Argentina’s north-western region of Salta is arguably one of its most fertile and, undoubtedly, one of its most picturesque. With snow-capped Andean peaks framing its fertile vine-enriched valleys, Salta has long been renowned as an active traveller’s dream destination. A wine-loving one too, we might add. Between the stunning hikes and dreamy wineries, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
The region’s capital city, which bears the same name, is the obvious base point for exploration of the region and happens to also boast fantastic colonial architecture, brilliant museums, trendy restaurants and a café scene which should even make Buenos Aires more than a little jealous.
Region and city, combining natural and man-made wonders: the allure of Salta is inescapable.
Salta, the region’s capital
The city was initially founded in the mid-16th century and bears the aesthetics befitting such an old and grand city. In fact, half the charm of Salta is found simply meandering through its centre, a delightful pedestrian-friendly maze of gorgeous boutiques, rustic bars and restaurants. Savouring the atmosphere, and the delectable local delicacies on offer, should be the first thing on your to-do list. You’ll notice that Salta may seem like a smaller version of Buenos Aires but exudes a much more laid-back vibe. People still take siesta here, they still sit on bench parks to catch up on the weekly gossips, and they still indulge in a slow and flavoursome merienda, an afternoon snack of coffee and cake. It’s for this relaxed lifestyle and atmosphere, that Salta is pure travel perfection.
For a breathtaking view of the town and surrounding landscapes, take a heart-pumping hike up San Bernardo Hill at sunset, or cheat and take the cable car instead, The startling views from the top will be the highlight all the same.
The most pleasurable way to spend an evening in Salta is to join the locals in Plaza 9 de Julio, savouring a dinner of local specialities and sampling the array of local wines on offer at the many restaurants and wine bars. For a particularly unforgettable night out in Salta, head to La Casona del Molino, where amazing food, good cheer, fab music and friendly crowd gifts an authentic peña folkloric experience no visitor should miss.
Salta is a magnet for mountaineers with the region’s many high-altitude peaks and volcanoes rising above 5,000 and even 6,000m. Specialised mountaineering tours are arranged for the adrenalin-obsessed, with the whole area offering a multitude of active pursuits, such as climbing, rappelling, rafting and trekking.
Salta’s regional cuisine
Regional Salteña cuisine is not renowned for its mind-boggling variety but it is revered for its exceptional quality. Funnily enough, the terms ‘organic’ or ‘locally grown’ aren’t in favour here very much. Everything simply is organic and locally-grown and always has been. Salteños don’t really see the point in stating the obvious.
Local empanadas are small and baked, usually filled with beef but vegetable and chicken varieties are also prepared. Parillas, the mother of all Argentina BBQs, are very much a local speciality so don’t fear your iron levels dropping anytime soon: meat feature abundantly on every restaurant menu.
When visiting Salta, you’ll discover an enticing fusion of local Andean and Spanish flavours with other European and even Middle Eastern tastes thrown in for good measure. The migration waves in the region were extensive, and hummus, schnitzel and pizza, nowadays, are as ubiquitous as medialuna and dulce de leche.
The wonderful wines of Salta
The high-altitude vineyards of the Salta region produce an exceptional array of internationally renowned wines, although when it comes to tourist know-how Mendoza tends to be the more famous sister-region. French wine makers have descended on Salta and its surrounding fertile valleys to take advantage of the enviable soil and conditions, producing unique blends, like the Torrontes, a sweet white grape that may also be grown elsewhere but seems to excel in flavour only here.
Authentic bodegas and estancias abound in Salta, with many offering phenomenal meals and accommodation as well. So take your time in exploring the wine-growing Calchaqui Valley and make your way to Cafayate and discover a breathtaking region of Argentina many people don’t even know exists. Some say here rest the most spectacular wineries on the planet, and as you weave your way through deep, crimson-red stone canyons past cacti and snow-drenched mountains, you may well agree.
Best Time to Visit Salta
Salta enjoys a surprisingly mild climate all year long, with daytime averages being 22 degree Celsius through the year. Rains are more common during the summer months (December to March) yet downpours are sporadic and short-lived. Autumn colours are stupendous in the region and although winter is also a great time to visit, keep your eye on those nigh-time lows. The stark drop in temperature experienced at this altitude is what gifts the wines their immensely aromatic flavours, but makes it essential for visitors to pack an extra layer of clothing. With over 330 sunny days a year, Salta is a fantastic year-round destination to visit.
How to Reach Salta
Salta boasts an international airport with connecting flights to all the major tourist hubs in the country (Iguazu, Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Cordoba) as well as offering convenient connections with Lima in Peru and Santiago de Chile.
Enticing culture and history, combined with outstanding nature, superb food and world-class wine…could you possibly dream of a better destination to discover off the beaten path? Our Salta Valley and Canyons itinerary is designed to take in the best of the Salta region and can be easily included in a longer tour of Argentina, or extended to create a bona fide adventure of its own accord. For more ideas and suggestions on what to see and do in Salta, feel free to contact us.
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 13 years. She’s tour guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and is now in the midst of a 5-year motorbike odyssey from Germany to Australia.”