|Pink Cathedral in Salta|
Dubbed by many to be one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, Salta is located in northern Argentina near the Bolivian border. It is home to the highest altitude vineyards in the world with vines growing at over 10,000 feet high.
The major challenge for wine tourism in this region is arriving. Flights only come from Mendoza twice a week, or visitors have to start from Buenos Aires to catch a daily flight. Upon arrival in the town of Salta, it is another 2.5 to 3 hour drive south before arriving in Cafayete where 19 of the 26 wineries of Salta are located.
Most visitors opts to stay overnight in Salta, and enjoy the beautiful central plaza with its historic European style buildings, beautiful pink cathedral, and outdoor restaurants and bars. Here meat-filled empanadas can be enjoyed for as little as fifty cents with a glass of cold Torrontes for $3.
Where Mendoza lacks wine signage, Salta more than makes up for it with the well-marked Ruta del Vino that runs south to Cafayate and into the Andes mountains to the West. The road travels from the lush green mountains of Salta, and soon enters red-rocked canyons that resemble a mini Grand Canyon. Eventually the route delivers tourists into a wide valley ringed with 12,000 to 14,000 foot tall mountains. Vineyards are everywhere, many filled with “cardons,” giant Saguaro-like cacti. In the middle of the valley with two rivers running nearby is the small wine village of Cafayete.
Advantages of taking the long trek to reach Cafayate are that it is a friendly, clean, and safe town centered around a large plaza with outdoor restaurants and boutique hotels. Several wineries have tasting rooms just off the plaza, so wine tourists can walk to these, and then take a short drive outside of the town to visit others, such as Piatelli, Domingo Molina, San Pedro, and El Esteco. Tasting fees are more reasonable, and appointments are generally not necessary. There is also an excellent museum just off the square called Museo de la Vid y el Vino, where visitors can learn about the wines of Salta. The dry desert like climate generally means it is warm with 340 days of sun per year.