I visited Salta, Argentina during my first trip to the country, and fell in love with it. This easily qualifies as one my favorite provinces in the country. Blessed with a pleasant climate throughout the year and home to the second largest wine producing region in the country (the first is Mendoza), it is so beautiful that it’s been nicknamed Salta la Linda (Salta the beautiful).
Salta is lesser known compared to other places in Argentina. Due to the lack of the large influx of European immigrants that occurred in the rest of the country, Salta and the rest of the north of Argentina have managed to retain a very indigenous character both in terms of looks and traditions.
One thing you will immediately notice once you arrive in Salta is that it’s very different from the rest of Argentina. Here, you’ll be able to experience the culture of the Andes and of the Quechua, and try food that is different from the typical Argentine flavors.
Are you curious to find out more? Continue reading: I will highlight the best things to do in Salta, Argentina and share information to help you plan your trip.
13 Fabulous Things To Do In Salta, Argentina
Hang out in Plaza 9 de Julio
Salta was founded in 1582 and has since then retained its colonial charm. The best place to get a proper idea of the colonial past is the main square, Plaza 9 de Julio. It is surrounded by lovely small cafés, cobbled streets, and hosts the beautiful Cathedral – possibly the most famous landmark in town with its bring pink color.
The Cathedral was built between 1856 and 1882, after the previous one was destroyed in an earthquake. It hosts various religious relics in a small adjacent museum, as well as the ashes of revolutionary war hero Martin Miguel de Güemes are housed, plus a small museum of religious relics.
Visit the local museums
The Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana (MAAM) is the most interesting in town. The highlight of this anthropology museum dedicated to the Andean culture and where you’ll find plenty of Inca artifacts are the mummies of three Inca children that were found by scientists in 1999 in the summit of Llullaillaco Volcano, at 6,700 meters (21,981 FEET) above sea level and well buried in the snow. It is believed that they had been drugged and then used as human sacrifices to the gods around 1490.
The freezing conditions helped preserve the bodies of the children, to the point that things such as their hair, their clothes and even their internal organs have been preserved. The mummies are kept in airtight glass cases and only one at a time is shown to the public, in an effort to ensure their preservation.
The MAAM is closed on Mondays.
Another interesting museum is located in the Cabildo, the City Hall in Plaza 9 de Julio. The museum has an exhibit of documents and various artifacts about the role of Salta in Argentina’s independence. If you don’t want to visit the museum, make sure to at least peep in to admire the building, a beautiful example of colonial architecture, with a nice central courtyard and colorful plants.
Finally, the Museo Pajcha Arte Etnico is a very interesting place to admire pre-Colombian art and Andean culture. It’s a bit out of the center of town – keep in mind it is a private collection with limited access hours. Should you visit, chances are you’ll get the owner and curator to guide you around, making the visit all the more interesting.
Enjoy the view from Cerro San Bernardo
One of the nicest things to do in Salta is going all the way to Cerro San Bernardo to take in the incredible views. There is a funicular that goes all the way to the top – it’s located at about 1 km (less than a mile) from Plaza 9 de Julio. You can also walk the stairs. Make sure to go on a sunny day for a fantastic experience, or at sunset. There are various food vendors at the top, and you can even get a beer and explore the small market.
Ride the Tren a las Nubes
Train travel isn’t exactly a thing in Argentina. The distances are too long and it’s difficult to do maintenance work on the rails. There are a few places in the country where trains are used for tourist purposes. One is Tierra del Fuego, the other is near Salta and that’s the Tren a las Nubes.
The Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds) runs from April to December. It is honestly quite expensive but the views along the ride absolutely fantastic. It goes into the Lerma Valley all the way to the Quebrada del Toro, through San Antonio de los Cobres, known for being one of the highest villages in Argentina. It then goes along La Polvorilla Viaduct, at 4,220 meters (13,845 feet) above sea level.
The tour normally departs very early from Salta and returns quite late. Make sure to triple check if the train is actually going, as at times you’ll end up sitting on a bus for a big part of the ride.
Explore the Quebrada de Humahuaca
A road trip along the Quebrada de Humahuaca is one of the best things to do in Salta, Argentina. Words can hardly describe the unique landscape, the lovely small villages, and the breathtaking views along the way.
Among the places to visit in the Quebrada de Humahuaca there are Purmamarca, which is tiny but has a lovely souvenir market and is right at the foothill of the beautiful Cierro los Siete Colores; and Maimara, at the foothills of La Paleta del Pintor, a gorgeous colorful mountain.
Tilcara is one of the largest towns in the area, and is famous for its Pucara, a former Inca settlement which has been reconstructed practically entirely. If you happen to visit Ticara during carnival, make sure to join in the celebrations as they are a lof of fun. Humahuaca, which is at 3,000 meters (9,942.5 feet) above sea level, is the largest town in the region.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore the quebrada and its villages – you need at least 3 full days. Alternatively, there are some good guided day or 2-day trips departing from Salta Argentina.
To book a guided day tour to Humahuaca from Salta, click here.
Check out my post 15 Amazing National Parks In Argentina.
Visit Salinas Grandes
Salinas Grandes are a small version of the Uyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia. They are only couple of hours drive from Salta. It is an incredible place, with a stunning light and incredibly photogenic. You can go directly there from Salta or add it to your Quebrada de Humahuaca itinerary.
Explore Cafayate wine region
Not far from Salta there is the second biggest wine region of Argentina. Cafayate – that’s the name of the town and of the region – produces various wines, including Malbec and Torrentés. There are several wineries you can visit in the Quebrada de Cafayate. You can either drive from Salta; go on a day trip or even spend a couple of days for full enjoyment.
For a guided tour of Cafayate from Salta, click here.
Are you visiting Mendoza? Check out my posts A Guide To The Most Fun Things To Do In Mendoza, Argentina and 13 Fantastic Wineries In Mendoza.
Have a full day of adventure
If you are into adventure sports, you won’t want to skip this one: among the best things to do in Salta is spending a full day doing adventure sports such as rafting on Rio Juramento and zip lining around the canyon. The best company for that is Salta Rafting.
It is a full day tour, where you leave at 8:00 am to drive a couple of hours to the base camp. Once there, you’ll be trained and prepped for the rafting, which is fairly easy yet a lot of fun (perfect for families with children too). You’ll then be taken back to the camp where, while you shower, the staff will prepare a fantastic asado.
Those who haven’t had enough can then go zip lining. It honestly is the best zip line I have ever done, with flights of up to 600 meters above the river. Completely exhilarating, if not a bit scary in parts. It is not a cheap tour – but it’s honestly worth it.
You can book your rafting and zip lining experience in Salta here.
Go to a peña
If you turn on the radio when in Salta Argentina you’ll notice that the music is different. Salteños listen to a lot of folk music, and one of the most fun things is attending a peña (folk concert) where you can also watch dance performances. There are several peñas in Salta, and a couple right outside town.
Salta is a nice place for shopping – whether you are looking for local specialties at a food market, or for souvenirs. My favorite market in town is Mercado Municipal San Miguel. It’s a large indoor market where you’ll find all sorts of food stalls, with plenty of chances to grab something to eat; as well as souvenirs. Besides, it is a nice place to spot a bit of local action.
If you are just looking for souvenirs, the Mercado Artesanal is located in the center of Salta in a restored colonial mill-house. There you’ll find plenty of Andean style things such as hats, scarves, ponchos and what not.
The village of Cachi is simply gorgeous and it’d be a pity to miss it. It’s a very well preserved colonial village where you’ll get a good fix for history and colonial architecture. You can get there driving along the Cuesta del Obispo, a winding road from where you’ll get breathtaking views.
To book a day trip of Cachi departing from Salta, click here.
Try the local cuisine
You’ll find lots of regional food in Salta. Make sure to try locro, a stew of meat, corn and potatoes; humitas, which are husks filled with corn and cheese; tamales, aka steamed leaves filled with meat, potatoes and corn flour. They are very popular street foods, but you can also find them in family run restaurants or at the Mercado San Miguel.
Check out my post 25 Delicious Argentina Food To Try.
Rumor has it that Salta is where empanadas were invented. I can’t swear to this, but for some reason this is the first place where I tried them and to be honest, for as many empanadas I have had during my many trips to Argentina, I have yet to find one that is as good as those I have had in Salta. Make sure to get your fill of these light pastries stuffed with meat and onion, or spinach and ricotta, or even ham and cheese.
Practical Information To Organize Your Trip
Where to stay and eat in Salta and its province
There are plenty of excellent places to stay in Salta and in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, as well as several good restaurants. Here are a few recommendations for you:
- Prisamata Suites is a fantastic small bed and breakfast close to the center of Salta, with cozy comfortable rooms and a great patio. Each day, they served a different and always delicious breakfast.
- Accueillant Hostel is an excellent options for Salta if you are on a smaller budget.
- Solar de la Plaza is a stylish hotel in the center of Salta, with beautiful rooms and a roof top pool.
- Posada de Luz is easily the best hotel in Tilcara, built in adobe and with a gorgeous garden.
- Hostel La Humahuacasa is a nice hostel in the heart of Humahuaca, with dorms as well as private rooms. .
When in Salta, make sure to eat at El Viejo Jack. It is a very unpretentious parrilla that serves very good food at more than reasonable prices. If you fancy Argentine style pizza, go to La Colonial. It’s as local as it gets. You’ll find a good selection of small restaurants and fancier ones in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. El Churqui, in Purmamarca, serves typical regional dishes, including llama and the popular humitas.
How to get to Salta
Salta is well connected to the rest of the country thanks to a good web of buses and flights. It takes around 20 hours by bus from Buenos Aires and just about the same amount of time from Mendoza.
Martín Miguel de Güemes international airport is located about 11 km (less than 7 miles) from the center of Salta and has regular direct flights to Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina. To get from the airport to the city, you can opt for a cab or a private transfer.
Traveling to Buenos Aires? Make sure to read my posts 25 Unmissable Things To Do In Buenos Aires and A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Buenos Aires.
How to move around Salta
Salta city is easy to move around, and I recommend to just walk everywhere. However, if you plan to get out of the city (which you totally should!), your best bet is to rent a car. Alternatively, you can opt to join one of the many guided tours that regularly depart from the city.
When to visit Salta
The best time to visit Salta is at the end of the summer and in the fall, when you’ll have better chances of clear skies and warm days. June to August (Argentine winter) are also good: this is when Patagonia is under snow and it can get very cold in other parts of the country.
Other useful information
As for any other trip, make sure to get a good insurance when exploring Salta Argentina and the rest of the country.
Are you planning a trip to Argentina? Make sure to read my posts
- A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina
- A Flash Pack’s Argentina Itinerary
- Top 13 Things To Do In Rosario Argentina
- The Best Argentine Movies
- A Guide To Renting A Car In Argentina