Explore The Northwest
The sprawling village of CAFAYATE is nearly 190km south of Salta, via the RN-68 at its junction with the RN-40; the latter is called Avenida Güemes within the village limits, the Río Chuschas in the north and the Río Loro Huasi in the south. The self-appointed capital of the Valles Calchaquíes and the main settlement hereabouts, it’s also the centre of the province’s wine industry and the main tourist base for the valleys, thanks to its plentiful, high-quality accommodation, and convenient location at a crossroads between Salta, Cachi and Amaicha. Though not that big, it’s nonetheless a lively, modern place, originally founded by Franciscan missionaries who set up encomiendas, or Indian reservations with farms attached, in the region. However, apart from exploring the surroundings on foot, by bike or on horseback, or tasting wine at the bodegas, there’s not actually a lot to do here. The late nineteenth-century Iglesia Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Rosario dominates the main plaza but is disappointingly nondescript inside, while the Museo de Arqueología Calchaquí, one block southwest, at Calchaquí and Colón, comprises one room piled with ceramics of the Candelaria and Santamaría cultures, including some massive urns, followed by another room cluttered with criollo antiques and curios. Two blocks south of the plaza, at avenidas Güemes and Chacabuco, is the feeble Museo de la Vid y del Vino, a motley collection of wine-related relics and photographs, in a defunct winery. About 2km south, on the RN-40 to Santa María, you’ll find the workshop and salesroom of one of the region’s finest artisans, Oscar Hipaucha. He sells wonderfully intricate wood and metal boxes, made of quebracho, algarrobo and copper, at justifiably high prices. Way up to the north of the town, the Cristofani ceramic workshop makes elegant urns but most tend to be too big to make practical souvenirs.