The Quebrada de las Conchas, a series of picturesque rock formations located near Salta.

Salta Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts
The Quebrada de las Conchas, a series of picturesque rock formations located near Salta.

Salta Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts

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Overview

This provincial town, with its gilded churches and outstanding museums sure to engage curious minds, cloistered nuns and spirited gaucho waiters, offers visitors the comforts and pleasures of a larger town while still retaining the old world charm so characteristic of the Northwest. The city is an enviable mix of smart colonial architecture; congenial, gracious people; rich history; and regional pride. Don’t be fooled by the locals’ normally conservative nature; Salteños really let their hair down during the numerous festivals and city-wide celebrations every year, such as Carnaval, when thousands turn out to watch the splendid float parade and proudly celebrate the region's history. Don’t miss the chance to be charmed by this city.

A panoramic view of a teleferico in Salta, Argentina

Geography and Climate

Also the capital of Salta Province, the city itself lies at a height of 3984 feet (1187 meters) above sea level, at the foothills of the snowy Andean mountains in the heart of Argentina’s incredibly diverse north-western corner. To the west are high arid planes and Salta’s famous salt flats- Las Salinas Grandes. This is a land of sparse vegetation, huts that blend into the earth and where tiny communities of only a few inhabitants line the single lane road through the desert; their cemeteries outnumbering residents at least 3 to 1.

To the east, in the Gran Chaco region lays an entirely different landscape: here in this subtropical climate the ground is far more fertile and the air is always humid; the region is home to both the Yungas Jungle (home to South America’s biggest wildcat) and El Rey National Park.

The valley’s location is a geologically active hotbed of moving plates, making the city susceptible to occasional earthquakes, such as the two most recent devastating events in 1948 and in 1962.

Salta weather guide

Hot summers of between 73 – 104° F (23- 40° C) and cold winters where the temperature drops near freezing (around 10° C/ 50° F) characterize the city of Salta proper. At times during the summer, severe sand storms can last for days and paralyze outdoor activities and evening socializing in the parks that the layout of this city is so keen to encourage. The average summer temperature is about 70° F (21° C), which can be misleading because temperatures can reach over 90° F (32° C) about 14 days a year.

Due to the city’s subtropical location, the wet season unfortunately corresponds to summer, reaching its wettest during the months of January, February and December, when precipitation levels range between 5.5 - 7” (140-180 mm) a month. Average annual rainfall is recorded to be 29” (756 mm ).

Geography & Map

Salta is a province of Argentina, located in the northwest of the country.
Neighboring provinces are from the east clockwise Formosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán and Catamarca. It also surrounds Jujuy. To the north it borders Bolivia and Paraguay and to the west lies Chile.


Elevation
1,152 m (3,780 ft)


City Population
618,375

map of Salta

Transportation

Getting to Salta

Salta has scheduled flight connections with Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Tucumán and Jujuy; and occasionally, during the tourist season, international flights from and to several cities within bordering countries are arranged. All flights arrive at the General Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport (+54(0)387 424-3162), which is located 6 kilometers from central Salta.

The airlines servicing Salta are: Aerolíneas Argentinas, Austral, SW, LAB, American Falcon, Lapa and Dinar.

There is a bus service (no. 22 costing US$0.35) and taxi service from the airport to the city centre. Taxis cost approximately US$12 or AR$30.

Salta’s main bus terminal, Terminal de Omnibus de la Ciudad de Salta (+54 (0387) 431-5227), is located on the Avenida Hipólito Irigoyen y Tavela, and can be reached in about 15 minutes walking from Plaza 9 de Julio (about 10 blocks). A taxi from the terminal to the city center costs between US$ 2 and 2.50. The terminal has no locker service but does offer paid baggage storage at a maximum of six hour intervals. This bus terminal has daily connections with the cities of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Resistencia, Posadas, Puerto Iguazú, Mendoza and Jujuy, and transfers from other parts of the country as well.

Getting Around Salta

Fortunately, Salta is small and easy enough to explore on foot, but be warned; drivers here are notoriously unwilling to look out for pedestrians, so be sure to look out for them! The Peatonal Florida is Salta's pedestrian only street - a smaller version of Calle Florida in Buenos Aires - where most of the city's shops are located. The city’s principle sites are centered on Plaza 9 de Julio, and all the other attractions -- except the Salta Tren a las Nubes -- are within easy walking distance from it.


History

Originally intended to serve as an outpost between the competing ports of Callao near Lima in Peru and Buenos Aires in Argentina, the city of Salta was founded on April 16, 1582 by Spanish settler Hernando de Lerma. Prior to its colonization by the Spanish, this area was for centuries home to sheepherders and hunters, who lived for centuries under the vast empire of the Incas, ruling from the distant territory of Lake Titikaka and Cuzco in present day Peru. Nicknamed ‘Salta la Linda’ (Salta the Fair) for its ideal location along the trade route in the lush spinach bowl of La Lerma Valley; the city of Salta has grown in recent years to become a backpacker and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise known for its wide variety of activities, great nightlife and beautifully preserved colonial and neoclassical architecture.

A cable cart over the city of Salta in northern Argentina, with the sunset in the background

Renamed a variety of times, the city has always maintained the original name of Salta, a word whose origin can be found in two opposing meanings and languages. One hypothesis refers to the word’s origin in the Quechua (Incan) language, which means “a pleasant place to settle down.” The second could possibly refer to the sahta tribe of the Chaco nation, which was thought to have resided in the valley at the times when the Spanish arrived, or from the phrase “sagta sagta”, which means very beautiful.

The city served as a strategic commercial and military supply post during the Argentine War of Independence, where from 1816 to 1821 the city was led by General Martín Miguel de Güemes, who succeeded in keeping the city out of invading Spanish hands. Salta emerged from the War of Independence politically in disarray and financially bankrupt, a condition that lingered throughout much of the 19th century. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the arrival of Italian, Spanish and Arab immigrants, particularly Syrians and Lebanese, revived trade and agriculture all over the area while further enhancing the city's multicultural flavor.


Attractions and Activities

Ascend the imposing Cerro San Bernadino by cable car (teléferico) to admire the sprawling view of the city nestled into the creeping vegetation La Larma Valley. With a lookout point and several craft stores at the summit, viewers can enjoy a relaxing ride up (10 pesos/$3.50 one-way) and take your time in admiring the changing view during an hour-long leisurely stroll down the winding road that leads to the base of the hill. An option of returning by descending cable car is also available.

A cable cart over the city of Salta in northern Argentina, with the sunset in the background

Take a short bus ride to the city’s privileged outer suburb of San Lorenzo. At the top of a leafy and mansion-lined slope in this sprawling neighborhood is a wonderful creek-side café (Restaurant el Duende), perfect for a relaxing coffee and cake or hearty lunch before hiking into the nearby tropical gorge (quebrada). Horses and guide can also be arranged to take you through this small national park, talk to a ranger at the entrance to find out more.

The train to the clouds, one of the highest railroads in the world, crossing a rail bridge

The Tren a las Nubes ranks as one of the highest railroads in the world, reaching a height of 4,200m and passing through jagged mountain passes and valley edges that offer breathtaking views of the expansive scenery below, literally taking you above the clouds. This 217 km long track was built from 1921-1948, its technology unfortunately rendering it obsolete by the time of its completion. Travelers today can now relax and experience this wonderfully preserved outdated way of life with a 16 hour round trip journey to the Salt Flats, offering some of the most stunning views and photographic moments available in northern Argentina.

A street leading up to Purnamarca, a beautiful mountain

Salta is a destination in itself, but a trip out of city limits to admire the amazing natural beauty of the surrounding regions is well worth the effort. Day-long driving trips can be arranged, beginning from Salta and heading high up into the famous Salinas Grandes and desert-scape of the Altiplano, only to descend downward before climbing again through verdant misty valleys that secluded farming communities have called home for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Not to be missed in a brief stop in Purnamarca on your return to Salta, to visit the local indigenous crafts fair, lunch on some alpaca stew – a specialty of the area- and watch the red glow of the sunset light up the multicolored rock formation that makes this village famous.

Saltas Leafy Plaza 9 de Julio, with many palm trees and a statue

Dedicated to Argentina’s independence, Salta’s leafy Plaza 9 de Julio is a beautiful eclectic mix of Spanish colonial, baroque and neo-classical architecture, all wonderfully preserved and greatly contributing to the beauty and European atmosphere of the city’s financial district. Every side of the square boasts flower-lined sidewalk cafes and charming galleries, souvenir shops and jewelry stores. The atmosphere on the central square is especially pleasant on summer evenings, when live music from the central gazebo floats through and echoes off the buildings and crowds of all ages gather on the grass that lines the paths beneath the tall palms and flowering trees.

A lit up cathedral in front of a blue sky

Placed alongside the Plaza is the Salta Catedral. Built from 1858 – 1882, the Spanish neo-colonial Cathedral has heavy Italian architectural influences. The arrival of the Cathedral’s main representation of Christ itself is a miracle, who remains one of the city’s greatest legends and proudest possessions. The statues of both Christ current displayed in the church as well as the Virgin Mary displayed elsewhere (referred to as the el Señor y la Virgen del Milagro), arrived in the port of Callao near Lima in 1592 via a wooden box found floating in the water. For 100 years the image remained untouched in a church depository, serving no role as an object of religious veneration, until 1692 when a series of events led to its change of role. Additionally, this cathedral provides the final burial place of General Guemes, the hero of Argentina responsible for Salta’s defense against invading Spanish armies in the mid-19th century.


Museums

M.A.A.M. - Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta, Mitre 77, Salta – Tel: +54 (387) 437 0499

Saltas Museo de Arquelogia de Alta Montana lit up at nighttime

This museum’s prized attraction is the mummified corpses of three children, estimated to have lived over 5oo years ago during the Incan occupation of Salta province. These corpses were discovered in March 1999 at the summit of the volcano Llullaillaco, and are permanently on display together with the 106 objects in their possession when they were sacrificed and sent into the afterlife so many centuries ago. Particularly popular as a means of bringing history alive to the school age population of Salta, this museum is well worth the visit, especially for those hoping to create a firm understanding of Salta culture before venturing to the province’s smaller outlying towns to experience the living history firsthand.

Museo Historico del Norte, Caseros 549, Plaza 9 de Julio – Tel: +54 (387) 421-5340 The city’s present cabildo, or town hall, was built in 1783, making it the oldest and best preserved in the entire country. This building also houses the collection of the Museo Historico del Norte, whose extensive displays of pre-Colombian and colonial history, independence wars and religious artifacts provide a fascinating and thorough input into the evolution and competing cultural influences that have shaped the city’s character since the time of Incan rule.

Museo Historico Jose Evaristo Uriburu, Caseros 179, Salta – Tel: +54 (387)421-5340 Located in the former 17th century Uriburu family home, this museum houses important biographical artifacts and displays about both former Uriburu presidents and general Juan Alvarez de Arenales, as well as various furniture and costumes from daily life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Former presidents Jose Evaristo de Uriburo (1895-98) and his nephew Jose Felix de Uriburu (military dictator 1930-32) are both natives of Salta, and this museum offers a well-preserved window into the past for travelers interested in discovering more about the colonial Spanish way of life as well as Argentina’s chaotic political past.

Museo Provincial de Bella Artes, La Florida 20, Salta - Tel: 0387-4214714

Reopened on the 20th of December, 2008, this new museum houses a wide variety of contemporary, baroque, Latin American, Potosí and Cuzqueño 18th century art, as well as other pieces depicting 19th century themes of religion, historical significance and daily life. Collected works from numerous contemporary local and national artists are also proudly displayed in the museum’s more modern wing.


Hotels

A colorful lobby of the 5-star Boutique Legado Mitico, a black leather couch is surrounded by beautiful large green plants

5 star

Hotel Boutique Legado Mitico was once the mansion of a Salta patrician, and is located deep in Salta's historic district. The hotel is steeped in legend, history, and myth, with each room named after heroes from Salta's past. The guestroom La Escritora, for example, is a tribute to Juana Manuela Gorriti, a fiery 19th century Argentine author. The rooms includes a small patio, wood-burning stove, and hydro-massage tub, as well as a flat screen TV, mini-bar, safe-deposit box, air-conditioning and heater, internet, and telephone. There is also a library, solarium, gift shop, gorgeous patio, and breakfast lounge. This hotel is socially committed to many projects, including RELAF, a child protection agency.

4 star

The marvelous Hotel Patios de Lerma, located near Parque 20 de Febrero, only a few blocks away from Salta's historic district, is a stylish option for your Salta hotel. The décor is sophisticated, with sleek black paneling, natural wood furnishings, and gorgeous lighting. Each of the 31 rooms comes with a satellite flat screen TV, mini-bar, and safe-deposit box. Exquisite regional and international cuisine is served in the restaurant, and guests can also indulge in fine coffee and sweets in the cafeteria. Breakfast is served American buffet-style, with a great selection of breads and sweets, juices, and cereals. Other services include a spa, laundry, and an outdoor terrace with Jacuzzi.

3 star

Located right next to the Plaza Tribunales in downtown Salta, the colonial-style Hotel del Virrey takes guests a step back in time. Heavy wooden doors carved into colonial archways give way to spacious rooms decorated with smooth red tile, chandeliers, and heavy curtains. Nonetheless, each room is wonderfully appointed with modern amenities including a mini-bar, safe-deposit box, high speed internet access, telephone, and cable TV. Additionally, the hotel offers dry cleaning services, an outdoor swimming pool, and a gym. The restaurant serves authentic Argentine barbecue, and there is also a café and lounge.


Shopping

The Mercado Artesanal, an old ranch turned into a shopping area, is worth a visit for those who wish to buy and see crafts done by local hands. Located on 2555 San Martin in the city outskirts. Take bus 2, 3, or 7 from Av. San Martin in the centre and descend where the bus crosses the railroad tracks. Also the shops near the main square, at the base of the teleferico or the ones in the crafts street market in Calle Balcarce offer assorted options and objects. Other great areas for gift shopping include the city’s main pedestrian street Calle Florida (off the main plaza) which offers many services and products, from street side stalls, grocery stores, clothing shops and souvenir depots. Ever Sunday Calle Balcarce hosts the Feria Artesanal de la Balcarce, when over 200 vendors of various goods, food, and fruits gather along the Balcarce to sell their wares and trade the neighborhood gossip. Located at the end near the train station, this open air market extends from the 600s to the 900s.


Food and Drink

The bases of most dishes served in Salta are usually various meats: beef, lamb, goat, pork and hen, plus starches like corn or rice, eggs, and condiments like chilli, cumin and paprika. These basic ingredients are combined to create distinct dishes, like locro, tamales, quesillo, and other regional dishes. Alpaca and llama are also a common meat available in restaurants and cafes in this region, especially once you leave the capital of the province and find yourself in smaller towns and communities. These meats are not only popular because the animals are raised in abundance here in the rocky terrain, but also because of the health implications of these meats: both are 0% cholesterol.

A bowl of locro, a traditional Argentinian stew that is very typical of the northwestern region

Some ingredients, popular dishes, and terms you are likely to see on the menu in Salta are as follows.

Pollo: Chicken
Arroz: Rice
Tallarines: Noodles
Chorizo: Sausage
Trucha: Trout
Vacío: a method of cooking the steak in the over. Roasted steak- difficult to order in any form other than well done
Bife de Chorizo: The prime steak cut; the meatiest slice with the lowest fat proportion and famously tasty.
Humita: Corn paste mixed with cheese and wrapped in corn husks; similar in shape to a tamale
Locro: A soupy dish served with hominy, often made with a mix of various ingredients, including vegetables, sausage and cow tripe, topped with scallions
Mondongo: A rich tripe soup flavored with red pepper
Tamale: A filling of shredded beef, chicken or pork wrapped in a ground corn paste and steamed in a corn husk wrapping.

And here is a list of our recommended dining establishments in Salta:

José Balcarce, Necochea 590 - Tel: +51 (387) 421-1628

A fine dining restaurant serving a modern take on traditional high altitude Argentinean dishes, including llama Carpaccio and supple beef tenderloin served in a creamy sauce enriched with quinoa.

Doña Salta, Córdoba 46 - Average - $3-8 - Tel: +54 (287) 432-1921

Plunge into history and grab a bite where Salta’s revered independence hero, General Martín Güemes, once lived. Receiving great recommendations from Argentineans and foreigners alike, this restaurant has a menu serving various regional dishes, including what some reviewers have labeled as ‘the best empanadas in all of Argentina!’ The rustic atmosphere adds to the dining experience and value is great too. An added bonus is that it’s opposite the beautiful San Francisco Convent Library, which offers a stunning spectacle when lit at night.

Calixto, Dean Funes and Caseros - Average $5-10 - Tel: +51 (387) 422-4198

Calixto is popular for the locals for two reasons that are crucial on almost any restaurant list: location and value. Located kitty-corner across from the magnificently lit Iglesia San Francisco, this ‘free fork’ (libre tenedor) restaurant will satisfy you hunger has an excellent local and international buffet that for US$6 will leave you all kinds of satisfied! The restaurant also offers an a-la-carte menu, with dishes including alpaca steak and the well-recommended local specialty of steak with bitter chocolate reduction sauce.

Madre Maiz, Alvarado 508 - Average $4-10 - Tel: +54 (387) 432-9425

Perfect for those needing a break from the typical argentine diet of steak with a side of steak or the sole vegetarian option of potatoes and ensalada, Madre Maiz serves very appetizing and hearty vegetarian dishes in a homey atmosphere that will leave you just as satisfied as eating a huge T-bone. The restaurant’s creative menu also features a specialized section for those with restricted diets, such as diabetics.


Nightlife

Salta has great nightlife, from its candlelit cafés around the main plaza to its chilled out pool houses, bars of all classes, traditional peñas (live music venues) and booming nightclubs, most of which are all conveniently located one beside the other on a long stretch of Calle Balcarce. Here along this multi-block stretch of road leading from directly across the train station and down Balcarce is an entertainment venue for all tastes and ages. Still if you’re in need of a little direction, here are some places we recommend you seek out, and try the neighboring locales too!

A lit up sign reading - Carneval toda, La Birra

Goblin Irish Pub, Caseros 445, Tel: +54 (387) 401-0886

A popular Irish joint well populated even at lunch time, this place get rowdier and livelier as the lunchtime drinkers tuck into pints in the evening. This place serves great beer and all your favorite pub food, making it a great home away from home in downtown Salta.

La Casona del Molino, (The Mill House), Caseros 2600, Tel: +54 (387) 434-2835

Located in a crumbling colonial home dating from 1671, la Casona has a warm and inviting atmosphere, hearty food and endless drink with excellent live music. A great place to start the night or spend it entirely, this spacious house features musicians who work the rooms rather than just the stage, and remains a fun authentic piece of Salta for locals and tourists alike!

La Casa de Cultura, Caseros 460, Tel: +51 (387) 421 6042

Built in a converted mansion just off the central plaza, la Casa de Cultura offers a variety of exciting artistic performances, from magic shows to symphony orchestras, children’s’ musicals and classical ballets. For fear of sounding redundant, look into this location for a bit of native Salta culture or imported talent!


Cultural Calendar

Please note that this calendar lists only a few must-see events in the Salta cultural calendar. There are many other events occurring each month, including festivals honoring the Equinox, Mother Earth, harvest produce, various indigenous and Christian gods, art and crafts, local sports, etc.

A crowd of people walking around a colorful artisanal market

January

The Festival y Fiesta Artesanal de los Valles Calchaquíes is a highly anticipated folklore festival at the beginning of the year where dances and performances are showcased in San Carlos Plaza Principal, and it’s a good chance to find a large selection of handicrafts and ceramics for sale.

February

Around mid-February Mardi Gras is celebrated in typical Latin American fashion with a procession of decorated floats, live music on every corner and dancers with intricate masks of feather mirrors. Water is squirted at passers-by and bombas de agua (water balloons) are sold for dropping from balconies onto unlucky bystanders! Of course every city with any sense of duty must have a Carnaval, which Salta celebrates four weekends before Ash Wednesday in the city stadium.

The Battle of Salta is celebrated on the 20th of February. This festival honors General Belgrano’s 1813 victory over the royalist army of Pío Tristán during the Argentine War of Independence, culminating in a civil-military parade around the main square and central statue honouring this famous battle.

March

Savor all the gastronomic delights Argentina has to offer, at the annual Exposition of Regional Foods in Cachi, a small village surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, located 124 mi (200 km) from Salta.

April

The city celebrates Founding Day on the 16th with parades and re-enactments by actors portraying various civil and military characters crucial in the city history.

June

Be amazed by the city’s patriotic pride between the 14th and 17th of June, with scenes of folk music in the evening, cultural performances, sports competitions and gaucho parades around the Guëmes Statue, as the city celebrates its fight against Spanish rule.

September

Witness the city-wide festival on th 16th, in honor of El Señor y la Virgen del Milagro (see the full story in the Cathedral description).

December

Every year 312 young citizens of Salta take part in a magnificent living nativity, located in Salta’s ‘Rose Villa’, converting Salta into the City of Christmas. This artistic tradition is a popular attraction, serving as both an annual tradition for the locals and a popular tourist attraction, gathering the city together for the holidays.


Sports

A man holding a fish

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that excellent Dorado fly fishing is possible in Salta, along the mighty Juramento River. With lush tropical rainforest landscapes, beautiful warm weather, and huge gleaming Dorado populating the waters, the area is a prime destination for those who love their fly fishing.


Quebrada de las conchas, the popular hiking trek in Salta

Trekking

Salta is also a wonderful region for trekking, being a very mountainous country. Hikes of varying degrees of difficulty exist, and both beginners and advanced trekkers are easily catered for. During one of the more accessible one day treks, expert bilingual guides take you through jungle-like vegetation starting at the foot of San Bernardo Mountain and then along the edges to San Lorenzo hill top where you can gape in wonder at the Lerma Valley with its rivers and the Andes in the background. You are back in the city by the afternoon. Other tours range from 2 days to a week in different regions of the Province and go from easy to highly professional. Consult your travel advisor for more details.


Cabra Corral lake stretching into the distance, with various boats floating above the water and mountains in the distance

The Cabra Corral dam and reservoir, 84 Km. south of Salta, on the Juramento River is the start line for white water rafting. Boats used usually can carry from 2 to 10 people, and for the more adventurous, kayaks are also available. The rapids on this river are class 2 and 3, medium torrent.
In general, two tours exist: the first is short at 9.3 mi (15 km), lasting two hours while the second is longer at 21.75 mi (35 km) and lasts five hours.


Health and Safety

Although the infrastructure in Salta is generally at the equivalent of western standards, pipes and water filtration systems have not been renovated city-wide. As a result, it is best to drink bottled water while traveling anywhere through South America, especially in rural areas, to prevent contracting any harmful parasites or water-borne illnesses. If no bottled water is available, be sure to travel with water purification tablets or boil water for 15 minutes to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

Unfortunately, although malaria risk remains low, it does still exist throughout the lowland provinces of Salta, Jujuy, Corrientes and Missiones. Talk to your travel doctor about what percentage DEET is safe to have in your mosquito repellent (generally 18-25%), wear protective clothing and research your options for various malaria medicines available.

Also note the Dengue Fever, though not widely prevalent in Salta province, still remains a threat. Ensure you are protected from mosquitoes 24 hours a day, as dengue-infected insects bite during the day, while those carrying malaria bite at night. Leishmanasis, a skin disease caused by sand flies, is also a low risk. To protect yourself from both forms of illness, use mosquito nets, wear protective clothing and apply insect repellent when traveling through rural, city, or jungle areas.

Police presence is high around central Salta where most tourists remain, but exercise the usual caution when traveling through South America. In other words, leave non-essential valuables and documents in the hotel safe, use a money belt, carry small bills, separate your ATM and credit cards, keep personal belongings close to you at all times and keep to well-lit populated streets at night.

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