Salta is the capital city of the northern Salta province in Argentina and a fantastic base for visiting the surrounding area. Nicknamed Salta la Linda (“Salta the Fair”), it is a very different tourist destination than the cosmopolitan cities of the south. It is surrounded by mountains and canyons and has indigenous roots similar to that of Bolivia or Peru.
Salta makes the perfect base for visiting the northern region of Argentina as most sights are a close drive away, but is a great destination all on its own. Salta has many fantastic cafes, bars, museums and entertainment venues to keep a traveler busy, as well as beautiful architecture, plazas, and parks.
A great way to get an overview of Salta is to take the Teleferico gondola to the top of San Bernardo Hill for a beautiful city view. A one-way ticket costs around $10 pesos ($20 pesos for the round trip) and takes about 10 minutes each way. There is a nice cafe at the top where you can enjoy a reasonably priced lunch and a drink while overlooking the city. Active types can hike back down the hill on an easy path which takes about an hour – a highly recommended way to spend an afternoon.
One of the most fascinating sites, available only in Salta is a visit to the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (The High Mountain Archeological Museum) which showcases three mummy children who are over 500 years old. The three children were found in 1999 in the Llullaillaco Volcano (over 6739 metres above sea level) in the Andes, and due to the mountain conditions are almost perfectly intact. It is an extremely interesting exhibit along with the over 100 different artifacts found with the children, in sacrifice to the Inca gods.
I recommend spending at least 3 days in the city and extra to enjoy the countryside. Make sure to book accommodations close to the central plaza, 9 de Julio, as this is very much a walking city and all the best sights are central. Salta has some incredible colonial architecture and one of the most recognizable icons of the city is the colorful Iglesia de San Francisco which is just outside the main plaza. The views of the church (and other buildings in the center) are especially stunning at night, so photographers are encouraged to bring the appropriate low-light photography gear.
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