Known as the “Tuscany of Argentina,” this little wine town is famous for the Torrontés grape and the crisp, floral white wine it produces.
There are bodegas located all over the village, so tourists can leisurely stroll between vineyards, taking tours and doing tastings all day.
You’ll find post-colonial architecture, a few museums, a couple good hikes, and incredibly dramatic landscapes around Cafayate to explore.
There’s great eating to be had, from empanadas salteñas to grilled steaks to tasting menus at boutique wineries.
Grab a carafe of the local vino and do a little relaxing in this pleasantly wine-soaked town located in the Calchaquí Valleys of northern Argentina.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Cafayate:
1. Visit the Bodegas
The most popular activity in town, make your way to wineries and vineyards around the city center or out in the countryside for tours and tastings.
Cafayate is renowned for the Torrontés grape which is only grown in Argentina, so be sure to try the the crisp white wines it produces.
There are lots of bodegas within walking distance of the town’s main plaza, like the family-run Salvador Figueroa, the modern El Transito, Bodega Nanni with its beautiful garden area, and Domingo Hermanos.
If you want to head out further for vineyard tours and exceptional scenery, you can hire a taxi for the day or rent bikes in town to reach Finca las Nubes, El Esteco, El Porvenir de los Andes, Amalaya, Bodega Etchart, and many more.
2. Shop at the Mercado Artesanal
This market features high quality local artwork and handicrafts influenced by the Calchaquí land and culture.
Wander the the works of vendors just next to the main town square and browse the range of of handmade items from ponchos to pottery to specially ground spices.
It’s great for tourists who still need to pick up souvenirs as they’ll find all sorts of textiles, leather, basketry, silver, and woodworkings.
Even better, you can usually have a chat with the skilled artisans who made the products you’re interested in buying.
They’ve got everything from handmade carvings to homemade dulce de leche, all made from raw materials taken from the valley.
3. Iglesia Catedral Nuestra Señora del Rosario
A prominent landmark on the main city square, this cathedral’s simple yet beautiful post-colonial architecture matches its provincial surroundings very well.
Built in 1896 by the Augustinians, it replaced the city’s former temple which was nearly in ruins.
Though the interior is not as ornate as many of the Catholic cathedrals you may have toured in other South American cities, there are still seven altars and five naves that you can see inside.
If you come during a religious holiday or festival, you’ll get to see the church decorated and filled with celebrating crowds and processions.
4. Try Wine Ice Cream
Cafayate might be famous for wine, but visitors love its brilliant wine-flavored ice cream too.
Try a few scoops of creamy Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Torrontes at one of the many ice cream shops around the city.
Heladería Miranda is the original creator of wine ice cream and the most famous heladería in town, but they also serve other fun flavours like dulce de leche and pink grapefruit.
There are lots of little parlours and pop-up stands in town serving the stuff if you want to try the competitors like Heladería Dessio and Santa Barbara.
And don’t forget that the ice cream is actually made with real wine, so yes it contains booze.
5. Cascadas del Rio Colorado
A great half-day hike, you can cycle or get a ride out to the trailhead where you’ll start this trek up to several beautiful waterfalls.
Local taxis know the way to the starting point.
An enjoyable but challenging trek, the route can be a bit tricky to discern in places as it’s not well-marked, but you’ll find plenty of guides waiting around at the bottom to show you the way (for a fee, of course). There are river crossings, some scrambling climbs, slippery rocks, and lots of adventurous obstacles along the way.
The entire trail will lead you to 7 waterfalls if you walk far enough, so bring your bathing suit to take a dip and cool off.
6. Museo Arqueológico Rodolfo Bravo
A little different than your typical museum, this is an old house packed with archeological finds.
It’s a private collection filled with over 2,000 artifacts and works of art by the indigenous people of the local region and even the Incas.
Get a tour from a widow of the archaeologist Rodolfo Bravo who was responsible for these excavations and discoveries.
She’ll explain the many things that pack the shelves and even show you the bicycle that Bravo used to bring home his hauls.
The entry is free (with an optional contribution) and you’ll learn lots about the Calchaquí and Diaguitas cultures.
7. Piattelli Vineyards
Make the trip out into the countryside for a visit to the Disneyland of wineries.
It’s a huge Tuscan-style estate that’s a bit grandiose and over the top, but everything here is truly high quality.
Come for a fancy lunch or special dinner on the terrace overlooking the spectacular grounds, vineyards, and mountain scenery.
Or just visit for a tour of the winery and a generous tasting of their best vintages.
Food and service is impeccable, and you can opt for the tasting menu or if it’s a Saturday, their popular Argentine asado of grilled meats, vegetables, and potatoes.
8. Relax in the Central Plaza
So the area surrounding the Plaza 25 de Febrero caters a bit to tourists, but be sure to spend some time in this pleasant town square.
Take it easy wandering around the park and the church, as well as the many shops, bars, and restaurants with outdoor seating.
It’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours with a coffee or glass of wine after you finish souvenir shopping, and it can get rather lively on the weekends with music and craft fairs.
Stroll around the gardens, check out the wine shops, have a beer, or just absorb the charming atmosphere here during the day or night, but be aware that lots of things may be closed in the afternoon for siesta.
9. Eat Empanadas
Empanadas are popular all over Argentina, but empanadas from the province of Salta are supposed to be the best in the country! Empanadas salteñas are different from others because they use sliced beef rather than mince and they’re typically small, so you can order a lot more! Try the salteñas at La Casa De Las Empanadas, one of the most popular and delicious empanada joints in the city.
They’re cheap and the menu has variations on the usual fillings, like goat cheese, pesto, corn, and roast tomatoes.
They serve jugs of wine and sometimes you’ll catch live music there.
10. Eat Steak and Drink Carafes of Wine
Skip the higher priced, lower quality restaurants surrounding the main plaza of Cafayate and head to a winery or a no-frills parrilla (steakhouse) for some quality grilled meats.
Bodega Nanni and Piattelli serve amazing dinners and excellent steaks.
Or go for an uncomplicated and authentic experience down Rivadavia to the local favorite El Gallito.
Here you’ll find meats grilled on an outdoor barbecue, fries served with aji mayo, plastic seats, and plenty of house wine.
For an afternoon al fresco vino, choose one of the many cafes away from the main square where they sell cheaper (but still high quality) wine by the carafe.
11. Museo de la Vid y Vino
You’ll likely be drinking a lot of the stuff, so learn about the history of the wine industry in the area.
The first part of this museum deals with the life of the grapevines and viticulture using a series of images and poems.
The second section teaches visitors about the winemaking process and displays some of the equipment used by producers.
You’ll want to visit before you hit the vineyards to learn all about why the grapes grow so well in this high altitude climate.
There’s also a cafe and shop where you can have a glass of wine and some food in the shady courtyard or purchase bottles to take home – sometimes they offer free tastings.
12. Make the Trip to Cachi
This well-preserved colonial village is a great trip from Cafayate, and the drive is half the attraction.
The roads between Cafayate and Cachi pass through breathtaking, colorful landscapes filled with dramatic rock formations, and they’re a must-do for people who love a little driving adventure.
When you arrive in the historic village, you can roam the tranquil cobblestone streets to admire the architecture and do a little handicraft shopping.
Enjoy the quaint town center, its plaza, and a cheap local meal.
Check out the 16th-century church, whitewashed adobe houses, and the Archeological Museum to see a collection of artifacts dating back thousands of years.
13. Quebrada de las Conchas
Take a bus or rent a bike to visit the epic landscapes of the Calchaquí Valley.
You can arrange a tour or grab bicycles in Calafate and then travel by bus one way and cycle back on mostly downhill or flat roads.
You’ll see the red stone ridges, valleys, and canyons as you ride through the Quebrada de las Conchas (Gorge of the Shells), stopping for photos along the way.
Be sure to visit all of the natural rock formations like the Anfiteatro (Amphitheater) and La Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). If you venture further afield (there are plenty of tour companies that will take you), there are even more naturally sculpted rocks like Los Castillos, Las Ventanas, El Obelisco, Las Tres Cruces, and El Sapo.
14. Los Medanos
Get a little exercise while visiting a hidden gem off the tourist trail located about 4 miles (6 kilometers) away from Cafayate.
Los Medanos or “the sand dunes” on Ruta 68 are a great place to hike or bike around for views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, and of course, the expansive dunes.
You’ll arrive at the dunes via a trail through the bush, or you can arrange to ride horses here.
Be sure you’re ready to get a bit dirty while visiting this sandy, desert landscape as the winds tend to carry a bit of grit.
Take off your shoes and run up and down the dunes – kids will love rolling down the hills.
15. Visit a Goat Cheese Farm
With all that wine you’re drinking, you’ll want to try some local cheese with it! You can visit Cabras de Cafayate to have a look around a working farm with its hundreds of goats, as well as llamas and cows.
The family owns a winery as well, and they actually needed the goat manure for their vineyards.
The farm is about a 20 minute walk from the center of town and they offer guided tours that end in a tasting of their cheeses.
Learn all about the cheese-making process, explore the beautiful location, and then grab a cheese platter and take it outside to enjoy.
You can also purchase goat’s cheese and cow’s cheese at their shop to take home.