Making Friends in Cafayate, Argentina


Route Santa Maria, Argentina – Cafayate, Argentina (RN40)
Distance 86Km
Travel Time 2 hours
Road Conditions Tarmac
Weather Warm, Sunny
Terrain Mountain valley, hilly
Food and Petrol
Accommodation Hostal La Morada, Cafayate

We head from Santa Maria to the quaint town of Cafayate. On the way we stop by the Quilmes ruins, which are interesting but, unarmed with further information about them, nothing more than neatly stacked up rocks.


Fernando, the biker we met in San Agustin de Valle Fertil, gave us a business card for a good hostel he stayed in at Cafayate (Hostal La Morada, Miguel Hurtado 111 / 03868-427748). It’s run by Fabiola and Rol[an]do, a couple from Buenos Aires who worked in the pharma industry and decided to get out of the rat race and set up their own piece of paradise out in the country. They certainly picked a good area. It looks like La Morada only have a vacancy for two nights and we desire to stay a bit longer to get some rest, but compared to all other places in the area we still prefer this place and we check in, expecting to have to move elsewhere later.


Though Cafayate is small and there’s not much going on, it’s in a splendid valley and it’s the heartland of Argentinian wine production, the oldest winery here being founded around 1830. There’s lots of wineries to visit, wine museums, a cheese farm and of course some artesanal shops selling all sorts of hand made stuff.


The central mercado is nice for grocery shopping and particularly interesting is a place near the plaza called (in Castellano) “The Last Pulperia” This is a rustic shop selling all sorts of foodstuffs – herbs, dried fruit, spices, you name it – all scattered around the shop in large sacks and jars, like you’d expect to have seen in a shop a couple of centuries ago. I think that’s why it’s called “The Last” one.


Rolo and Fabiola built this hostel (Hostal La Morada) from scratch whilst stil managing employment in Buenos Aires (a 20-hour drive away), plus a pregnancy on top of that. Wow! It’s a relaxing little place, good atmosphere and there’s creative activity going on here, which we really enjoy. Because the place is only open since three months they’re still decorating and throwing around various ideas about how to do it. We’re happy to get involved and they’re happy to have the input.


We take part in a few good activities whilst in Cafayate:

Most rewarding of all, we take a long bike ride through the Quedebra de Cafayate.


This is a stunning landscape of eroded rock formations stretching a continuous 80Km through a valley North of Cafyate, along Ruta 68 (exit the town to the North and the turn right). It’s truly spectacular!


When it comes to artistic ability, Mother Nature doesn’t have any competition, that’s for sure! Note that this trip is best done early because very strong winds stir up in the afternoon!


We follow a sand road along the river about 3km East of the town, where there is Cabras de Cafayate, a goat cheese farm. It’s an interesting visit, for 10 Pesos you get a tour around the farm and they describe in detail the process, from the breeding to the feeding, to the cheese-making, and you get to taste a variety of the produce. We buy a couple of cheeses that we really like, but it’s disappointing that later we discover that, at the factory they’re selling you the cheese at a higher price than you can buy it at the local stores in town. But that seems to be a recurring theme with various touristical visits we’ve done out here, so now we normally just avoid buying from the “original” outlets themselves – they tend to be tourist traps.


It would be a crime to visit to this area without partaking in some wine tasting, so another day walk out to the Nanni ( and Etchart ( wine estates, the former being rather small and purely organic setup, the other being much larger, but producing some excellent wines.

Now this – is – a – table! 😉

We taste some great specimens and take a couple of bottles home with us. Particularly good are the Torrontes, a famous grape of Argentina derived from an accidental crossing of Muscatel with a local rogue, and also a Malbec-based rose wine we much liked.


But if you’re looking to buy your wine cheap, the best deal you will find is to buy one of the large gallon bottles at any of the convenience stores around the town. The wine is reasonable and the bottle will only set you back between 45 and 60 Pesos if I recall correctly.


Back at La Morada there’s a hive of activity. Marilla, a good friend of Fabiola’s, is painting old tomato crates for use in the house as book-shelves and in the kitchen. I try to help out setting up their WiFi connection and lend a hand to Rolo trying to fix the old washing machine (without success).


We finally find our opportunity to plant our first tree in South America for our Planting Around the World mission! It turns out Fabiola and Rolo have been quire keen to plant a tree outside the front of the hostel for some time now and never seem to have got around to it. Now the job has become ours and we’re all very pleased about it.

The next day we intend to leave but Fabiola and Rolo invite us to stay longer and we accept. A good thing too, because 1. we get to do our laundry in their new washing machine, and 2. the next day is bloody freezing, so a long ride on the bike would have been hellish!


On the final night a group of youngsters arrive at the hostel. It’s winter holiday in Argentina and everyone in the NorthWest area is taking to the road out here. We go to bed rather early so as to be fresh for the next day’s ride. Of course these folks for some reason decide they have to party in their bedroom next door instead of in the common area, which is completely free and available to them and conveniently removed from the dormitories for that reason. It’s too loud to sleep and eventually we ask them to keep it down as we have an early start, but they ignore us…. and I so look forward to the next morning. Did I mention I have a motorbike to warm up? 😀


Around 8:30AM I move the bike to the sunny patch of lawn right in front of their dorm and get her started. The engine is really cold and it takes several attempts, which is awesome because the starter makes a loud, coughing, wheezing noise – excellent! Then after about 10 minutes, by when I’m sure they thought the disturbance is over, I start the engine, pull the choke and let her rev at 3000/min for a while. One by one, shell-shocked and grumpy-looking the youths start appearing from their rooms. Mission accomplished! It is unfortunate that there was another family there whose morning was slightly disrupted by this vengeful behaviour, but this collateral damage was necessary, I’m sure they’d understand.

Cafayate was a great experience for us. Great wine, beautiful natural surroundings, calm and quiet atmosphere. And of course, we spent it in very good company and we’re really happy to feel that we’ve made some good friends out here.

Fabiana and Rolo, we won’t forget you. Come and visit us !!