Wine stop in Tarija, Bolivia | What to do in 36 hours there
Updated: Jun 9
No, we didn’t realise Bolivia had a wine region either! We first heard about Tarija from other travellers we met in Santa Cruz. It is located in the south of Bolivia, close to the border with Argentina so if like us you are planning on continuing your travels into Argentina it also makes a very convenient stop off.
The town of Tarija is very pleasant, like all Bolivian towns it is laid out in a block system with the main square, Plaza Luis de Fuentes, in the centre. The people were friendly and the town was welcoming and felt safe.
We only stopped here for one night to sample the local wine and break up our journey from Sucre to Salta in Argentina but would recommend it.
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Where to stay in Tarija
We had originally booked Hostal Urbano but when we arrived on the doorstep at 7am we were met by a lady who told us we couldn’t stay as there was a problem with the bathroom. Our Spanish is limited, but it sounded like the drains had backed up and it was just one of those unexpected disasters that couldn’t be helped. She apologised but this left us in the street with no-where to stay.
Thankfully we had a Bolivian SIM so were able to get online and look for another option. As luck would have it we found another hostel, Casa Blanca, just around the corner that looked to have availability. It was slightly more expensive than we were going to be paying at Hostal Urbano but we didn’t want to walk around the city after being on a bus all night, so we headed there.
The lovely lady on reception showed us straight away to a nice, clean private room with en suite bathroom for 180 Bolivianos (about £22 in Nov 22).
The room was lovely, as were the common areas. The kitchen was a little tired and not the most clean we’ve seen but you could get by if you wanted to cook. Breakfast was included but wasn’t anything amazing; a bowl of scrambled egg, bread rolls, yoghurt and tea and coffee available.
A wine tour from Tarija
I had contacted the company, Explora Tarija, in advance via WhatsApp and arranged for them to pick us up from the hostel at 9.10am (I obviously had to contact them regarding our last-minute change of accommodation but thankfully they were very quick to respond and there were no problems).
There were only 4 other people on the tour but the mini bus seated about 12 so I presume they take up to that many people. The tour guide was a lovely local lady who had pretty good English and was able to chat socially to us and give us the tour information in English too which was great.
The tour included 4 stops, some nibbles and the option to buy some other snacks on route and then returned you to the city about 2pm.
The first two stops were great and we really enjoyed them. Casa Real, a Singarni distillery (Bolivia’s local spirit) set in a pretty impressive building that they had clearly spent a lot of money designing and building to attract visitors. Here we had a tour and the opportunity to sample two different qualities of Singarni and were given a complimentary Chuflay cocktail. There was the option to buy salteñas here and I would recommend you do, they were delicious!
Second stop was at vineyard Campos de Solana, owned by the same family as Casa Real, another beautiful building set in the middle of the vines. We also had a tour here and then were given a small glass of wine to enjoy in the sunshine. We would have loved to have stayed longer here and would have been quite prepared to pay more to taste some of their other wines but sadly the tour had to move on to the next stop.
The next two stops were where it became really rushed and the wine wasn’t to our taste unfortunately. Traditionally Bolivian wine is extremely sweet, and this is generally what the locals enjoy drinking. I think vineyards like Campos de Solana are bucking the trend and producing wine that actually stands a very good chance of getting Bolivia onto the worldwide wine market.
The third stop was at ‘The wine stop’ which was basically a wine shop by the side of the road. The staff here didn’t speak much English but that didn’t really matter as she didn’t tell us much about the wines in Spanish either! It was a case of pouring about 2cm of wine in the bottom of the glass and telling us to drink fast as we didn’t have much time (another larger tour group had arrived)! Whilst the wine (we thought) was pretty bad, we did get given a small plate of nibbles here by our tour guide which were very tasty. Some cheese, meat, olives and bread sticks, very enjoyable.
The last stop was at Casa Vieja, the oldest vineyard in Tarija. The wine here was extremely sweet; we tasted 4, a dry red which was okay, a ‘semi-sweet’ white which we would definitely have described as a dessert wine and another white and a rose that were beyond sweet, like drinking syrup! The man pouring the wine did give some information but sadly it was only in Spanish and again very rushed. There was the option to buy pancakes here that were being traditionally cooked by a lady over a wood stove, which were very tasty.
Despite the wine at the last two stops not being to our taste I would still recommend the tour, particularly taking into account the cost which was 120 Bolivianos each (about £15 in Nov 22). The first two stops were really enjoyable and whilst we don’t like the sweet wine it was still interesting to taste it and see what the local people like to drink (the four Bolivians on our tour bought lots of wine at the third stop!).
Where to eat in Tarija
As I’ve mentioned we were only in Tarija for one night but by chance we stumbled across this restaurant when looking for somewhere we could try Saice, a local dish.
I would highly recommend both the restaurant and the dish. The owner is a very friendly, welcoming man, the restaurant was clean and the food fresh and delicious. Not to mention very cheap, we paid 38 Bolivianos (about £4.50 in Nov 22) for two main courses and a litre of coke.
Getting there and away
We journeyed south from Sucre to Tarija. We took an overnight bus, 7pm – 5.30am. There were a few companies running this route but we went with Trans 6 de Octubre and paid 75 Bolivianos (about £9 in Nov 22) for semi-cama seats.
From Tarija we crossed the border into Argentina and headed to Salta.
There appeared to be only one bus company crossing the border, Juarez, and unfortunately it wasn’t the cheapest journey. We paid 330 Bolivianos each (about £41 in Nov 22) and this was only for normal, slightly reclining seats, not semi-cama. There is an option to get a bus to the town of Villazon on the border, taxis at either side of the border and then another bus from La Quiaca in Argentina. However, we opted against this route as it didn’t save that much money and would mean hanging around in the border towns for hours in between buses.
Our expensive bus did however include a ham & cheese roll, a fizzy drink and a small pot of yoghurt so I’d call that a win! Also, not sure if we were just lucky but the driver spoke some English and made sure our border crossing went smoothly, even standing with us at the Argentinian entry desk to help translate any questions we were unsure about.