Cafayate, the small town in Salta Province Argentina, was one of those destinations I instantly regretted not staying longer. As there are hundreds of Cafayate bodegas to visit and a lot of other things to do in Cafayate, I recommend allocating as much time in your travel itinerary as possible. To make things easier on you, and the help you plan your time in Cafayate Argentina, I list my favorite activities and things to do in Cafayate Argentina!
Favorite Things To Do In Cafayate Argentina (that are not all about wine)
I traveled solo in Argentina for more than 3 weeks and was very much looking forward to my time in northwest Argentina. I just came from the amazing Jujuy Province and now it was time to explore the Salta region of Argentina. Cafayate would be my stop and I stayed 3 days and 2 nights in Cafayate. Obviously, that wasn’t enough but I did my best to do as many things in Cafayate as possible.
Cafayate is just a small town in the Salta province in North-West Argentina. But it deserves world fame by their amazing Torrontes grapes and vineyards.
Located just 189 km (117 miles) from Salta, at an altitude of 1,683 meters (5,522 ft), Cafayate is not just perfect for an off the beaten path wine tasting. It has amazing landscapes to explore, a chilled and relaxed vibe and did I mention the wine?
Cafayate is one of those places where you can linger around, take in the vibe (or wine) and simply chill for a while. But if you’re curious about what you can do in Cafayate, I help you out with my favorite things to do in Cafayate.
My favorite things to do in Cafayate Argentina
If I daydream away about where I’d go when I’d ditch the day job and live the digital nomad lifestyle, Cafayate is one of those places that clearly pops up.
I had such a fantastic time in Cafayate, although short, I’d love to share my personal favorites with you. Let’s see if you think Cafayate is as amazing as I think it is!
Visit the bodegas of Cafayate
Duh! You didn’t come all this way to Cafayate and not visit some of the most famous bodegas of Cafayate.
One of the great advantages of the bodegas de Cafayate are its location. Some are conveniently located in the city center. This way, you can easily roll from your hotel to a bodega and on to the next.
Close to my hotel, I found Porvenir Bodega de Cafayate. The big wooden door welcomes you in and you can tour the premises and taste their delicious blends of wines.
Cafayate also has many bodegas situated on the outskirts of town. You can walk there and take a taxi back (or the other way around) after your visit. Some bodegas are located a little further away from Cafayate center.
You can rent a bicycle or take a taxi for a visit to one of the famous bodegas of Cafayate. Tucked away between the vineyards, some bodegas offer amazing views of the valley of Cafayate.
I personally visited two, Finca de las Nubes which is the furthest out of the Cafayate bodegas. I’m not even sure if I’d bike there but the taxi ride was quite affordable after some haggling. Another great bodega to visit is Piattelli Bodega of Cafayate. Located at an Italian Style mansion overlooking the vineyard and the hills of Cafayate, this is a splendid location for a bodega tour in Cafayate.
Wine and dine in Cafayate
Which brings me to my next favorite thing to do in Cafayate: drink wine and eat steak! This isn’t a match made in heaven but a match made in Argentina. And they do it well in Cafayate!
During my trip to Argentina, I didn’t always eat a full meal for lunch or dinner. Sometimes empanadas were just fine. But not in Cafayate. I never ate that much in my life, but Cafayate is made for dining and long lunches at the bodegas.
Most bodegas close around 5 pm or 6 pm but they do serve delicious lunches throughout the day. Of course with their own wines to match that lovely steak dinner.
I highly recommend Sunday lunch at Piattelli in Cafayate. Their jasmine covered terraces with Italian floor tiles, robust wooden tables, and impeccable white table linen are every Instagrammer’s dream!
And then the view! And I’m not just talking about the colorful jagged hills in the distance or the vineyard with small leaves and grapes basking in the sun. No, it seems Piattelli (especially on Sundays) is the place to be for gorgeous Argentinian people to go for lunch. I felt like I stepped into a movie set and admired the immaculately manicured divas and stylish gentlemen.
Oh, and the food was divine too! As soon as my steak was served, it was all I had my eyes on, I promise. And copious amounts of their delicious Malbec wines!
Another place to be for dinner in Cafayate is the main square of the town. The 20th February Square is lined with parrilla restaurants, bars and other places to match your wine with your food. Or the other way around.
Drink wine in Cafayate (and lots and lots of it!)
Ok, ok, I hear you thinking: “Blablabla, delicious food, blablabla, great vibe. Now show me the wine!” And I can’t blame you.
I consider myself a moderate drinker. A glass or two over dinner on the weekends and that is it. Mainly because I get majorly tipsy after 1 glass and I only recently discovered (and started to appreciate) the taste of red wine.
Until I came to Argentina. More specifically: Cafayate!
I never drank that much wine in my life. When you’re in wine country you have to taste as many different varieties as humanly possible. At the end of my day of wine tasting, I even had to decline more wine! Can you imagine?
Where to go wine tasting in Cafayate?
The answer to that question is simple: everywhere! Visit a wine shop in town and do a wine tasting. Go to a city bodega and tour the bodega and end it with a wine tasting. Visit some of the bodegas outside of Cafayate for lunch, have a glass of wine, or do the tour with a tasting!
Expect to pay 5-7 Euros (or 6 to 8 US dollars) for a wine tasting. This would include multiple glasses of wine (don’t worry, the glasses are not full).
At Porvenir Bodegas, one of the more expensive wine tastings in town, I paid 7€ (8 dollars) but we tasted up to 9 different wines! And not just the cheap ones, but also the refined blends and vintage wines!
Tips for wine tasting in Cafayate
- You don’t have to reserve spots to tour a bodega. Just look up the times, show up and join a tour. In the low season or on busy Sundays, it might mean you have to wait for a little to join an English tour. If you’re short on time or go to a lot of trouble to get somewhere, it might be better to call ahead.
- Some wine tours are free but in my opinion, you get what you pay for. When you pay nothing or very little, you might end up not tasting the best wines. Some bodegas have extensive tours and tastings and for a few bucks, you get to taste a whole range of different Torrontes, Malbecs, and blends.
- Buy the wines at the bodegas! Did you taste a wine you liked during the tour? Ask to see the pricelist of the bodega. It is a lot cheaper to buy directly from the bodegas. So stock up on wine. Did you know you can take wine as carry-on luggage on domestic flights in Argentina? Perfect!
- The easy thing about wine tasting in Cafayate is that a lot of bodegas are situated right in town. You can visit a couple of them on foot. If you’re after sampling some good wines and don’t really mind where you’re tasting them, this would be a good low-budget alternative as you don’t need to take a taxi or tour to visit the Cafayate bodegas outside town.
Visit Cabras de la Cafayate
As I felt it would be too much to visit a bodega and go wine tasting at 9 am, I decided to check out the Cabras de la Cafayate, not far from my hotel. This goat farm offers tours and tastings of their goat cheeses.
It would have been easier and faster to drive there or cycle there, but it was an easy 15-minute walk, so I decided to use the exercise after all that wine tasting, and enjoy the countryside.
Once at the goat farm, you’re greeted by a shaded parking lot and a lovely farm-house/museum. Most of the information is in Spanish, but the people at the reception do speak English (after some encouragement).
You can join a tour of the premises but I was allowed to walk around on my own. They have several patches with goats and I even saw a little goat being born! Right there on the spot.
But the really delicious stuff is inside. I got a sampling of 5 different kinds of cheese and I decided to devour them outside and enjoy the view.
Even if goat cheese isn’t your thing, the tasting is well worth it, as they also have several other hard cheese and blends.
The tasting is free, but of course, I was persuaded to buy some cheese, that would go perfectly with the bottles of wine I’d buy later.
Have wine ice cream in Cafayate
If you think Cafayate is all about food and wine, you might be right. And I can’t blame them. The town is famous for its Torrontes wines and other grape varieties. The climate is perfect for growing and making wine but the people of Cafayate have found another thing to do with their wine: ice cream!
The best place to try this rare kind of gelato is of course at the main town square of Cafayate. Enjoy!
Visit the Torrontes Festival in Cafayate
As I reached Cafayate, I found out it was the end of the Torrontes Festival in Cafayate (Fiesta Nacional del Vino Torrontés) l. What a coincidence and a special occasion to visit the region.
But it might very well be that you’ve never heard of Torrontes wine. This grape variety produces aromatic white wines with fruity notes. Almost 20% of all white wine consumed in Argentina is a Torrontés wine and the region of Cafayate and Salta is the place to drink it!
Every year in October, the town of Cafayate celebrates its Torrontés wines with a lot of wine tasting, dance and music, grilled food and more wine at the main town square. Make sure not to miss it when you’re in the region!
Browse for souvenirs at the Local Artisan Market in Cafayate
As I walked around the main square of Cafayate, looking for a place to eat, I stumbled on several local artisan markets around the square. The main one you can find opposite the church but smaller stalls are located around the square.
After a few weeks in Argentina, the local markets, especially here in the north-west, began to look quite a lot alike.
That is why I was pleasantly surprised by Cafayate’s local artisan market. Loads of craftsmen and women displayed their trade of embroidery, weaving and jewelry making as well as the finished products.
At the Cafayate artisan market, you’ll not find the staple knitted llama or alpaca figure but beautifully designed clothes, bags, rugs, and pillowcases. And precious gemstones cut meticulously to fit a piece of jewelry.
If you’re looking for a truly original souvenir or a special item to commemorate your trip to Cafayate, I recommend a visit to this artisan market!
Other things to do in Cafayate center
In all honesty, I had too little time. I was also too busy with the wine tasting and enjoying the atmosphere of Cafayate town center, there simply wasn’t any time left.
However, I like to be complete and also provide you with plenty of inspiration for things to do in Cafayate. So here is an additional list of Cafayate things to do if you have more time!
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary: The main church of Cafayate is dominating the town square. You can easily pop your head in or just sit outside and enjoy the buzz of church go-ers.
- Vine and Wine Museum of Cafayate: In case you want to learn even more about wine than you already did. This is a self-guided museum, focusing on the history of Cafayate and winemaking. The shop is worth a visit to taste wine or stock up on regional bottles.
- Archaeological Museum Rodolfo I Bravo: The local archaeological museum with many historic finds from the region. The collector’s widow, will show you around and stuff your head with facts, stories, and anecdotes.
Things to do around Cafayate
Cafayate is a great base to explore more of the area and return to town for steak and wine in the evening. Some of the best road trips begin (or end) in Cafayate. As I visited Cafayate with my rental car, I arrived via one of the most scenic road trips. And I left via one of the others. Below, I explain what there is to see outside of Cafayate and the logistics to organize your own trip.
Road Trip Ruta 40: Cachi to Cafayate
The most famous Argentina roads among roads: the Ruta 40.
165 km (102 miles) of unpaved gravel road connect the wine towns of Cachi and Cafayate. I left Cachi after lunch and it took me almost 5 hours to drive the distance. The road is not difficult to drive and you’ll pass numerous small hamlets along the way. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and visit a small church or viewpoint.
This stretch of the road follows the River Calchaqui that was lush and green. And it really shows a great inside story of rural Argentinian life. I didn’t encounter any other traffic during my road trip, besides the odd motorcycle going from one village to the next.
Unearthly Landscape in Quebrada de las Flechas
Coming from Cachi, just after Angastaco, I entered the surreal landscape of the Quebrada de las Flechas. A valley with unearthly rock formations and surreal beauty. You can drive straight through it from one side to the other. Or you can stop at several signposted viewpoints and trailheads for hiking.
As the Quebrada de las Flechas is only 70 km (44 miles) from Cafayate, this makes for a good half-day trip. If you wish to take in all the photo opportunities and hiking options, as well as the smaller town of San Carlos, it will be a full day trip.
Los Médanos de Cafayate – The Sand Dunes of Cafayate
Just a 15-minute drive from Cafayate, on route 68 towards Salta, you’ll find the turn-off point to these amazing sand dunes. After my visit to Iran, I fell in love with sand, so this is a great find!
The Médanos of Cafayate is open 24h a day, but it is nicest to visit early morning or during sunset hours. Leave your car at the turn-off point to avoid getting stuck or scratching your car and walk towards the dunes. Admire the sunset, have a picnic lunch or just take in this amazing miniature landscape of sand near Cafayate.
Road Trip Route 68: Cafayate to Salta
Leave plenty of time for this 200 km (125 miles) road trip from Salta to Cafayate. Or from Cafayate back to Salta as was the case for me.
There is so much to see on route 68, that you’ll spend more time stopping and exploring than driving.
The route itself is pretty easy. A nice ribbon of asphalt connects Cafayate with Salta. It crosses the famous Quebrada de la Cafayate but besides the colorful and oddly shaped rock formations, there is still plenty to see.
The landscape after the Quebrada de las Conchas is also interesting with wide-open vistas and narrow roads hugging the rock formation as it follows the river to Salta.
Quebrada de la Cafayate
This red-rock valley is full of oddly shaped rock formations, hiking opportunities, and canyons and viewpoints. Along the Ruta 68 from Cafayate to Salta, this valley stretched roughly for 50 km (31 miles).
If you just drive the route without stopping, it will take you approximately 30 minutes. But there are so many things to see on the road, you’ll probably end up stopping 5-6 times and taking half to a full day.
Some things to stop for:
Quebrada de las Conchas or Shell’s Gorge
This is absolutely a hiker’s dream. The River Conchas cut away the rocks, leaving odd shapes in the red rocks. I visited early in the morning and went for a short hike along the dry river bed.
The red rocks were overwhelming and I couldn’t peel my eyes away from all the nooks and shapes and dramatic features of this valley.
This red rock formation in the shape of a pinnacle or obelisk is a quick stop on route 68.
The Obelisk sits right next to the road and you can walk around it. It is really a quick stop and not nearly as impressive as some of the other landmarks.
There is a small parking lot with a restaurant where the trail to La Yesera starts. It will take you roughly half an hour but even if you don’t go all the way to the end, you’ll see impressive rock formation and fossils.
La Casa de Los Loros – Parrot’s nest
This sheer wall of a rock houses hundreds of parrot’s nests. The little colorful birds nest in the vertical rock, bringing desert seeds and food to their offspring.
El Fraile – The Friar
Further down Route 68, just off the road, you’ll find a rock formation called El Fraile, the Friar. I had a hard time seeing the shape of the rock resemble a friar, so I moved on quickly.
El Sapo – The Toad
A little bit further, you’ll find el Sapo, or the toad. This rock does much better justice to its name. On the other hand, any lump of rock might resemble a toad, so I also moved on quickly.
Mirador Tres Cruces – Viewpoint of the 3 crosses
I got back in my car and continued driving along route 68. After a couple of minutes, I got to the Mirador Tres Cruces. It was much busier here and I slowly climbed the steps that are carved in the rocks.
From the top, you’ll have a very wide and impressive 180-degrees view of the valley below you.
El Anfiteatro – The Amphitheatre
The next stop was not far away and I pulled over into the small parking lot to see the Amphitheatre. I walked through a narrow gorge in between the tall rocks and in the end, you’ll reach a circular rock formation.
The waves of the rocks followed the circular shape and the acoustic in the center of the clearly was really good. Some local singers and guitar players showcase the fine acoustic with a performance.
It was quite a nice spot for a snack and a drink and I enjoyed perusing the merchandise of the local vendors at this spot.
Garganta del Diablo – The Devil’s Throat
I was a bit disappointed by this one, to be honest. The Devil’s Throat at Iguazu Fall is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen and the Garganta del Diablo near Tilcara was also a nice half-day trip.
However, as soon as I pulled up into the parking lot, I saw a lot of people walking back and forth. I walked into the canyon, but very quickly saw people returning. A massive, near-vertical wall obstructed the path. Although a clearly marked sign in 3 languages said not to go over it, I saw people attempting to climb it. And even worse, nearly falling and hurting themselves coming down.
I felt the really impressive dried up waterfall and cave rock formation of this devil’s throat was beyond this vertical sheet of rock. But I decided to also turn around and continue driving route 68 to Salta.
Tips for driving route 68 from Cafayate to Salta
Although not all stops are world-class star attractions, they are a nice quick stop and a quick snapshot picture. Other stops at the Quebrada de las Conchas need (and deserve) more time. Some tips to make the best of your road trip:
- Leave early morning from Cafayate. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to reach Salta. As you drive north, the sun will come mostly from your right, back or left. If you drive from Salta to Cafayate, plan this part of the trip later in the day, otherwise, you’ll drive the whole route with the sun in your face.
- Drive slow and keep your distance. The road winds back and forth and there is plenty to see around you. Really it is not a punishment to drive slow on this road. I recommend keeping your distance from the car in front of you because people can stop and pull over without any warnings.
- Stop at signposted areas and parking lots. If you don’t know where to stop, just follow the crowds. You’ll always find a few cars parked near the attractions of route 68 and the bigger ones have small parking lots. At each one of them, you’ll find signs in Spanish and basic English about what you can find there.
- Bring plenty of water. The Quebrada de las Conchas is a desert-like environment with plenty of rocks, sand, and no trees or shade. Bring water when you go out for a hike but it is also recommended to keep water in the car. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of locals selling snacks but you can always pack a lunch and bring it.
- Avoid the big bus groups and clusters of cars. Some of the attractions along route 68 to Salta are very small and can get overcrowded quickly. Just wait until the big tour group leaves and you’ll have the place to yourself in no-time.
Where to Stay in Cafayate Argentina
As soon as I reached the outskirts of town and drove through the vineyards, heard the parrots fight over the grapes and saw the soft glow of the town, I knew I should have booked a longer stay in Cafayate!
I had a rental car but I parked it at my hotel and explored Cafayate on foot and by taxi. I stayed for 2 nights at the lovely quiet El Hospedaje guest house. Mainly, I choose it for its located just 1 street away from the main square and on-sight (free) parking space. But I was pleasantly surprised by the conglomeration of colorful buildings, blossoming Bougainville and delicious breakfast. Check for room rates and availability at El Hospedaje in Cafayate here.
As I traveled solo and had very little time, I chose to stay in the heart of Cafayate. If I would be with my husband and had more time, I definitely would have stayed at some of the bodegas away from the center.
For example at El Porvenir Casa de Bodega, close to town but at the Porvenir vineyards in a quiet rural setting. Or what about the colonial farmhouse of Patios de Cafayate. It looks utterly dreamy and I’d stay there in a heartbeat.
And what about Vinãs de Cafayate Wine Resort. I mean, it has “wine” and “resort” in the name! These colonial-style houses overlook the Amalaya vineyards and the hotel is situated just outside Cafayate but very close to the Amalaya Bodega and the Finca las Nubes.
I think I just have to go back to Cafayate and stay longer!
How to explore Cafayate Argentina
In my opinion, the best way to explore Cafayate and to do as many of the amazing things listed in this post, it is best to have your own car.
Car rental for Cafayate
This offers you the opportunity to go wherever you want and stop as long as you want. The best option for affordable rental cars is to rent a car from Salta Airport.
Here, you’ll find most budget car rental companies, can easily compare prices and it is at the center of Salta so you can go anywhere from the airport. Find the best Salta Airport car rentals here.
Cycling in Cafayate
Of course, there are plenty of car rental companies in Salta city or in Cafayate.
If you don’t have a driver’s license or don’t want to rent a car, then a 2-wheel rental is also an option. Cycling and bicycles are very common in Cafayate.
Tour the wineries by bike, explore the Quebrada de Cafayate by bike and cycle your way around Cafayate. Rent a bike from your hotel, hostel or guest house or rent one from one of the companies in town.
Buses in Cafayate
If you can’t drive to Cafayate, then you can always take the bus from Salta (or San Miguel de Tucumán). Services between Salta and Cafayate are frequent and affordable. You can easily bring your luggage on the bus, as well as a bike, so you can bus and bike the Quebrada de Cafayate.
FlechaBus is the company with the most frequent bus services in the area but other companies also head to Salta.
Book a tour to Cafayate
Don’t drive, can’t bus but still like to visit Cafayate? See the best of the region, explore amazing things to do in Cafayate on a tour from Salta! Leave Salta, explore the Quebrada de las Conchas, and go wine tasting in Cafayate. All in one jam-packed day trip from Salta, but it is worth it to see this amazing area. Check for more details and booking here.
Cafayate: A top travel destination in Salta region
As you can see, Cafayate offers a lot of things to see and do in the area. Even if you don’t like wine, the town and the area around it can grab your attention by her fantastic natural surroundings and impressive road trip opportunities!
I hope I showed you a bit why I instantly fell in love with Cafayate and long to go back and explore more and do more things in town (aka: drink more wine).
Have you ever been to Cafayate? Is Argentinian’s north-west region on your travel bucket list? Make sure to add Cafayate to it! Share your remarks in the comment section below. Or feel free to share this on social media and with your friends.