After spending a tough day hiking the Rio Colarado we took it easy the following day and did nothing more strenuous than visit a few of Cafayate's bodegas. Stamina of a different sort is required for these tours as the bodegas are very liberal with their tasting sessions.
We started off in Vasija Secreta, just outside the centre of town. This bodega is one of the largest in Cafayate and a popular stop with bus tour groups. We visited just as a tour was starting, and as most of the tour group were Spanish speaking the tour was in very fast Spanish. We didn't get everything the guy said but it was still fairly clear what was going on.
I was less impressed with Vasija Secreta than with the other two bodegas we visited, Bodega Nanni and Transito. We were given 4 glasses of wine in the tasting at Vasija Secreta, so I can't complain too much, but the wine was far inferior to what we had in Nanni and Transito. It's also less enjjoyable to visit as part of a big tour group.
Wine in Cafayate
Mendoza is well known as Argentina's wine growing capital but the next most important wine area is Cafayate, which produces an excellent dry white wine from the Torrontes grape as well as some excellent red wines.
Cafayate lies at an altitude of 1683 metres, and has a temperature and climate ideal for wine growing. There is far less wine produced here than in Mendoza, but most of the wineries here are small, family run enterprises, and there is a far more welcoming atmosphere than in the larger wineries of Mendoza.
The town of Cafayate has developed around these wineries so you don't have to travel far to see them. Nearly all welcome visitors and offer tours where you can taste a generous amount of (in some cases) excellent wines without any compulsion to buy.
Many of the wines produced in Cafayate are only available in the town and surrounding province, so once you've arrived and tried a few wines I guarantee you won't want to leave!
Transito is a centrally located bodega, opposite the better known Bodega Nanni, and despite it's modern looking exterior, the family behind it have been making wines for 4 generations.
Nanni was a more attractive bodega, but the wine in Transito was better. We went on a tour with three French guys (the tour was in Spanish but we understood most of it as the guide spoke clearly and slowly) before getting down to the real business of wine tasting.
We had already had 4 glasses in Vasija Secreta, the previous bodega we had visited, so anything probably would have tasted good to us, but the Transito wine was excellent, and we bought a bottle of the Merlot for 15 pesos. We didn't see many bottles from Transito in the restaurants or supermarkets so visiting the bodega is a good idea.
Hiking the Rio Colorado Day 2
On our final day in Cafayate our plan was to climb Cerro San Isidro, the large mountain overlooking the town. However, we couldn't find a map or any information about the mountain, and the lady in the tourist office put us off by saying we needed to register with the police if doing the hike without a guide, so we changed our plans and decided to hike the Rio Colorado again, and this time make it to the final waterfall.
We hired bikes this time at a good price of 15 pesos for 1/2 day. The cycle out was uphill most of the way, along a poor road, making it a difficult 5km ride. We left the bikes at the campsite and quickly made our way to the first waterfall, where we had stopped the previous time. After the first waterfall is the most difficult part of the hike as you have to ascend to a pass over through the mountains. The map from the tourist office finally came in useful. We skipped the 2nd waterfall, as to reach it involved a rather nasty looking descent.
It was another 45 minutes hike to the third waterfall but worth it when we finally made it there. It was an impressive sight, and there was a pool where you could bathe, beneath the falls. The water was very cold as we were at an altitude of approximately 2500m, but on such a hot day after a long day it was fresh and welcoming.
Hiking along the Rio Colorado
A great hike near to Cafayate is along the Rio Colorado, where, if you are lucky and persistent you will reach beautiful waterfalls. Armed with a map from the tourist office, lunch, swimsuits and a compass we set off on this hike on a beautiful Sunday morning. We reached the first of the waterfalls, but it was a difficult hike in that the map we were given was a poor representation of reality, and there were no obvious paths to speak of; many paths ended in dead ends meaning we spent a lot of time backtracking.
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic hike with beautiful scenery. The hike starts 5km south-west of town at the campsite near El Divisadero, at the base of Cerro San Isidro. We took the wrong path at the start and hiked for 30 minutes alongside the Rio Alisal, before realising our mistake and backtracking to the Rio Colorado. The paths are poor in places and in some cases you make your own path by scrambling over the rocks. We met up with two Argentines and hiked with them through the most difficult section before they turned back. After about 1.5 hours we arrived at the first waterfall, but found no path from there. We had lost our map by then so we decided to have lunch and a quick dip in the water before turning back.
Taxis from Cafayate to the start of the hike cost about 10 pesos. There was nowhere to call a taxi on the way back so we started hiking, but a friendly army guy picked us up after about 2km. There is a small shop at El Divisadero, near the start of the hike, but I recommend you bring plenty of food and water.
The most central of Cafayate's numerous bodegas is Bodega Nanni, a small vineyard producing 200,000 bottles of wine annually, and best known for its organic wines. The Nanni bodega dates from the 19th century and is run nowadays by descendants of the original Italian Nanni family.
We visited Nanni on the first day we arrived and had a very good tour of the bodega from an excellent multilingual guide. She explained the process to us, stressing how Nanni doesn't use any chemicals in their wine production, which, they claim, means you won't get a hangover (the disadvantage of this is that the wine can't last as long as inorganic wines). She also showed us a bottle of their prized wine, of which a German ambassador recently bought 1000 bottles!
There was a tasting at the end in which we tried one white and three of the reds. The white was excellent, as was one of the reds which we later bought. We were tempted into buying the German ambassador's choice wine, but it was just beyond our budget at 55 pesos.
Cerro Santa Teresita
Cerro Santa Teresita is the nearest peak to Cafayate, located 2km to the west, in the shadow of Cerro San Isidro (3200m). It's something of a place of pilgrimage as there's a shrine near to the top. The tourist office provides a map showing the route, though it's easy enough to find it by walking west on Calle Toscano from the main square.
It's a straightforward walk to the shrine, a white building from where there is a good view of Cafayate and the surrounding countryside. This is as far as most people go though you can go on further to the summit, which is a short scramble from the shrine. Watch out for the prickly bushes along the way as they really sting!
Quebrado de Cafayate
In general the landscape in this national park is super, for those who love nature at it's purest.
Take a 4x4 car, preferable a HONDA (lol), take a bike if you have more time to spent, but simply enjoy this wonder of nature which reminded me often at Petra city in Jordan, the grand canyon in the States
Quebrada de Cafayate - Garganta del Diablo
Another rock formation in this unbelievable landscape of Cafayate.
I put this picture first as a remembrance to Pepe, our local driver for a few days, did a good job and lives in La Cafayate. (BTW it is not his grafity, but a nice reminder)
Quebrada de Cafayate - Amphitheatre
A canyon located 10km northern Cafayate and in fact this breathtaking landscape has the same history as the quebrada de Humahuaca. Only in this valley the river "Rio las Conchas" did the exellent work of landscaping, by erosion.
Unbelievable rockformations "painted" and given colors by different minerals, unbelievable
formations given the idea that you are in the middle of a theatre or looking at towers or organ pipes.
- National/State Park
La Serenata a Cafayate
If you are in Cafayate in mid February, try to make it to the Serenata. Held in a huge outdoor theatre space, the Serenata runs for three nights and showcases some of the best "Norteno" music. Think big voices, heavy Andean rhythms and passionate fans. Get there early, the place is packed and the music goes on all night. The normally sleepy town becomes a great carnival. The link that follows will give you the date in February if you search for it- I think in 2006 it was around the 19th. You will need to buy tickets on the main square. Not hard to find.
- Arts and Culture
Bodega La Rosa
This vineyard is a bit of a hike from the center of town, but it's certainly in a peaceful and attractive setting. This winery seemed to be one of the larger and more professional ones in the region. We enjoyed a wine tasting here, and then were briefly shown around the main parts of this impressive and elegant villa. We didn't find it quite as friendly as the smaller wineries though. We had more fun at the smaller and less elegant Bodega de la Banda.
Be aware that the Bodega is only open in the morning on weekends.
- Wine Tasting
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Visiting the Quilmes Ruins
Along a rugged hillside, just south of Cafayate, are the 1000 year old ruins of the Quilmes Indians. Within the surrounding fortress wall is the remains of dozens of former houses and other structures. Only the stone foundations remain, but it's enough to get a sense of how complex these peoples' lives might have been. Plus, the views are just gorgeous. I enjoyed hiking the path up the small mountain behind the ruins--the air is crisp and clean and the photo opportunities are fantastic.
Traveling on your own, without a car, makes getting to the Quilmes ruins a bit tricky. I did the easiest thing I could find--I asked one of the "taxis" (guys hanging out, smoking and gossiping, by their cars along the center square) in Cafayate. For about $25, he drove me down to the ruins, waited while I hiked around, and then drove me back.
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Road 68 Quebrada de Cafayate : el Obelisco
The most famous formation of the Quebrada : the obelisc!!! It is also my favourite, non only for the form but also for its surrounding! Everything is so special, the landscape could be the one of the moon!!!
- Road Trip
Road 68 Quebrada de Cafayete : El Yesera
After El Sapo, the valley becomes more narrow and then appears one of the nicest landscape I had ever seen! A giant large plain surrounded by multicolored moutains in different ranges! No words can describe it! I wish we had the time to spend there some hours!!! We just ate there the lunch....amazing!
- Road Trip
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