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Published: November 14th 2007
Cafayate VineyardCafayate: Where the wine is so abundant they add it to the ice cream
Cafayate has many bodegas. Perhaps the best located is Las Nubes, at the foot of the mountains.
Ten days of hiking and cycling had taken it out of us so it was relaxation time when we reached Cafayate. As soon as we jumped off the bus we were charmed by Emma-Inti from El Balcon into taking a room at her family run hostel. Which we liked so much we ended up staying for four nights. We did do plenty of relaxing in Cafayate, but plenty of hiking too.
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 much time backtracking.
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic hike with beautiful scenery. The hike starts 5km south-west of town at the campsite
Ruth at Cerro Santa Teresita
Cerro Santa Teresita is the most straightforward climb from Cafayate. It's located 2km west of town, below Cerro San Isidro
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 dried out 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 the turned back. After about 1.5 hours we arrived at the first waterfall, but found no path from there. We had lost both our maps by this stage so we decided to have lunch and a quick dip in the water before turning back.
However, we did make amends a few days later by reaching the third, most spectacular waterfall. 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 solo (?!), so we changed our plans and decided
Bodega Nanni is the most central of Cafayate's vineyards. After tasting a generous amount of their wines we decided we had to buy a bottle.
to hike the Rio Colorado again, and 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 approx 2500m, but on such a hot day we had to jump in.
It was disappointing not to climb Cerro San Isidro but we did make it to the top of
Cerro Santa Teresita, the nearest peak to Cafayate, located 2km to the west, in the shadow of Cerro San Isidro (3200m). 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!
At the start of this blog I said we came here to relax after hiking though all I've talked about so far is hiking. Well, we did do plenty of taking it easy in Cafayate, nowhere more so than in the bodegas. Cafayate is known in Argentina for it's wines, produced in these local bodegas, most of which are in the town or on its outskirts. Not much of this wine is exported outside Cafayate province, so we made the most of our opportunities to learn about (i.e. taste) the different
Rio Colorado Waterfall
It took us a long time to find this third waterfall on the Rio Colorado hike but it was worth it in the end. Very cold water but that didn't stop up jumping in for a quick dip.
types produced here. Nearly all the bodega's offer free tours and tastings without an obligation to buy a bottle. These consist of a quick tour followed by a tasting of the bodega's medium priced bottles. The bodegas here produce much less than their better known counterparts in Mendoza, which means the quality is usually very good. We noticed some of the wines we tasted on sale in the supermarkets and restaurants on sale at a much higher price.
The most central bodega 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
Wine Ice Cream
What better way to round off a tour of the bodegas than with some wine flavoured ice-cream, a speciality in Cafayate.
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's ambassadors choice wine, but it was just beyond our budget at 55 pesos. This girl was a pro and while there was no obligation to buy, it seemed inevitable we'd end up buying a bottle to take with us.
Our second bodega, Vasija Secreta, was not so good. We arrived at the same time as a large tour group of Argentines so we had to go on a very long tour before we got down to the real business of tasting. Perhaps it was on account of the large tour group but the wine here was very poor. Still, it's free wine, so you can-t really complain, and they had two servers, making it easy to sample more than your allowance. Though one of the ladies in the tour group saw me doing this and gave me the evil eye. The portions were good in this place so we left feeling slightly drunk.
Sniff, swirl, gulp, gone!
decided to turn a bodega tour into a bodega crawl, going next to Transito, a centrally located bodega, opposite the better known Bodega Nanni. 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 she spoke clearly and slowly) before getting down to the real business of wine tasting. We had already had 4 glasses in the previous bodega - so anything probably would have tasted good to us - but the Transito wine was excellent, and we bought a bottle of their Merlot for "laters" for 15 pesos. We didn't see many bottles from Transito in the restaurants or supermarkets so I'm glad we visited the bodega.
Another speciality of Cafayate is the wine ice-cream invented by a local man, Ricardo Miranda. We had the honour of being seved by the inventor himself though he seemed a little distant and preoccupied. Maybe he's thinking of a new flavour! You can try both torrontes or cabenet, and just like
Bodega Vasiji Secreta
Stunning views, but disappointing wines at this bodega. Still, it's wine and it's free, so you can't complain really.
with wine I preferred the red. These ice-creams really do tastes like wine!
A final word on our hostel. El Balcon is a popular place and there we met plenty of people over the next few days. They had a fantastic rooftop terrace, with a very relaxing hammock, an invitation to take it easy! We met some very nice people here too, and could easily have stayed a week. Tafi del Valle - The Windy Valley
It was difficult to leave Cafayate, but there is so much to see in Argentina that you can never stay in one place too long. Our next stop was Tafi del Valle, which to me sounds like the name of a Welsh town, but which apparently means "Winds of the valley" in some native dialect.
Tafi is a lovely place when on a fine day but a miserable place when the fog rolls in, a quite common occurrence in summer. On the first day it was 30 degrees, just as hot as in Cafayate, while the next day it was hovering below 10, fog and cloud covered the town, and we had to use our flecces for the first
Hiking to Cerro la Cruz
Cerro la Cruz is the closest peak to Tafi del Valle. It takes about 45 minutes to hike to the top.
time since Uruguay.
Cerro la Cruz, named after a cross near its summit, is the easiest mountian to climb from Tafi del Valle. It's just one of the peaks in the Cerro Pelado range which are located directly south of the village. It takes about 30 minutes to climb to the top of Cerro la Cruz from the village. Leave town by the main street and cross the bridge. Continue for about 250 metres until you come to a track leading east (to the left) and follow this. At the top of this track there are signs indicating the way to the cross, which comes into view soon afterwards. There are excellent views of Tafi and the surrounding are from the cross. No one in Tafi knew the exact height of Cerro la Cruz, but Tafi itself is at 2000 metres and we estimated Cerro la Cruz to be about 2200 metres.
El Mollar is a small village, located about 15 km south of Tafi. It lies at the foot of one of the many high mountains in the region, near Dique Angostura, a picturesque lake, which can be seen from Tafi, and where you can fish and
On the summit of Cerro la Cruz
Fantastic views are your reward after hiking to the summit of Cerro la Cruz
wind surf. The main attraction in El Mollar, other than the lake, is the Parque des Menhires, which contains remnants of an ancient local civilisation, in the form of decorated stones. These have been collected from the surrounding area and are now on display in El Mollar (having been previously beside the lake, 5km east, as the Footprint guide and the tourist office in Tafi still claim)
Were you to chance upon the stones randomly you might not think much of them but thanks to the helpful information boards in the park you get a better understanding of their significance. The park costs 3 pesos to enter and is located on the main square in El Mollar, off Avenue Menhires.
There are irregular bus services between Tafi and El Mollar and you may find yourself stuck here for a long time waiting for the next bus. Alternatively you can hike back 15km along the road to Tafi, as we did, or, if it's a clear day, you could go via Cerro Pelado. It looked to us like the fog was here to stay for a good while in Tafi, so we kept our visit to three days, before
View from Cerro Pelado
From Cerro Pelado there are good views of Dique Angostura, El Mollar and the fog creeping in over the valley.
leaving for Tucuman.
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