Salta Travel Guide
Introduction to Salta
Often the first stop for travelers entering Argentina from Southern Bolivia or Santiago, Chile, Salta is a great base to explore the picturesque desert that can be found immediately east of the Andes in Northern Argentina.
Thanks to glacier and snow melt that tumbles down from those lofty heights, there are an abundance of wineries in the area that make good use of this moisture, which is great news for those that enjoy a nice glass of wine after a hard day of travel.
Whether you elect to stay close to town, or head up into the heights of the mountains to the west, we are confident that your first stop in Argentina will be a pleasant one.
Cultural Attractions in Salta
There are several beautiful churches that can be found in Salta, but if you have time for only one, then exploring Basilica y Convento de San Francisco will prove to be your best use of this precious resource.
The state declared it a National Historic Landmark in 1941 for being one of the oldest and most ornate buildings within the colonial center of this city. Having survived many fires and earthquakes over the centuries, you should feel fortunate to be able to witness its unique features, which includes a sculpture of Our Lady of the Snows, its library filled with rare texts, and a number of tombs where several prominent figures from Argentine history are buried.
Your day of sightseeing in Salta will take a turn for the weird once you pass through the doors of Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana. It is here where a number of child mummies are on display, which were the end result of a sacrificial ritual that the Incas partook in after climbing some of the more prominent peaks in what is now Northern Argentina.
The only thing more haunting than the appearance of these young mummies is the well-preserved condition of their hair and the clothing that they wore on the day of their death. If this is a bit much for you, there are other exhibits that you can check out in this museum that relay to the daily lives of Inca in one the more southerly territories in their empire.
The aforementioned museum is located on Plaza 9 de Julio, which is the central square in the center of Salta where citizens come together on weekends and at lunch on weekdays. As such, it is the best place to observe the daily lives of people in this desert city in Northern Argentina.
Once you have polished off the empanada that you bought for lunch, there are many other attractions lining the Plaza, which include the Salta Cathedral, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the American Cultural Center.
Other Attractions in Salta
There are many day trips that you can take from the city of Salta that will get you out into some of the best scenery that this arid part of the country has to offer; the best of these by far is El Tren a las Nubes, which translates directly to English as “The Train to the Clouds”.
Starting from the center of the city and heading straight up into the Andes, this rail trip will give you some of the most spectacular mountain views that you will likely see you on your Latin American trip.
During the ride up though, bear in mind that this railway peaks at an elevation of 13,800 feet; as you might imagine, the air will get seriously thin as you approach your final destination, so be sure to take advantage of the coca leaf tea that they serve on board.
When booking tickets for this tour, we recommend that you get a bus back to Salta, as making the full commitment to do this trip by train totals almost 16 hours round trip.
Those wanting to stick to the roads instead of the rails will want to check out Cuesta del Obispo, which is a windy road that is located 57 kilometers to the west of Salta.
Rising to an elevation of over 10,000 feet at its highest point, this road parallels what used to be parts of the Inca Trail at its most southern extremity.
On days when cloud cover is not present in the valley below, spectacular views into the wine country that lies beneath will make for some truly excellent holiday pictures.
Of all the natural highlights that the Salta area is known for, the rusty red rocks of Anfiteatro Natural (Natural Amphitheater) ranks as one of the more popular stops for tours in the region. Resembling a box canyon, the sheer walls of this natural amphitheater makes for one of the most pitch perfect places created by nature in the world.
If you are lucky, you will get proof of this, as many local musicians can be found playing here. The crystal clear sounds that the natural surroundings produce makes it easy for them to solicit juicy tips from wealthy tourists, who are often more than happy to compensate them for their superior talents.