ocated in the southwest of Salta Province (5446 feet above sea level), this place is part of the Calchaquí Valleys, a chain of savannahs and mountains 323 miles long, where three provinces converge: Tucumán, Salta and Catamarca.
The origin of its name is a mystery. Some claim that it comes from the Quechua language; others say it derives from the language of the Diaguita people, a group of independent aboriginal tribes who spoke Cacán. In this language, Cafayate would be translated as “burial of sorrows”.
According to the dictionary of regionalisms by José Solá, it means “water box”. Another version is that it comes from the transformation of the word Capac- yac, meaning “great lake”. Finally, it could also come from Capa-Yaco, which means “chief lake” or “town who has everything”.
Although the name of this place is not precise, those existing theories -each with its own style- are a perfect definition of what Cafayate is; a region that has it all.
Better known as the quintessential wine region, it produces vines of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Bonarda, Syrah and Tempranillo, though undoubtedly the pearl of the area is the Torrontés. Its special climate (humid with extreme temperatures hovering between 32 and 95° F) and its mixture of dry red earth and sparse vegetation make it ideal for the sweet vine to develop, which is known worldwide for its delicacy.
Quebrada de las Conchas or Quebrada de Cafayate, comprised of territories from the departments of La Viña, Guachipas and Cafayate, is a modern geological feature fruit of tectonic movements that occurred in the last two million years, where it was discovered an important paleontological site from the Cretaceous period. This reserve preserves numerous fossils, among which can be counted footprints of dinosaurs, frogs and fish as well as stromatolites (stone beds in the water), evidence of the last entry of the sea to the continent, which occurred about 15 million years ago.
The department also has a wide range of cultural samples of indigenous people, represented in farming terraces, rupestrian paintings, mortars, and remains of buildings dating from up to 200 BC.