Tag Archives: Cafayate

Cafayate – Part 2

I know it’s been a while since our South America trip ended, but I want to write about the last part of our trip before I totally forget about it! So, from time to time I’m going to go back and revisit our big adventure. 

We’d had a great day of wine tasting in Cafayate, so the next day we decided that we wanted to do something a little bit different. The owner of our hostel had told us about a hike close to town that would take us to some beautiful waterfalls and give us the opportunity to swim in the Rio Colorado, which would be a welcome respite from the heat of Northern Argentina. Although most people who did the hike hired a guide from the local community, we were told that it was possible to do the trek without one. The only caveat was that the trail was not well marked, or marked at all, really, so we might have trouble finding our way on our own. Feeling like we wanted to save some money and be independent, we decided to give it a shot solo. The man who greeted us at the entrance to the parking lot was not happy with our decision and tried to tell us that we were obligated to hire a guide, but we stood firm and set out unaccompanied.

Rio Colorado Cafayate hikeRio Colorado hike

If you’re thinking about doing this hike, you should know that no one’s exaggerating when they say that the trail isn’t marked. The trek was basically a big guessing game, where we jumped from one side of the river, which was more of a stream in this blazingly hot and dry November, to the other attempting to navigate our way up the valley. There was a group with a guide just a bit ahead of us that we tried to sneakily follow for a while, but eventually we lost them and it was up to us to find our way again. We never felt like we were in danger, and in a way it was kind of fun to chart our own confusing course, but I do understand why they encourage you to hire someone who actually knows where they’re going.

Rio Colorado hikeRio Colorado Cafayate hike

After we’d been hiking for a couple of hours we became really unsure of where the trail went next, so we decided to stop. We were running low on water and the sun was unrelenting, so we really didn’t want to go much further anyways. Luckily we were stopped right by a little waterfall with a nice pool, so we got to go for a swim. The water was absolutely frigid but it felt great after hiking in the heat!

Puppy in the window CafayateEl porvenir Cafayate

After finding our way back to our car and going back to our hostel to change (and seeing a very cute doggy in the window!), we headed out to do some more wine tasting. We had some bad luck with the first few places we went to being closed so we almost gave up, but we ended up going to some great tasting rooms in town. We really loved how casual the Cafayate wine tasting scene was. Unlike much of Napa and Mendoza, most places had no problem with drop ins, and prices were extremely reasonable.

Cafayate steakChef at Cafayate parilla

We’d eaten dinner the previous two nights at the beautiful wine bar attached to our hostel, but on our last night in Cafayate we wanted to try out something different. I think there’s a rule that you can only go so many days in Argentina without having a steak, so we decided to check out the parilla that our hostel recommended. Cafayate is a pretty small and not particularly touristy place, but we definitely felt like we were off the beaten path when we finally arrived at this hole in the wall restaurant. We sat down at a plastic table on the sidewalk and proceeded to have a parilla experience that was lightyears away from any of the places we’d eaten at in Buenos Aires. There was no menu, so I walked up to the sweatpants-clad chef and asked him to bring him whatever he thought was good. As you can see in the picture above, his grill was built in to the side of the restaurant, so this was street meat at its finest. When our entrees arrived at our table, we both took one bite and confidently proclaimed that this was by far the best steak we’d ever had. Instead of our usual sirloin or rib eye, we’d been given bonier cuts, and the meat was so incredibly tender and flavourful that I was rendered speechless. My only regret was that we’d waited until our last night to go, so we wouldn’t be able to return. The whole experience just reaffirmed something I already knew about eating out. As much as I love eating at fancy, high end restaurants, sometimes the most amazing food comes from some guy slinging meat on the side of the road, or from a little nondescript hole in the wall.

Cafayate still stands out to me as one my favourite stops on our trip, and one of the places I’d most like to return to. With great wine, delicious steak, beautiful natural surroundings, and a laid back atmosphere, how could we not fall in love with this little town?

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Cafayate – Part one

Domingo Molina

Cafayate was pretty far off my radar when we were planning out our time in Argentina. When we started doing research for our road trip, I started to realize that it might be somewhere we’d want to spend a bit of extra time. As it turned out, the city had even more to offer than we’d expected, and we ended up spending a lot more time there than we thought we would.

One of the reasons we had such a great experience in Cafayate was the excellent advice we got at the hostel we stayed in. As soon as we walked in the door, one of the owners sat us down and gave us a full overview of the activities she recommended in and around town. She also showed us a book they’d created that had instructions and maps detailing everything she’d explained to us and how to get to each place she’d suggested. This was SO helpful, and more hostels should really adopt this practice. After her fifteen minute explanation we felt totally prepared to plan out our days in Cafayate. Many of her suggestions involved wine, food, and being outdoors, which was just perfect for us.

Cabras de Cafayate Goats at Cabras de Cafayate Baby goats

Road to Cabras de Cafayate

After we’d dropped our things off in our room and gotten settled at the hostel, we decided to check one of the suggested activities off our list and go for a tour of a local cheese farm. Located a couple of kilometres outside of town, Cabras de Cafayate offers tours every hour on the hour, with a mid day break for lunch. We were lucky enough to be the only people there for the 5:00 tour, so we got our own private visit! They only offer tours in Spanish, so I asked our guide to speak slowly and let me translate for Zevi as we went along and he was happy to oblige. We visited the goats, and even got to see some little babies as it was birthing season. Unfortunately they were a little bit camera shy but just trust me when I say that they were painfully adorable. After learning about the process from milking to transportation to processing to the shaping of the cheese, we got to sample some of the goat and cow cheese that is produced in the farm. It was all delicious, and if we’d been closer to home we definitely would have taken a few different varieties home with us.

Lunch at Piatelli

Chicken at PiatelliPastel de choclo at PiatelliHeather and Zevi in front of PIatelli Wine barrels at Piatelli

The next day it was time to truly get down to business and check out a couple of wineries. The first winery recommended by our hostel was Piatelli. We weren’t surprised to learn that this vineyard had been started by a Californian, as its grand buildings and architecturally impressive grounds reminded us of the wineries we’d visited in Napa a few years ago. Piatelli’s restaurant is touted as one of the best places to eat in the area, so we sat down to grab a bite to eat before taking a tour. We were not disappointed, as Zevi’s chicken was perfectly cooked, my corn pie was full of balanced sweet and savoury flavour, and our bottle of torrontes was crisp and refreshing on the sunny spring afternoon. The beautiful views didn’t hurt either!

When it came time to take a tour, we got lucky again. The next tour was supposed to be in Spanish, but since we were the only ones there at that time our guide agreed to do the explaining in English, which meant that I could leave behind my role as translator for the time being. Though it’s always interesting to learn about each winery’s unique wine making process, we’re always in it mostly for the tasting, so we were excited to sample the wines produced at Piatelli’s Cafayate location at the end of the tour (they also have a location in Mendoza). We were already fans of the Torrontes, but the reds were equally good. I really enjoyed the Cabernet, while Zevi was a fan of the Malbec.

Domingo Molina Vineyards at Domingo Molina

White wines at Domingo Molina

Our second stop that day was at Domingo Molina, a smaller and more unassuming winery than Piatelli. The wines here were some of our favourites of the entire trip, and the entire tasting experience was a highlight for both of us. We were the only ones there that afternoon, and as we sat in the sun overlooking vineyards that stretched to the majestic mountains, sipping wine and munching on cheese and crackers, it seemed that life couldn’t get much better. Although we really enjoyed all of the wines we tasted, the Finca Domingo Torrontes and Cabernet Sauvignon were standouts, and we bought a bottle of each for an astoundingly cheap $14 Canadian. This price included the tasting, which made us feel like we’d really come away with a steal!

We were only planning to stay in Cafayate for two nights, but we loved it so much that we decided to extend our stay for another day! I’ll wrap up our time there in a second post.

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Road Tripping in Northern Argentina

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After spending twelve wonderful days in Buenos Aires, we were off to see a completely different side of Argentina. We headed up north to Salta, and from there we rented a truck and headed off on one of the craziest and most memorable road trips I’ve ever been on.
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