Salta is located in the Lerma Valley in the Andes, northwest of Argentina. It sits at an elevation of about 1,152 meters above sea level, and has a population of about 619,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in the northwest of the country. The Spanish colonial buildings, lively cafes, alluring museums, and traditional folk music have made this city a great tourist destination in Argentina.
There are so many attractions and things to do in Salta, including the Reserva del Huaico and the Parque Nacional Finca el Rey. Salta makes for the perfect place to start out on many adventures to the surrounding areas, with its beautiful scenery featuring Andean peaks, red rust-coloured rocks, and spectacular, high-altitude vineyards. Below is our Salta travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
MUSEO DE ARQUEOLOGIA DE ALTA MONTANA – This museum offers one of the most close-up looks you can get into the Incan civilization and its history. It holds several different exhibits, with the main one being about the child sacrifices that they made on the mountain peaks. There is an exhibit that displays the dead body of a child that had been sacrificed at the top of the mountain. There are plenty of items that were found in the grave sites, and it is remarkable that they are in such good condition. This is one of the more remarkable museums in the region and is certainly one of the best things to do in Salta.
PAJCHA – MUSEO DE ARTE ETNICO AMERICANO – A fantastic blend of archaeological finds and beautiful art pieces, this museum makes for a very interesting stop. The exhibits here offer a broad view of Andean culture and history, and the art even stretches to cover most of Latin American culture. The pieces that are kept here are fantastic finds and are still in great condition.
RESERVA DEL HUAICO – This is a nice little place of tranquillity and beauty. The entry into this forest is by reservation only, and tours are offered of the 15 kilometres of trails bird watching, as there are over 200 different species here.
PARQUE NACIONAL FINCA EL REY – This Park is stretched across about 50 kilometres of land. It is a rare part of the subtropical humid forest that contains one of the most diverse populations of animals in the country. There is an office in Salta where inquiries can be made about visiting this park.
MUSEO HISTORICO DEL NORTE – With a wide range of exhibits, this Museum has art dating back to pre-Columbian times, as well as art work from within the city dating up to the 20th century.
VALLES CALCHAQUIES – A beautiful trip to a less visited area, this is one of the more naturally beautiful areas to visit. The city of Cachi has parts of buildings that still display neoclassical architecture. This is an interesting place to visit due to its beautiful natural landscape, which features red rock formations, and high-altitude vineyards.
CONVENTO SAN BERNARDO – To this day only Carmelite nuns can enter the convent, which dates back to the 16th century. Visitors can look around at the outside of the building, and view the church before mass.
CERRO SAN BERNARDO – This hill offers one of the best views of the city. To reach the top you can ride the gondola which takes about 8 minutes. There is also a trail that starts at the Guemes monument.
MUSEO DE ARTE CONTEMPORANEO – This is a beautiful, contemporary art museum that displays works from local artists, as well as artists from around Argentina and other parts of the world. The exhibitions rotate and are of high quality.
MUSEO ANTROPOLOGICO – There are great exhibits that contain ceramics from the Tastil ruins (one of the pre-Incan towns of Argentina), as well as other attractive displays.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
There are lots of sights to see in the city, but there are also plenty of tours that take you to other places like Lerma Valley. These are great options to explore some of the countryside and get out of the main city. It is also a good opportunity to see some of the older communities in the area.
The local food in Salta is empanadas and tamiles, the latter of which are a kind of mashed corn meal, found in most restaurants. Meat is also popular; as Argentina is big on its meats you can usually find some good restaurants that serve grilled or roast beef. Don’t miss sampling the local wine, which you can enjoy with the meat dishes. There are plenty of dining options in Salta and some great local food to try, such as salteñas – these are empanadas, baked and filled with beef, chicken, ham, or cheese.
One restaurant which is popular amongst tourists is Dona Salta (Calle Cordoba 46) - here you’ll find all the typical food, and a good wine list. The waiters are friendly, and dress as gauchos, creating a traditional atmosphere. For a more local experience, go to Mercado San Miguel (San Martin 678), where you can find fresh produce on the lower market floor, and eat out for cheap prices upstairs. For good quality meat dishes, go to El Solar del Convento (Calle Caseros 444).
The nightlife in the town is centred around the city’s train station. There are great places that you can find to enjoy a bottle of beer and relax for the night, and good wines are served at most local bars and pubs. Head to Balcarce Street for the best of the nightlife, which features several bars, pubs, and clubs.
For casual drinks and live music, go to Café del Tiempo (Balcarce 901), where you can listen to jazz, blues, and tango, and sit out on the terrace. Another place for live performances is Macondo Bar (Balcarce 980) – head here for beer, pizza, and rock music. At La Vieja Estacion (Balcarce 885) you can enjoy dinner and a traditional folk show.
During its summer months from November to March, Salta has great weather, with the average temperature around 20 – 22 degrees Celsius. In the winter months and especially in June, July and August the temperature is normally cooler, at around 10 degrees Celsius. The rainy part of the year is from December to March, with the rest of the year seeing very little rainfall.
There is a city airport (9km from the city centre) which has several airlines operating, including Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN, with flights from Buenos Aires and other major cities. The bus station offers services to all the major places in Argentina, and is about 8 blocks from the main plaza of the city. From Buenos Aires, it takes 20 hours, from Cordoba, it’s 13 hours, and from Mendoza, it’s 18 hours. There are also buses that go to and arrive from San Pedro in Chile, taking about 10 hours, including the border cross.
Salta has many different places to offer for lodging. There are a few budget-friendly hostels for those backpacking, usually a younger crowd. These are generally shared rooms, along with a main washroom per floor or section, making it easy to meet other people travelling. There are also higher end hotels for those who may wish to stay in a more private environment. In the main area of the city you can find most of these options.
Casa de Borgoña Posada (España 916) is central, and ideal for those who just want something simple, sweet, and budget-friendly. Residencial el Hogar (Apolinario Saravia 239) has very attentive owners, and a good breakfast – you’ll be made to feel at home here. If you have a higher budget, why not splash out and at stay at Alejandro (Calle Balcarce 252) which has lovely, spacious rooms, an amazing breakfast buffet, and is centrally-located.
Always make sure that if you go on any tours or trips that they look safe, and that the companies are well known.
Make sure to use common sense, avoid walking alone outside of the main part of the city, and watch out for pick-pockets.