5 Cheap Travel Destinations for Wine Lovers

For those who like to swirl, sniff, and sip their way around the world, a tour of one of the world’s great wine destinations can be a dream vacation. Staying at a winery is a fantastic experience and many vineyard restaurants around the world offer fresh, farm-to-table style dining, prepared by expert chefs in breathtaking locations. While some of these locations can be outrageously expensive, there are wonderful international wine destinations that you can experience on a budget. (See also: 7 No-Fuss U.S. Wine Destinations)

1. Salta, Argentina

While Argentina’s Uco Valley and Luján de Cuyo, both near Mendoza, are world renowned, they can be pricey. Farther north, the wine region around Cafayate in Salta province offers great value for wine lovers.

Among the 10,000 acres dedicated to vineyards, some wineries (bodegas) offer free tours and tastings. But you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on a rental car or private driver to take you out to wineries, because there are plenty right in the town of Cafayate. This means that you can walk from tasting to tasting without having to get behind the wheel. Any trip should also include a visit to a fantastic wine bar in town called Bad Brothers Wine Experience, which has affordable tapas and wines.

If you do choose to head out to some of the nearby vineyards, I recommend visiting Piattelli Vineyards, which is about a five-minute drive from Cafayate town. When I was there in 2017, tours started at 100 Argentine pesos, or about $6.50. Another favorite is Bodega El Esteco, where a tasting was 155 Argentine pesos, or $10 during my visit. This bodega also has a fabulous hotel called Patios de Cafayate, where you can stay in a historic building right on the vineyard — a truly memorable experience for those who love all things wine.

2. The Okanagan Valley, Canada

You may not have considered visiting your neighbor to the north for an excellent glass of wine, but British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is famous for producing tasty merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, pinot gris, and chardonnay. Thanks to the strong U.S. dollar, travel within this region and other parts of Canada is cheaper than it has been in previous years.

Vineyards in the region are set along the breathtaking, 84-mile long Okanagan Lake, and many of the restaurants at the wineries have beautiful views over the water.

The best way to visit the wineries is to get a group of people together and share the cost of a private vehicle. You can rent a 10-passenger stretch limousine for $79 an hour and take it on a self-guided wine tour. You can usually visit three to four wineries in a five-hour half-day tour that would cost $395. If you split the cost among 10 people, your transport would cost less than $40 a person.

But it’s not always easy to get together 10 friends when you’re traveling, so you can also book affordable wine tours starting at $90 per person. Another option is to rent a car in Kelowna, the main town in the region, for around $25 a day, and drive yourself out to the wineries. Just make sure you don’t overdo it on the tastings!

Whether you go in a limo or in a rental car, you can cut costs by visiting wineries that offer low-cost tours and tastings, usually running $2–$7. Often these fees are waived with the purchase of a bottle, and some tastings are free even if you don’t buy wine.

3. Robertson, South Africa

South Africa is already an inexpensive destination thanks to the strong U.S. dollar, and this also translates to big savings on bottles of wine and wine tours in the country.

When I visited a couple of years ago, two separate wine tour guides explained to me that the wine-famous university town of Stellenbosch had to start charging for wine tours because of overzealous students going to town at the vineyards. Meanwhile, a couple of hours away, Robertson still offers (mostly) free wine tours and tastings, but you do have to organize your own transport to and from each winery. A rental car is a great way to get around this area as the drives are quite scenic.

On top of free wine experiences, bottles of excellent South African reds are extremely inexpensive when bought from the vineyard. I personally found that all of my favorite South African wines were as much as 40 percent cheaper than I would typically find them in wine shops in Canada or the U.S.

While you can stay on some lovely wineries in Robertson, if you really want to save on your travel budget, I recommend checking out some of the “backpackers,” which are like local homestays in the region.

You can find them on Booking.com, or on the Coast-To-Coast website, or the free print guide you can pick up while in South Africa. This handy little book lists all of the backpackers lodges throughout the country, as well as some tours and experiences that you can have while traveling in South Africa.

4. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The small, Eastern European country of Bulgaria may not have made your wine radar yet, but believe me, the fertile soils of this ancient wine production territory have long made some of the world's best wines.

In my experience, Bulgaria is an incredibly inexpensive place to travel, with my wife and I getting by on $50 a day. On top of that, the beautiful town of Plovdiv has some of the country's best wineries right at its doorstep.

My wife and I booked through Bulgaria Wine Tours and enjoyed a half-day wine tour with visits to three different wineries, a private guide, and a delicious lunch for just over $100 per person. This may sound a bit expensive at first, but when you factor in the cost of the wines, the tour fee at each winery, the food we ate, and what we would’ve had to pay for a private driver, it was a steal. Plus, the bottles of wine at each vineyard were rarely more than $10 to buy.

During the tour, we were able to taste some of the country's finest wines, right out of the oak barrels — a highly recommended experience. (See also: 5 Incredible World Cities You Can Afford)

5. Santorini, Greece

Tiny, whitewashed Santorini bobs in the Mediterranean Sea and sits firmly on the list of many travelers’ wish lists. But few people know that there are beautiful wineries on the island.

The wine itself may not blow your socks off, but the experience of renting a motorbike (around $25/day) and cruising around the island looking for signs that say “wine tasting” is a lot of fun. You can also get around the island by public transport. Just make sure you don’t go overboard on the tastings if you’re driving.

There are about a dozen wineries on the island that accept visitors for tastings and tours. A few notable ones include Domaine Sigalas in Oia, Boutari in Megalochori, and Santo Wines in Pyrgos.

Getting to wine country

The most expensive part of a wine holiday abroad will likely be the flights to get there. By doing some advance planning and getting an airline credit card or a good travel rewards credit card, you may be able to earn a big stash of points to help defray your air travel costs. (See also: How to Get a Free Vacation in 9 Months with Credit Card Rewards)

To save money on airfare to South Africa, check out Ethiopian Airlines (a return journey from New York’s JFK starts at $850). For Bulgaria, your best bet is to fly to London, then take a budget flight with Ryanair to get to Sofia. From there it’s a one-hour and 45-minute bus ride to Plovdiv. For Canada, check out WestJet for flights into Kelowna (often, but not always via Vancouver), and for Santorini, you can usually fly return from New York for around $1,300.

To get to Salta, Argentina you have many options, but your cheapest will likely be to fly to Buenos Aires (from $720 for round-trip out of JFK), spend a couple of days in the Argentine capital, and then hop on a round-trip flight to Salta for around $400.

However you choose to get to your next wine vacation destination, once you’re there, the cost of travel and your favorite grape varietal will be very reasonable in these five destinations. Experience all that the vineyards have to offer and sip your favorite blends until your lips are purple and your camera is full of pictures of wine experiences.

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5 Cheap Travel Destinations for Wine Lovers

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