Salta is a graceful large colonial city in the North of Argentina. It is the country’s finest colonial city, and despite it’s size it’s a tranquil place to spend a couple of nights.
Many of the buildings are very grand indeed - half a days stroll through Salta is enough to take in the sites which include various churches, statues and truely beautiful plazas. Travel tip - there’s a cable car up the side of the mountain next to the city. The views from the top are impressive, but this is a typical tourist trap, and not really worth the money. The views and scenery you find in the valleys and canyons surrounding Salta are far more impressive.
Salta & Tour Operators
Elegant Salta is a tourist attraction in it’s own right, but even more impressive is the spectacular mountain and canyon scenery in it’s surroundings. I’d recommend travellers to spend a night or two in Salta, and anything from 3 to 10 nights exploring the surrounding highlands, which have a distinctly Andean feel to them.
There’s a dozen tour operators and travel agencies in Salta that offer various one, two, three and more day tours. Most of these tour operators are concentrated within a few blocks of the plaza on the street called Buenos Aires. We booked with Luz del Norte, who use good, English speaking guides and can arrange tours to all the places subsequently mentioned.
Extended details of all the regions attractions follow in subsequent articles. Here’s a brief overview:
Typical regions visited near Salta include: Cafayate, one of Argentina’s top wine growing regions; Cachi, a peaceful village with spectacular mountain scenery nearby; San Antonio de los Cobres, a scenic old mining town that can be visited by taking the spectacular Tren a Las Nubes (Train to the clouds) railway journey and is often visited in conjunction with a visit to the large salt flats known as Salinas Grandes; Purmamarca, a sleepy traditional village set amidst Martian like red and green coloured mounainous scenery; Tilcara, a larger town with dramatically set pre-Inca ruins; Humahuaca, a typical village with lovely plazas, beautiful views and impressive monuments; Iruya, a peaceful small hamlet offering some lovely treks; and Puna and Tolar Grande with even more spectacular scenery and options for adventure tourism.
A tour from Salta - many tour operators use large minibuses - check with the travel agency on your group size - prices are often the same in a much smaller group if you ask.
The above mentioned places are the typical tours offered by Salta travel agencies. Almost all can be visited in a day, but on occassions it’s better to combine destinations and spend the night somewhere other than Salta. Likewise, it’s great to visit any of these places under your own steam and stay a night or few (see later sections for suggestions). Picking up a hire car in Salta is a great way to explore as the roads are good, as is the signposting. Both Hertz and Localiza are present at Salta airport, but cheaper deals are often found with the travel agents in town.
Other than the regular tours mentioned already, alternative longer tours based on trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking or community tourism can also be arranged in this region of North Argentina.
Getting to Salta
There’s flights from Buenos Aires to Salta with Lan Argentina and Aerolineas Argentinas. There are also flights to Santa Cruz in Bolivia with Aerosur. Buses from either Mendoza or Buenos Aires take about 18 hours. There’s also various buses to the Bolivian border, which is about 6 hours away.
Hotels in Salta
There’s maybe 50 hotels in Salta. At the luxury end of the market is Solar de Plaza and Hotel Salta, or Finca El Bordo de las Lanzas, which is 50km out of town. We opted for the mid range Hotel Altos del Balarce, which costs R$220 a double and is a fautless 3 star hotel that I can recommend to almost anyone. Altos del Balarce has high quality, modern rooms, excellent service, friendly staff, free internet, a good included breakfast and a good, peaceful location nearby to the “nightlife zone” of Salta (which is about 5 blocks or 10 minutes walk from the central plaza).