish in the 19th century) with native grapes.

Local in the Know

Arnaldo Etchart, together with his brothers, Pablo and Marcos, runs the family winery, Bodega San Pedro de Yacochuya. Born in Salta, Etchart believes that the best ways to enjoy the Calchaquí Valleys are by motorcycle or more traditional means. “Once a year, we go up to 3,000 meters above sea level riding horses or mules, just like our family used to do 100 years ago. Yacochuya views are breathtaking. The sun over the mountains constantly changes the landscape colors, as if they were painted by an artist.”

http://www.winemag.com/2017/01/05/cafayate-argentina-best-wine-destinations-2017/

 


Best Drives around Cafayate

The drive from Salta to Cafayate takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours and passes through the picturesque Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas Nature Reserve.

QUEBRADA DE LAS CONCHAS - Picture of Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas ...

On Tripadvisor, there are over 1400 reviews for this drive : “no words for all this beauty, stunning colours, amazing,etc…”

The Telegraph includes Cafayate in its list of the world’s best drives:

Argentina: Round trip from Salta
Where: The Calchaquí Valleys, in northwest Argentina, from Salta to Cachi, Colomé, Cafayate and back to Salta.

Why: This area of Argentina lies in the foothills of the Andes, with snowy peaks, cruising condors and a strong indigenous culture. Salta is a colonial city, with cobbled lanes, a candy-pink cathedral and high-walled convents. From here, the journey takes in the red-rock desert landscapes of Los Cardones National Park,  the sleepy town of Cachi and the Bodega y Estancia Colomé wine estate. Continue on the Ruta del Vino loop to Cafayate  (stop at the Domingo Hermanos winery)  and Finca Las Nubes, the “Farm in the Clouds” . The return route to Salta includes the dramatic Quebrada de Las Conchas, or “Ravine of the Shells” .

 

The blog Infused Exposures has a list of what it considers the top 5 unmissable drives in Northwest Argentina.  Cafayate is the destination for the top 2 spots:

1. Ruta 40 from Cachi to Cafayate

This easily takes the #1 spot.  What Route 66 is to the USA, Route 40 is to Argentina.  Stunning scenery, cool hippy history, biker dudes heading out into the open road.  What more could you ask for of a route?

The drive from Cachi to Cafayate will take you through some of the most beautiful landscape that Argentina has.  From red rocks dotted with cactus to white, windswept rocks, you will want to stop all the time to get out and photograph this unforgettable landscape.

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2.  Route 42 through National Parque Cardones

If you are driving from Salta to Cachi via Route 33, you will pass a sign for Route 42.  Stop what you’re doing, make a left and head into one of the best drives you will ever take.  What really sets this route apart making it one of the most unique drives I have ever done, is that you feel like you are hiking but you are remain in the car.  What exactly does that mean?  That this road puts you right smack in the middle of the most stunning terrain you will come across.  Usually you have to get out and go for a hike to truly be in the middle of a landscape.  That’s not the case on this drive where you will be immersed in complete beauty.



How to get to Cafayate

Arrival by Air in Buenos Aires

International flights arrive at Ezeiza International airport (EZE).

You need to transfer to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP) for all domestic flights.

www.ProjectArgentinablog.com has a good article on the transfers between airports in Buenos Aires. Basically, it can take you between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending if you take a taxi or a shuttle bus, depending on the time of the day.

Arrival by Air in Salta City

It takes 2 hours to fly from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP) to Salty City (SLA).

Aeropuerto Internacional de Salta “Martín Miguel de Güemes” (IATA: SLA, ICAO: SASA) is located 7 km (4.3 mi) southwest of the center of Salta. 

Arrival by Air in Cafayate

Flying from Salta to Cafayate is only an option if you fly by Private Jet.  Commercial flights will hopefully become a reality in the future.

The Cafayate municipal airport is located just 3 km from Cafayate and is open to all aircraft.  Before flying in, pilots are advised to recognize their intentions by Fax to +54 387 437 5110 or by emailing gmunoz@salta.gov.ar.

  • Coordinates: S26 03 51 W065 55 50
  • Location: 0.8 Nm NE Cafayate City, Province of Salta, Argentina
  • Length: 15/33 5900’
  • Surface: asphalt

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Arrival by Road in Cafayate, from Salta

Cafayate is a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive to the South of Salta (183 km or 114 miles). Route 68 is fully paved and passes through the picturesque Quebrada de las Conchas Nature Reserve. The scenery is wonderful! Please note that the last gas stop is in La Viña.

Rental cars are rather expensive in Argentina.  Cars are available in Salta through Hertz, Avis, Sixt, EuroCar or Cactus. Cactus is a Salta Car Rental company with generally lower rates, both for short and long term rentals.

There is also a regular bus service between Salta and Cafayate, organized by Flechabus: http://www.flechabus.com.ar/.

You need to catch the Flecha bus in Salta from the Bus Terminal (“Terminal Omnibus”). The Flecha bus stop in Cafayate is on Mitre 140, not far from the main square.

Below is the Flecha time schedule. If you can, make sure to reserve the front seata. The trip takes between 3 to 4 hours.

  • Salta to Cafayate: 6.50,10.30,13.00,17.00,19.30,21.00
  • Cafayate to Salta: 5.00,8.30,10.30,13.30,16.00,19.30.

When arriving in the airport in Salta, you can either take a taxi to the Bus Terminal, or alternatively take bus 8A (“Colectivo 8A”). The bus trip takes about 30 to 40 minutes and is cheap and quite comfortable. The bus stop is just outside the Airport compound. Below you will see the map with the convenient trajectory.

Corredor 8 A - Bus Salta


Cascadas in Cafayate

The excellent blog www.projectargentinablog.com has a good article regarding the trip to visit the Rio Colorado Waterfalls. 

waterfall hike 1

In addition, there is also the following article  on Travelmagma.com with more information on the trip to the Cascadas del Rio Colorado :

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.