Salta is a handsome dichotomy. A small city with beautifully preserved colonial buildings and fine museums stands in stark contrast to the desolate wilderness that surrounds the region. With a diverse range of activities from outdoor adventure to indoor cultural appreciation, here are a few of the best things to do in Salta, Argentina.
Museo Arqueologia de Alta Montana
Housed in an attractive 19th century building, much of MAAM is dedicated to displaying artifacts relating to the Incan culture that once thrived around Salta. The most well-known exhibit here is definitely the Mummies of Llullaillaco. The three mummies, which are the remains of three child sacrifices that were left in the volcano Llullaillaco, are some of the most well-preserved mummies in the world. Haunting to some, the three children mummies are rotated every six months, and their public display is still controversial to many.
Plaza 9 de Julio
Named for Argentina’s independence day, Plaza 9 de Julio is the main square of Salta, and one of the most stunning places in the city to visit. The square is surrounded by wonderful examples of colonial architecture, including the aforementioned Museo Arqueologia de Alta Montana, and culminates at the soft pink façade of the Catedral de Salta. Along with the nearby Iglesia San Francisco, Catedral de Salta is one of the two main churches in Salta, and well worth a visit.
Take a Wine Tour
Outside of Salta, the region is rich in wineries that give Argentina the reputation of producing some of the best wine in the world. While Mendoza is still king when it comes to Argentine wine, Salta, and the vineyards around the town Cafayate are quickly making a name for themselves. Make sure to visit a winery with a reputable Malbec, one of the most praised grapes coming from Argentina, or Torrentes, a lesser-known local wine variation. Regardless if in Salta or Mendoza, Argentina is an awesome wine vacation destination.
Ride the Tren a las Nubes
A staple of traveling in the Salta region, the Tren a las Nubes, or Train to the Clouds, is a track that leaves from the Salta station and takes passengers up Quebrada del Toro. The trip has such a significant altitude gain — ending somewhere around 14,000 feet above sea level — it is not uncommon to literally pass through a cloud during the climb. The journey is popular for rolling through the diverse landscape, driving over some questionable bridges, and for the llamas that whizz by outside the windows.
The Salt Flats of Las Salinas Grandes
While Bolivia’s salt flats get the majority of the attention around the world, Argentina’s Las Salinas Grandes are equally impressive. Taking up nearly 52,500 acres, these flats are a stunning sight to see for a day trip from Salta. Those riding the Tren a las Nubes can add an extra stop at the Salinas when returning to Salta.
Sample Some Local Delicacies
Ask any local from Salta and they will all tell you the same thing, “empanadas were invited in Salta”. Because of that, trying the traditional South American meat pie is a must. Vegetarians can experience an unusual respite in the meat-loving Argentina, as Salta also is home to popular spinach and ricotta empanadas. For those wishing to find other local foods, head to Mercado Municipal San Miguel. Not a traditional tourist stop, this is where visitors can see the authentic flow of life in Salta.
Pajcha- Museo de Arte Etnico Americano
Another fine museum showcasing artifacts of Andean culture, this private collection focuses on the history of the peoples of Latin America as a whole. Curated under enthusiastic ownership, the colorful displays are matched by the colorful, bilingual, commentary provided by those running Pajcha.
Cerro San Bernardo
The best views in Salta await tourists at the top of Cerro San Bernardo, or San Bernardo Hill. Catch the trailhead at the Guemes Monument and get your blood pumping by hiking to the top. Those who aren’t as physically inclined can take the teleferico, or cable cars, from Parque San Martin. After an eight-minute ride, the gondola leaves visitors directly on top of San Bernardo. Hikers and cable car riders alike will be rewarded not only with views but also a cool wine bar.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
Another amazing day trip from Salta, visit the colorful valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, people love to visit here because of the multi-colored hills that have distinct divisions between seven different ground colors due to the various minerals there. Part of the Inca Trail, this valley has been a major trade route for 10,000 years. Gazing upon the colorful hills it’s hard not to think of this place as one of the weirder wonders of the world.
Have a Night Out on the Town
So for those people used to the intense nightlife of Buenos Aires, Salta may seem like a night in a church, but for those looking for a more low-key way to enjoy a beer or two, Salta is perfect. Well-known for live music, there are many places specializing in traditional musica folklorica. There are also a number of penas, which are folk-music clubs. Meanwhile, Calle Balcarce is the place to find a discotheque for dancing.