Most Argentine itineraries include Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Iguazu and – possibly – the wine country around Mendoza, but the country’s real rough diamond is routinely overlooked. The colonial city of Salta and the kaleidoscopic landscapes surrounding it are simultaneously spectacular and quaint, and are in my opinion the most wonderful part of an altogether wonderful country. Follow these Salta travel tips to get the most out of your time in the region.
Salta is a lovely city. It combines temperate weather (it’s subtropical but relatively high altitude), beautiful centuries-old colonial buildings and very strong ethnic Amerindian influences perfectly. It should be a far more popular destination than it is.
As with all Latin American cities and towns, Salta’s heart is its plaza. I’d advise drinking a glass of Torrontes at one of the café patios here, and just taking in the Spanish vibes of the cathedral, the cabildo, and the two museums which flank Plaza 9 de Julio. Afterwards, if you have the energy, a visit to the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology and its famous inca mummies is recommended.
Other Salta travel tips are visiting the peñas (traditional music houses; get the hotel staff to recommend one), the mirador at the top of Cerro San Bernardo which affords amazing views of the city, and the charming and atmospheric hotel where we have our guests stay.
The gentrified wine-producing town of Cafayate, on the iconic Ruta 40 (Route 62’s rugged Argentine cousin) is a favourite among tourists local and international, and a day-trip here is an absolute must.
The journey there and back is an attraction in itself. The spectacular Quebrada de Cafayate mixes extreme sedimentary layers with desert foregrounds and the opportunity to see llamas. If you have the time you can ask your guide to take you back via the town of Cachi (the scenery on this route is some of the best in Argentina), but this might require an overnight stop.
The town of Cafayate is quaint and low-slung and offers several good restaurants and one exceptional ice cream parlor: the wine ice-creams are what everyone goes to Heladeria Miranda for.
The trip also takes in some of the region’s best wineries, where you’ll get to tour the cellars and also taste some of the wines. Cafayate is especially famous for its Torrontes, but the Malbecs are also renowned, and markedly different from those in Mendoza.
Even more show-stopping than the Quebrada de Cafayate is the Quebrada de Humahuaca: running alongside the northbound Ruta 9 to the Bolivian border, the multi-colored sedimentary rock faces are so striking that they appear to be man-made. Here the journey is the attraction, so you’d best get your camera ready. Reds, purples, oranges, yellows and even greens make up Nature’s palette, and although all these colours can be explained by mineral traces they are still evocative and romantic in the extreme.
If you follow these Salta travel tips you’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again to explore everything else the region has to offer: cloud forests, salt flats, mountain passes and remote Amerindian villages…all these will have to wait till next time.